Foreign geographic information software collects sensitive data, posing threat to national security: ministry

China’s national security agencies have discovered that foreign geographic information system software used in important industries in China has been collecting and transmitting geographic information data with some of the information collected involving state secrets, posing a serious threat to national security, China’s Ministry of State Security said on Monday, noting that national security agencies will establish and improve a collaborative mechanism for data security protection to safeguard the protection of important national data.

Geographic information data are not only an important strategic data resource, but also a new production factor that can be widely applied in various industries, however, some organizations and individuals with ulterior motives have attempted to steal sensitive geographic information data using geographic information system software, according to an article released on the ministry’s WeChat public account on Monday. 

Geographic information system software is professional software that has functions such as geographic information data collection, storage, analysis, management, and sharing. Such software has powerful functions and can annotate various types of geographic information collected on maps, and analyze and display them in various formats. Coordinate accuracy can even reach the centimeter level. 

However, some foreign organizations, institutions, and individuals have set their sights on the geographic information data, attempting to conduct intelligence espionage activities using geographic information system software, according to the WeChat article.

The methods of these foreign organizations and individuals include automatically connecting to foreign servers during software usage to collect user data without restrictions, and pre-installing backdoors in the software to facilitate network attacks and data theft.

Moreover,a small number of users have limited awareness of data security and mark high-precision geographic coordinates of urban pipelines, military targets, and sensitive units on maps, creating serious risks of leakage and potential irreparable losses, according to the article. 

It also noted that geographic data are a high-value intelligence resource and are a key target for foreign intelligence agencies’ espionage activities. 

“By stealing high-precision geographic information data from our country, they can reconstruct three-dimensional topographic maps of specific areas in important fields such as transportation, energy, and military, providing crucial support for reconnaissance, surveillance, and military operations, posing a serious threat to our military security,” the ministry said. 

Recently, national security agencies have discovered that foreign geographic information system software used in important domestic industries has been collecting and transmitting geographic information data, and some of the data are important and sensitive, even involving state secrets, posing a serious threat to our national security. 

In response, national security agencies, together with relevant departments, are conducting special investigations and governance of geographic information data security risks, guiding and assisting relevant units in conducting inspections and rectifications, and promptly eliminating major security risks such as data theft and leakage.

China’s data security law stipulates that data processing activities should be carried out in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations, establish and improve a comprehensive data security management system, organize data security education and training, adopt corresponding technical measures and other necessary measures to ensure data security.

When units and individuals engage in geographic information data collection and processing activities, they should choose secure and reliable geographic information system software, set strict access permissions based on the importance of the data, and ensure no sensitive information is available on the internet.

National security agencies will establish and improve a collaborative mechanism for data security protection in cooperation with relevant departments to jointly safeguard the protection of important national data, the Ministry of State Security said in the article. 

The ministry also warned that the theft, espionage, bribery, or illegal provision of data that arerelated to national security and interests by foreign organizations, institutions, individuals, or collusion with domestic organizations, institutions, individuals constitute espionage under Chinese law. 

Citizens who discover such behaviors can report them by calling the 12339 tip-off hotline, logging on to the www.12339.gov.cn , or reporting to the national security agencies through the official WeChat account, the article instructed. 

Central government’s office for safeguarding national security in HK supports police arresting five more fleeing anti-China figures

The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said on Thursday that it resolutely supports the Hong Kong police in arresting five fleeing anti-China figures in accordance with the law, and effectively preventing, stopping and punishing those who have fled to oppose the country and disrupt Hong Kong. 

The office said that “we must effectively safeguard the authority of the rule of law and consolidate the hard-won good situation in Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department announced on Thursday to place five more figures in exile into its warrant list, who are suspected of colluding with foreign or external forces including anti-government figures Joey Siu and Simon Cheng. 

In July, the police issued a HK$1 million ($128,000) bounty each for eight anti-government figures in exile, including Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Ted Hui Chi-fung. 

Cheng and others have long been engaged in anti-China and Hong Kong destabilization activities. After fleeing overseas, they continue to build platforms for disruptive activities in Hong Kong, spreading political rumors and “Hong Kong independence” fallacies about the country and Hong Kong, slandering Hong Kong’s rule of law, and pleading for foreign forces to sanction Hong Kong or interfere in Hong Kong affairs, the office said.

They openly challenge the authority of the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong and undermine Hong Kong’s development. The Hong Kong Police, based on facts and in accordance with the law, have lawfully issued warrants for these fugitives involved in anti-China and Hong Kong destabilization activities. This aligns with the fundamental interests of Hong Kong, reflects the common will of society, and it’s an inevitable requirement for the comprehensive and accurate implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong, a righteous act to safeguard national security in accordance with the law, and a necessary measure to ensure the prosperous and stable development of Hong Kong, the office said.

This issuance of warrant marks another lawful action following the July warrants against anti-government figure Kevin Yam and eight other fugitives for their leading roles in anti-China and Hong Kong destabilization activities. It targets five individuals suspected of committing crimes of inciting secession, inciting subversion of state power, and colluding with foreign or overseas forces to endanger national security, the office said. 

This demonstrates the Hong Kong Police’s courageous responsibility, firm commitment to defending the authority of the NSL for Hong Kong, and unwavering determination to safeguard national security. It is believed that the Hong Kong police will take all necessary measures according to the law to hold these fugitives accountable for their crimes. 

They will also lawfully deal with those who assist, incite, or fund acts endangering national security, striking at the arrogance of these fugitives involved in anti-China and Hong Kong destabilization activities, the office said. 

The 33-year-old Cheng was suspected of inciting secession and colluding with foreign or overseas forces to endanger national security. Since August 2020, he, along with others, established political organizations and frequently advocated for “Hong Kong independence” on social media platforms, calling for foreign sanctions and hostile actions against Hong Kong government officials and judicial personnel. 

Cheng, a former employee at the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong, was detained by the mainland police at the West Kowloon high-speed rail station on August 8, 2019. Later, the Luohu public security in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong, revealed that he had been “involved in prostitution activities multiple times,” resulting in a 15-day administrative detention, according to media reports. 

US reported maritime protection force in the Red Sea to have limited effect in curbing conflict spillover

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is reportedly set to announce an expanded maritime protection force involving Arab states in the Red Sea in response to the escalating attacks against Israel-bound cargo ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group. Chinese analysts said by doing so, Washington aims to force its regional allies to become more involved in curbing the spillover of current Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but predicted that the move would play only limited role in pacifying the situation.

Washington should do more to solve the Palestine-Israel conflict than to put in place superficial moves, Chinese experts said, noting that US hypocrisy of calling for cease-fire between Israel and Palestine but constant blocking of UN resolutions on demanding cease-fire in fact fueled Israel’s determination of continued military actions. 

Being the latest Biden administration official to visit Israel, Austin, who arrived in Israel on Monday, is to gain a clearer assessment from Israeli officials on their military operations, CNN reported.

AP said that Austin is also expected to press Israel to wind down major combat operations in Gaza.

Austin is also expected to announce an expanded maritime protection force, to be known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, involving Arab states combatting increasingly frequent Houthi attacks being mounted from Yemen’s ports on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Guardian reported. Yet the report revealed no details over which Arab states are expected to join. 

Protection of shipping routes in the Red Sea is probably the key agenda behind Austin’s visit, as the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict has exerted a huge impact on global economy, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday. He said the Houthi rebel group’s attacks have created a dilemma for the US. 

The attacks, targeting a route that allows East-West trade, especially of oil, to use the Suez Canal to save the time and expense of circumnavigating Africa, have pushed some shipping companies to re-route vessels to avoid the area. For example, French shipping group CMA CGM on Saturday said it was pausing all container shipments through the Red Sea after an attack on one of its container ships, MSC Palatium III, one day earlier, per Reuters. 

The US is hoping that regional allies become more involved in curbing the spillover effect of current conflict via the proposed protection force, which in reality will only have limited effect, Liu said. 

Experts noted that the fundamental solution is to continue to call for cease-fire between the conflicting sides, whilst responding violence with violence will only fuel the current conflict. 

France, the UK and Germany -some of Israel’s closest allies- joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend, and Israeli protesters have demanded the government relaunch talks with the militant group on releasing more hostages after three were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops while waving a white flag.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, crushes its military capabilities and returns the hostages, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Liu noted that the increasing international and domestic pressure are not enough for Israel to change its military action in Gaza as those pressure are mostly at surface level. Moreover, the US is calling for cease-fire in public, yet it is giving Israel green light in the UN by opposing UN’s cease-fire resolutions.

FISU Games conclude, yet friendship and solidarity continue among youth

The 31st FISU World University Games, after offering exciting competitions and diverse cultural exposure, concluded on Tuesday in Southwest China’s Chengdu with a splendid ceremony that wrapped up shining moments during the Games and delivered wishes for a happier and brighter future.

The Chengdu FISU Games were not only a gathering for sports, but also a gathering to enhance mutual understanding and make friends, and the friendship will pass on among youth from all over the world with their traits of openness, inclusiveness, solidarity and vitality, analysts said.

The appearance of delegations features the process of a dove tree’s growing from root to giant plant with lush branches and leaves. The dove-like flowers, a symbol of peace, then start to bloom.

The dove tree is a species indigenous to China which survived the ice age and its flower resembles a flying dove with two snow-white bracts. The ceremony incorporates the elements of the dove tree and its flowers to stress the resilience of life and the hope for everlasting peace.

Chinese State Councilor Shen Yiqin and FISU acting president Leonz Eder attended the ceremony.

The ceremony stage was designed based on a “cell phone” and captured the concept of livestreaming. Through the camera of a “livestreamer,” young people from all over the world were able to be part of the FISU Games.

The master display presented 3D visual effects with naked-eye 3D technology, offering novel, amazing, special and delicate spectating experience.

After lowering the FISU flag along the playing of the FISU anthem, the flag was handed over to Rhine-Ruhr, host city of next FISU Games in 2025.

The FISU Games ran from July 28 to August 8 and featured 269 events across 18 sports. The Chinese delegation participated in all 18 sports of the games and claimed 103 gold medals, 40 silvers and 35 bronzes in total, ranking on top of the medal tally.

Besides performance on the competition ground, China’s performance in terms of hosting this international event is also well recognized.

“The preparations and setup of the venues are just unbelievable. Everything has been running smoothly and the competitions are going very well. We can only praise the organizing committee for the great work it’s done,” Eder said in an earlier exclusive interview with the Global Times.

Making friends

For the participants, from athletes and coaches to staff and volunteers, the past weeks have made Chengdu, known for its tasty cuisines, adorable pandas and a leisure lifestyle, an unforgettable place where they’ve shed sweat and tears, challenged themselves and make breakthroughs, and more importantly, make friends beyond borders, analysts said.

One touching moment which can elucidate the sportsmanship of the youth event happened on Friday. When Uganda’s badminton player Amos Muyanja broke his racket without a replacement, his competitor from China Wang Zhengxing offered Muyanja a backup racket.

The FISU Games organizer wrote on Twitter that “we unite to push our limits and inspire each other… We wish all the participants not only to take home victories but also friendship and cherished memories!”

Azerbaijan badminton player Agil Gabilov told the Global Times on Tuesday that Chengdu has been a great experience for him. He made friends with athletes and volunteers and was impressed by the friendliness he received.

Brazilian swimmer Fernanda Gomes Celidonio said that volunteers at the Chengdu Games made her feel “at home.”

Athletes including German volleyball player Yann Bohme got a birthday surprise as after a match, the cheering squad and mascot Rongbao wished him happy birthday and the audience sang in chorus the birthday melody for him.

Athletes also received special gifts, including 3D-printed figurine and local artifacts such as palm fiber weavings and embroidery badges, according to media reports.

The Games also provide a great platform for cultural exchanges other than competition, which Zambian tennis player Esther Sakala appreciated a lot.

Sakala, as a lover of art and an artist herself, was excited to meet those crafty and talented people and see their skills. She had a chance to paint a cup which was later given as a gift and Sakala said she “Loved it so much.”A range of Chinese cultural elements, from handicrafts to musical instruments, have intrigued FISU Game participants at a culture fair held next to the Games Village.

Youth spirit

On and off the competition ground, youth across the world are demonstrating the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and solidarity, igniting a world of division and turbulence, analysts noted.

The Chengdu FISU Games were postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this successful holding marked the resumption of face-to-face communication and exchanges among youth via sports and can leverage more interactions in other fields, such as culture, they said.

Li Haidong, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that sport can be an easy bridge to connect people from different countries and regions and help them build friendship.

The FISU World University Games in Chengdu are a precious opportunity for athletes and people from all around the world to deepen mutual understanding and trust, which will also lay the foundation for closer cooperation and solidarity, Li noted.

FISU Universiade was first held during the Cold War in 1959. It not only encourages young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but also seeks to promote young people communicating across cultural, political and religious barriers through sports, Ren Hai, a professor at the Olympic Research Center of Beijing Sports University, told the Global Times.

When the world is experiencing uncertainty and turbulence, China hopes to deliver a message of peace, communication and cooperation through this gathering of young people, who represent hope and the future, analysts said.

Eder, the acting president of the FISU, has visited China more than 20 times and observed the country’s fast economic development, as well as its increased confidence and openness. “I can feel the country’s readiness to cooperate with many countries whether they come from the East, West, North, or South,” Eder said.

Young swimmers’ rise to prominence boosts China’s dominance in pool

The emerging younger generation of Chinese swimmers have contributed massively to China’s swimming dominance at the Asian Games, as the national swimming team brought their gold medal tally on Monday to 11.

A most outstanding breakthrough came from Pan Zhanle, a 19-year-old freestyle sprint specialist. The young man crushed it with a new lifetime best of 46.97 seconds to take the gold medal in the men’s 100 meters freestyle on Sunday.

But Pan remained unsatisfied with the breakthrough. 

“I felt my performance was mediocre. I was aiming to break the world record before the race,” Pan told reporters after the race. “The Asian record doesn’t feel like anything extraordinary. This is something I should get. It’s a bit disappointing that I missed it by only 0.11 seconds.”

Pan’s performance has set a new Asian record, making him the first Asian swimmer to finish 100 meters under the 47-second barrier and the fifth-fastest swimmer in the discipline in history. Previously his personal best was at 47.22 seconds produced at this year’s Chinese Championships.

The world record remains at the 46.86 seconds Romania’s David Popovici put on the books at the 2022 European Championships.

Pan told the Global Times that the secret behind his triumph lies in the everyday training during which he has paid close attention to improving his flip turns.

“The last two months I have put a lot of effort into improving my jump start and flip turns,” Pan told the Global Times. “Communication with the coach is very important,” he said, before noting he will continue to strive toward the goal of breaking the world record in the future. 

Standing next to Pan on the men’s 100 meters freestyle podium was 18-year-old Wang Haoyu. Speaking of his performance of 48.02 seconds, 1.05 seconds behind Pan’s achievement, Wang said nervousness at the Asian Games thwarted him from attaining a better performance.

“I was a little nervous. It’s impossible not to be [as it’s my first Asian Games]. It was slightly below my expectations,” Wang told reporters. “I got on the podium, but the result could have been better. I still need to fight in the events to come.”

Female breaststroker Tang Qianting, 19, also set up a new Chinese national standard and Asian record in the women’s 50 meters breaststroke.

Firing off a time of 29.92 seconds in the heat, she not only produced the sole outing of the field under the 30-second barrier, but it represented a shiny new lifetime best for the teen and her first-ever foray under the threshold.

Tang’s previous career quickest record was 30.08 seconds she logged at this year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. 

Monday night also saw 18-year-old Chinese swimmer Yu Yiting win the women’s 200 meters individual relay in 2:07.75, setting up a new Asian Games record and outperforming veteran teammate and 2012 Olympic champion Ye Shiwen. 

Yang Junxuan, 21, has also played a key role in securing the women’s 4×100 meters freestyle relay gold medal 

Besides the young swimmers, already crowned world champions Zhang Yufei and Qin Haiyang remain the marquee names in the swimming squad. 

Having publicly announced that she is aiming for the Asian Games MVP award, Zhang told the Global Times that the biggest challenge in achieving the goal is the short-distance sprints.

The previous Asian Games female MVP award winner was Rikako Ikee of Japan who won six gold and two silver medals in eight competitions when she participated in the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018. 

Zhang, who anchored the Chinese women’s 4×100 meters freestyle relay to victory following her 200 meters butterfly title, said she wants to win seven gold medals in Hangzhou.

“I’m hoping to get seven gold medals here. And I feel confident about it. Let’s take it one step at a time,” she told reporters. 

Breaststroke world champion Qin Haiyang lowered the Asian Games record in men’s 100 meters breaststroke to 57.76 seconds to win his first gold medal at the Hangzhou Games. 

The triple world champion has set his sights on setting up a new 50 meters world record, after he crushed Adam Peaty’s 200 meters world record in the worlds. 

“The world record I want to break the most is the 50 meters,” Qin told reporters. 

“It’s an event that I feel more confident in, and I’ve also been putting more effort into training for this one.”

IFRC continues to provide relief items to quake-affected Afghans, says IFRC official

The Asia-Pacific Regional Director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Alexander Matheous has described the situation of quake-affected people in west Afghanistan’s Herat province as extremely impoverished, and said the body would continue to assist them.

“We will continue to provide relief items in the coming days. Our plan is to work with the Afghan Red Crescent on suitable shelters for the people to live in the short term,” Matheous told Xinhua in a recent exclusive interview.

The IFRC has already provided humanitarian assistance such as blankets, non-food items and hygiene kits, the official said, adding the affected families need more support.

The official who visited the quake-stricken areas in Herat also noted that the quake-affected people need support to rebuild their homes and live in the long term.

Two deadly quakes, each with a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale, followed by several aftershocks, rocked west Afghanistan with an epicenter in the Zanda Jan district of Herat province last Saturday, and left at least 2,053 dead and thousands more injured.

Another tremor measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale jolted Herat on Wednesday, killing one person, injuring more than 150 others, and causing property damages.

“More than 2,000 people and over 2,000 homes are destroyed,” the official said, adding most of the victims are women and children, and the affected families have lost what they had.

“People need food, water, shelter, medical camp…It was a very dramatic and tragic disaster for the people,” the official told Xinhua.

Praising the contribution of the Afghan Red Crescent Society in tackling the problems of the quake-affected people, the official said that it was the first humanitarian organization to be present after the disaster.

“We will support the Afghan Red Crescent to work not just in this relief phase, but also in the months to come to rebuild the houses and people’s livelihoods,” Matheous emphasized.

South Africa: Ambassador attends Third CAETE to strengthen cooperation between two countries

Siyabonga Cwele, South African Ambassador to China, attended the Third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) held from June 29 to July 2, 2023 in Changsha, Central China’s Hunan Province. The Expo themed “Common Development for a Shared Future,”was co-sponsored by China’s Ministry of Commerce and the government of Hunan Province. 

Ambassador Cwele also attended other events held within the Third CAETE, such as the China-Africa Sanitary and Phytosanitary Cooperation Forum, the China-Africa Fair for Investment and Trade on Light Industry Products(Fashion Products), and the Hunan-Africa Products and Tourism Matchmaking Conference, and delivered speeches respectively.

Ambassador Cwele gave a presentation at the China-Africa Fair for Investment and Trade on Light Industry Products(Fashion Products). 

He said, “In the past three years, the volume of bilateral trade in light industry goods between South Africa and China has increased by 30 percent. China has a strong manufacturing industry with rich technologies and experience, and diverse light industry products. South Africa on the other hand has good infrastructure, a mature investment environment, and a world-class financial and legal system. There is a great potential and much opportunity for further cooperation in trade and investment between our two countries in the light industry.”

At the Hunan-Africa Products and Tourism Matchmaking Conference, Cwele indicated that on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the bilateral relations between South Africa and China in 2023, he looked forward to welcoming more Chinese tourists to South Africa to experience and enjoy a new lifestyle, and to bring more vitality to the market. 

Cwele also participated in the Online Shopping Festival Featuring Quality African Products at the third CAETE. 

At the event, the ambassador promoted high-quality products from South Africa such as Rooibos tea, wine, Aloe Vera, and products from the rest of Africa via livestreaming, which increased the exposure of African products and provided an opportunity for Chinese consumers to get a better understanding of the products being showcased.

Turkey celebrates 100th anniversary and investment reception at the embassy in Beijing

The Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey held a reception at the Turkish Embassy in Beijing with the aim of boosting investment cooperation with China. The event, as a part of their “Turkish Century Investment Reception” series, saw more than 500 business people and investors from China’s leading companies to attend. 

Turkish Ambassador to China Ismail Hakkı Musa, President of the Investment Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Turkey Ahmet Burak Daglioglu, and the Silk Road Fund Chairwoman Zhu Jun were also in attendance. 

“This year, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey and the 52nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Turkey and China. From e-commerce to telecommunications, from renewable energy to electric vehicles, from cloud technology to the defense industry, we have forged new partnerships with China in a wide range of areas,” the ambassador said. 

In addition, the guests sampled sumptuous Turkish cuisine and discussed cooperation and investment opportunities.

Efforts should be made to foster dialogue to restore the golden era of China-UK relations: Alistair Michie

Editor’s Note:
Some observers believe that China-UK relations are at its lowest point, but Alistair Michie, secretary general of the British East Asia Council and winner of the Chinese Friendship Award Medal in 2013, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that he does not agree with this assessment. Instead, it would be highly desirable for all nations to have golden eras of understanding with China, Michie said, noting that one of the key issues is that a significant number of UK politicians are heavily influenced by the US. He also said that the UK should consider joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as well as other initiatives that can move both countries in a more positive direction. Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) talked with Michie to get his insightful opinions on China-UK relations, the BRI and more. 

GT: The Chinese version of the book Consensus or Conflict? China and Globalization in the 21st Century co-edited by you has been published recently and distributed in China. Could you tell us why you wanted to compile such a book? What feedback have you received?

Michie:
 I was motivated to do the book in 2020. What I felt was that at that time, there was an opportunity for the world to gather together and deal with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the same way that the world dealt with the global financial crisis in 2008. Back in 2008, the G20 played a particularly crucial role in stabilizing what was a very serious global financial crisis. The way the economic crisis unfolded in 2008 posed extreme danger for the world. So, at the start of 2020, I hoped that the world and nations would gather together in a way that could lead to the development of solutions, where the world would unite toward a common destiny.

I was also greatly influenced by the Chinese leader’s repeated calls over many years for the world to move forward with mutual understanding and mutual respect toward a community of common destiny. I believed that the only way to effectively and efficiently address global challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, was through collective action and a shared purpose. 

This motivation laid the foundations for the book. I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to gather over 30 distinguished writers from around the world, who provided their perspectives on why it is crucial for the world to address issues like pandemics through consensus rather than conflict in terms of global matters. This served as the motivation and genesis of the book.

Regarding the feedback, I was particularly pleased that we gathered 10 recommendations from distinguished global leaders, printed in the front of the book. They emphasized the importance of reading this book as it promotes consensus over conflict. These high-level individuals from around the world recognized the crucial theme and message of the book. However, the outcome has been disappointing. Since the English version was published in September 2021, the world has significantly shifted toward conflict and away from consensus. 

GT: Are you disappointed with the direction in which the world is progressing?

Michie:
 I am deeply frustrated because, since publishing the book with hopes of achieving consensus, the world has instead been steadily moving toward conflict. This is a critical issue for humanity, as there are numerous threats such as climate change, future pandemics, nuclear concerns, challenges in biosciences, and artificial intelligence. These issues require nations to act together in the interest of all humanity, but unfortunately, consensus is lacking. The lack of cooperation is deeply concerning as it can lead to misunderstandings, miscalculations, and catastrophic conflicts. It is a dangerous world. While I find some satisfaction in expressing these views and highlighting the dangers, I am still deeply frustrated by the world’s trajectory toward conflict rather than consensus.

By nature, I have always been positive that humanity will find a solution. However, it is also crucial to be realistic. One issue I addressed in my book is the communication crisis our world is facing. Different nations struggle to explain their perspectives, largely due to the fact that we think differently. For instance, China, with nearly 20 percent of the world’s population, has a distinct way of thinking compared to America and Europe.

Therefore, the lack of effective communication is causing a crisis in understanding different perspectives and points of view. 

GT: Not long ago, you mentioned that there are many Americans who have closed their minds and turned a blind eye to significant global changes, which is “extremely dangerous” for the world. What specific “significant global changes” do you mean? Could you elaborate on the potential dangers it poses to the world if Americans turned a blind eye to these changes?

Michie:
 One of the major dangers that the world faces is the way many Americans are thinking today. The US holds a very dominant position in global governance despite only representing 4 percent of the world’s population. This massive influence held by a small number of people is frustrating for the rest of the world. Additionally, it is also frustrating that many Americans tend to look inward.

For example, many Americans do not accept that there is a threat and danger from climate change. They are not actively dealing with other serious global threats like nuclear issues, artificial intelligence, or biosciences. This turning inward is extremely dangerous because these are issues that affect all humanity and the world. 

Additionally, we have a situation where the US political system is deeply fractured, and this creates great dangers for the world going forward.

GT: UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently paid a visit to China and he said that it would not be “credible” to disengage with China. However, the British parliament referred to Taiwan as an “independent country” in an official document for the first time, coinciding with Cleverly’s visit. What’s your perspective on it? In recent years, the UK’s attitude toward China has undergone major changes. What do you think are the reasons behind this?

Michie:
 I think what we need to do is to be very careful about making statements that can cause anger between countries like this one. As I mentioned earlier, we are currently facing a communication crisis, and what we truly need is more dialogue and discussion to foster an intelligent conversation among nations. Fortunately, there are many people in the UK who are working toward creating that environment. However, there are also individuals in the UK who are not interested in engaging in an intelligent dialogue; they have their own agendas. 

One of the issues we face is that a significant number of UK politicians are heavily influenced by the US, which aims to hinder China’s progress. On the other hand, there are US politicians who are also striving to build an intelligent dialogue. Nonetheless, this situation is extremely dangerous, particularly given the current communication crisis and social media. It is so easy to have many comments that can be misunderstood and create conflicts and misunderstandings on social media. Therefore, it is crucial to engage in as much dialogue as possible to foster an intelligent conversation among nations.

GT: Do you think the current UK policy toward China is too influenced by Washington?

Michie:
 I believe that one of the root problems is that the US still wishes to be the hegemonic leader of the world, despite comprising only 4 percent of the global population. It has convinced itself that this is the right path to follow. However, due to many Americans focusing inward and ignoring critical global issues such as climate change and other threats, a significant problem arises for the world.

GT: Some observers have said that China-UK relations are at the lowest point. Do you agree with this? Do you think the bilateral relations can get back to a golden era?

Michie:
 No, I don’t think we’re at the lowest point at all because one of the most important trends in the last two decades is the tens of thousands of Chinese students who have come to the UK to study. I think that we rank second or third in the world in terms of attracting Chinese nationals to come and study in our education system. That is the kind of foundation-laying for intelligent dialogue that I have argued is so important in creating the kind of understanding that will lead to consensus.

I am very hopeful that this student exchange will help to create a more peaceful and sustainable world in the future. 

It would be highly desirable for all nations to have golden eras of understanding with China. Unfortunately, at the moment, we are not moving in that direction, but we must do everything in our power to engage in intelligent dialogue and create understanding, so that we can move toward what you describe as a golden era of relationships. This will enable us to address the significant challenges facing humanity.

GT: Many Western politicians have recently been talking about so-called decoupling from China. What’s your take on it? Is it possible for the West to decouple from China?

Michie:
 I believe that decoupling and de-risking are not the right direction. What we must do is focus much more on creating an intelligent dialogue so that we can understand each other better and avoid moving toward conflict. It is absolutely crucial to move away from de-risking and decoupling, as I argue that the fundamental need is to create a much deeper and better understanding. The only way we can solve the crises facing all of humanity is by coming together in consensus and creating mutual understanding and respect, in order to move toward a community of common destiny. That is the only way, but it poses a huge challenge for the world.

GT: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). How do you view the development of the BRI over the past decade and its future prospects?

Michie:
 I think the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been a hugely important initiative by China because it serves as a channel for creating human connection. Communication can take various forms, such as infrastructure development including roads, airports, and harbors, which facilitate the exchange of ideas and foster understanding. This initiative also promotes intelligent dialogue, and China possesses the expertise to extend these infrastructure developments worldwide.

So, I believe it is a hugely important contribution toward improving global governance. At the moment, global governance faces a challenge as it is dominated by just 14 percent of the global population, which includes 4 percent in the US and under 10 percent in Europe. It is understandable that the rest of the world becomes frustrated when such a small percentage of the world’s population holds such a dominant influence. Initiatives like the BRI are a way of striving toward creating a broader form of global governance that can lead us toward international consensus. 

I hope that the BRI will continue to evolve, fostering exchanges and understanding that can truly guide us toward a more peaceful and sustainable world.

GT: Do you think that the UK should consider joining the BRI?

Michie:
 I believe that everything should be considered in any way forward that we can create in dialogue and understanding, in order to create a world that is moving toward a common destiny. We can only solve the incredibly serious and dangerous challenges that the world faces if we move toward consensus. Initiatives like the BRI should be considered, as well as anything that can move us in a more positive direction.

GT investigates: Absurd ‘Ghost town’ slander exposes US’ malicious cognitive warfare targeting China’s economy, international image

The “Cognitive warfare” has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets issues and spreads disinformation so as to change people’s perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country. Under the manipulation of the US-led West, the “China threat theory” has continued to ferment. Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smearing China’s image by propagating the tones like “China’s economy collapse theory” and “China’s virus threat theory,” in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction of people in some countries with China. These means all serve the peaceful evolution strategy of the US to contain China’s rise and to maintain its hegemony.

The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to systematically reveal the intrigues of the US-led West’s cognitive warfare targeting China, expose its lies and vicious intentions, in an attempt to show international readers a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic view of China. 

This is the first installment in the series.

Anyone who has been to Lujiazui is likely to be charmed by its dense skyscrapers and bustling roads. The area offers a gorgeous view of the illuminated night skyline and reflects the dreams of people who are striving for a better life. 

The Lujiazui Financial City in downtown Shanghai, a famous Chinese financial hub that is home to more than 6,000 Chinese and foreign financial institutions and the location of over 140 transnational corporations’ regional headquarters, was recently portrayed as run-down as part of reporting to expose the alleged “deep trouble” in which the Chinese economy finds itself, by US media.

With a couple of photos showing the “empty” streets and shops of Lujiazui, which were obviously taken from certain selective angles, a few US media outlets and opinion leaders absurdly stated that Shanghai – a metropolis of 25 million people – is a “ghost town.” Furthermore, they claimed that “China is in trouble.”

This absurd smear is just the latest example of the cognitive and psychological warfare launched by the US-led West against China, which intends to defame the Chinese financial market and the country’s international image with vicious labels and ridiculous lies, noted observers reached by the Global Times.

But the fact that China’s economy is thriving and moving forward vigorously serves as the most powerful refutation against them, they said.  

A blatant trickery

US media outlet Newsweek published a story complete with a sensationalized headline on September 9, suggesting that Shanghai had been transformed into “a ghost town.”

The story quoted a misleading tweet by a self-claimed US writer Michael Yon, who posted three pictures that seemingly show empty streets, an empty café, and a footbridge with only five pedestrians in Lujiazui. In the September 4 post, Yon said the photos were taken on a Monday, and the “empty” and “quiet” Lujiazui depicted in the photos signals that the Chinese economy is in “deep trouble.”

The form of blatant trickery employed by Newsweek and the tweet’s author can be easily exposed by anyone who has actually been there. A Global Times reporter has since visited the exact same locations where the three photos were taken, and found that Yon’s empty-street photo, for instance, was taken near a road blocked off for maintenance works. 

The café showed in the photo was also filled with customers when the Global Times reporter arrived there on a weekday afternoon.

Nancy (pseudonym), a Shanghai resident who works at a trading company in Lujiazui, is a regular customer at the café. She ventured that Yon’s empty-café photo was most likely taken in the early morning, when most customers, including her, prefer to place takeaway orders.

“We Lujiazui white-collar workers have very busy meeting-filled mornings. Who has time to sit in the café and enjoy their coffee then?” she asked rhetorically.

As for the empty-footbridge photo, Nancy said the footbridge is not the only pedestrian footpath access in Lujiazui, and workers at local companies usually choose more convenient underground access paths, especially on hot summer days. The footbridge is usually very crowded at weekends, flooded with people who want to enjoy the beautiful city view, she added.

“It’s not easy to get the ’empty’ photos of Lujiazui. They had to have picked a certain time and find special angles,” Nancy commented. “They must have put a lot of effort into discrediting the city.”

The three photos have led to widespread criticism on X (formerly known as Twitter). Ben Adegoriola, who introduced himself as a Nigerian living in China, posted a video of a lively Chinese city under the photos. “This was last weekend,” he wrote. “All these West-paid propagandists can write anything to defame China’s rising glory.”

As a main business hub in Shanghai, Lujiazui is always bustling with people, said Shanghai-based economist Xi Junyang, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. The “empty” photos deliberately taken from certain angles do not show the real Lujiazui, he said.

“Newsweek’s ‘ghost town’ story’s coverage of China is undoubtedly hostile,” Xi told the Global Times. “By distorting the image of Shanghai, it intends to make this international financial center less attractive to global investors.”

Apart from Lujiazui, some suburban areas in Shanghai have also been the targets of the Western media’s “ghost town” slander. They call the Thames Town in suburban Songjiang district a deserted, decaying “ghost town,” turning a blind eye to the fact that Thames Town has become a popular local destination for the weekend, as well as a famous industrial park for cultural and creative companies.

The increasing house prices in Thames Town prove its popularity. The town’s average house price is 77,013 yuan ($10,553) per square meter as of September, a 13.18-percent increase from August rates, showed real estate information platform zhuge.com.

Chinese experts believe that the cognitive warfare waged by some US media outlets and think tanks against Shanghai won’t make much different, as ridiculous lies are unlikely to weaken Shanghai’s attractiveness to global investors. 

“The situation in Shanghai is generally optimistic this year. We are continuing a robust post-pandemic recovery,” said Xi.

Clumsy tactics

Similar media reports calling Chinese cities “ghost towns” have become more frequent in recent months. Cities like Kunming, the capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, and Changzhou in East China’s Jiangsu Province, have also involved in this kind of disinformation campaign, the Global Times found.

The “ghost town” narrative is a typical part of the US media’s cognitive warfare against China, which tries to influence international audience’s perception of China and its cities by portraying the latter as deserted, unpopular, and unpromising places.

Looking back through the first nine months of this year, observant eyes may find that some US media outlets and think tanks have launched several rounds of cognitive warfare against China.

According to data provided by online media monitoring platform Meltwater, so far this year, dozens of mainstream US media outlets and think tanks have published some 114,000 China-related articles. Among them, the numbers of the articles containing neutral, positive, and negative sentiments respectively are 71,700, 19,500, and 23,100, accounting for 62.7 percent, 17 percent, and 20.2 percent.

The most frequently mentioned words in the articles with negative sentiments include “economy,” “markets,” “investors,” “interest rates,” and “yuan,” showed Meltwater figures. That suggests the Chinese economy and Chinese financial market are the most covered topics by US media outlets and opinion leaders, as well as their main targets of vilification.

In the middle of each month, the National Bureau of Statistics of China releases key Chinese economic data for the previous month. Interestingly, Meltwater’s curve graph shows that the middle of almost every month happens to be a month peak in the number of China-related stories containing negative sentiments. China’s monthly economic data has seemingly become a good opportunity for naysayers, who may comb through the data report to pick out any points they believe are “pessimistic,” and hype them up with eye-grabbing headlines, such as claiming China’s reopening trade after the pandemic “is fizzling out,” and lambasting the Chinese economy with sensational sentences like “investors start to fret China.”

Badmouthing the Chinese economy is a trick used by the US Federal Reserve to drive global private capital back to the US, said economic analyst Tian Yun. “In order to suppress China, the US is resorting to extreme measures,” Tian told the Global Times.

Apart from attacking the Chinese economy, in the first nine months of 2023, the US’ China-related media coverage with negative sentiment also focused on topics including the pandemic, China’s population, China’s role in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the “debt trap” narrative, and the “spy balloon” allegations, according to Meltwater statistics.

Chinese experts said that most of the topics are nothing new to the readers, merely defamation cliches by the US against China from its economic performance to its international image.

“Through the various rounds of cognitive warfare, the US attempts to labeling China as a hopeless and disruptive bully, and a threat to the current international order,” a Shanghai-based scholar in American Studies told the Global Times.

The “debt trap” rumor that targets the BRI is a typical disinformation campaign by the US-led West to sow suspicion in China’s cooperation with other countries, the scholar exampled. “All these accusations and slanders serve the US’ strategic goal of curbing the expansion of China’s geopolitical and geo-economic influences,” he told the Global Times.

Ironically, behind this “ambitious goal” are usually clumsy tricks attempted by US media outlets and think tanks that make their smear campaign against China less than unconvincing. Audiences have found that much of this China-related coverage cites disreputable sources, who, most of the time simply, drops a bombshell without giving any solid evidence to prove its authenticity.

A fresh round of rumors hyped up by US media sources early this year that accused Chinese companies of “selling Russia weapons” is a typical example. An NBC article on February 19 said, “China may be providing non-lethal military assistance to Russia for use in Ukraine,” by citing “four US officials familiar with the matter” and “sources familiar with the matter.” The Global Times later proved the accusation to be completely groundless.

The so-called “military aid” being transported from Central China’s Henan Province to Moscow in late 2022 was in fact some ordinary commodities including clothes that Russian importers purchased from China.

Some US media outlets also like to bolster false narratives with misleading photos that far from reflect the truth. Like Newsweek’s “ghost town” story and the “empty Lujiazui” photos it cited, such stories are filled with laughably ridiculous lies that may only fool those who are blind, deaf, or mentally impaired, said observers.

These clumsy cognitive warfare tricks will not hurt China, but do harm the credibility and reputation of US media outlets and think tanks, said the Shanghai-based scholar.

“China and Shanghai are open, and it’s easy for the world to get the truth,” he said. “The fact that China is moving forward to higher level of development will punch rumormongers in their faces.”