The film Snow Leopard, directed by China's late Tibetan writer-director Pema Tseden, won the Tokyo Grand Prix at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival held from October 23 to November 1.
This movie was Pema Tseden's last film before his passing in May. Born in December 1969, Pema Tseden passed away this year due to an illness. Recognized as a pioneer of Tibetan-language films, the director created several famous works, including the 2018 film Jinpa and the 2019 film Balloon.
Pema Tseden was also an award-winning novelist, whose work has been translated into English, French, German, Japanese and Czech. He was a professor at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, and a member of the China Film Directors' Guild as well.
Described as a family drama, Snow Leopard was Pema Tseden's eighth Tibetan-language film. The film explores the close association between humans and animals through a story in which a snow leopard kills nine of a sheepherder's flock. It delves into the differing perspectives of various individuals regarding whether to release the snow leopard after it gets trapped in the sheep pen.
It took about three years to make the film, which was shot at the scenic Donggi Cona Lake in Madoi county in Northwest China's Qinghai Province. The name of the lake means "lake surrounded by a thousand mountains" in the Tibetan language. The area is also a habitat for snow leopards and many other endangered species.
Jigme Trinley, Pema Tseden's son and assistant director on Snow Leopard, said that his father's works have always told stories of the culture and life of Tibetan people, and how modern civilization has been impacting and integrating into their lives and thinking, media reported.
Snow Leopard was considered a significant breakthrough in Pema Tseden's filmmaking journey, embodying his new understanding of life, the world, and Tibetan culture, Jigme Trinley added.
The Israel-Gaza conflict entered its fourth day with Israel declaring on Tuesday control regained over the Gaza border. Chinese analysts urged US and Western leaders to stop the long-term marginalization of the Palestine issue or fan the flames of the conflict, calling for more efforts to calm the situation in order to prevent a potential sixth war in the Middle East.
In retaliation for the Hamas militant attack on Saturday, Israeli airplanes bombarded Gaza City's downtown nonstop until early Tuesday, cutting off the Gaza Strip from food and other supplies. According to Reuters, the Israeli military activated an unprecedented 300,000 reserve soldiers and placed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, increasing concerns that it was preparing a ground invasion in response to the most daring and deadliest Hamas offensive in decades.
As of press time on Tuesday, the cumulative death toll on both sides had risen to nearly 1,600. Gaza's Health Ministry on Monday said at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave, Reuters reported.
Early Tuesday, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US released a joint statement in which they expressed their "steadfast and united support" to Israel and condemned the Hamas attack.
The Western leaders' acknowledgement of "the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people" was noted in the statement, but it has come under fire from netizens on social media for their double standards on the Palestine issue. Observers voiced concern that the US and certain Western leaders' biased support would worsen the conflict.
As long as Israel is seen as a member of their camp and Hamas as terrorists, the US and many European nations would want to offer Israel support in diplomacy and in rhetoric. However, if the conflict spreads, the scenario may get worse, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.
In an attempt to provide symbolic support to Israel and intimidate Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah group, US made the one-sided decision to send weapons and warships to Israel.
However, since the US has been reducing its commitments in the region, it will not readily get back into the conflict, but to demonstrate its role, it may provide Israel with weaponry and intelligence, Liu said.
Although several EU leaders expressed support for Israel, considering the widespread sympathy for the Palestinians in European nations, the bloc may not accept long-term one-sided support for Israel, according to the expert.
For example, divisions among EU member states and a lack of convergence from EU institutions were on display on Monday over plans to halt aid to Palestine in response to Saturday's attack on Israel by Hamas. According to European media, several countries, including Ireland, Luxembourg and Denmark - had been pushing for the EU to call for de-escalation.
Concern over escalation
The international community is concerned about how the conflict will evolve. According to Liu, in order to reassure its citizens, the Israeli government would undoubtedly exact retribution on Hamas and undertake the heaviest strike it has ever launched. But it also faces another problem - Hamas is hard to eradicate from Gaza due to its close links to the local community, and if its use of force results in significant civilian casualties and humanitarian catastrophes in Gaza, it will come under greater moral pressure.
Liu noted that the risk of a sixth Middle East war still exists if Israel is engulfed by the desire for revenge and expands the war, or if Hamas finds itself fighting a last-ditch battle, or if more countries are dragged into the war.
"It would be a more pitiful situation if the war escalates with relevant parties losing their minds," said Liu.
There was no sign of cease fire on Tuesday. Hamas is ready to fight a long war with Israel, a senior member of the militant group was cited by the Associated Press as saying on Tuesday.
Moreover, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets into Israel after at least three of its members were killed during an Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon amid soaring tensions on Israel's northern border, according to media reports.
The situation in Gaza is being closely watched by the international community. Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University said that the immediate priority is to stop additional parties from engaging in the Israel-Gaza conflict and from adding fuel to the fire. However, if Israel deploys significant ground forces into Gaza, the situation may become challenging with the possibility of an alarming humanitarian disaster.
As the situation worsened, the United Nations, foreign relief organizations, and public health professionals said they were increasingly worried about humanitarian needs in Palestinian regions. Approximately 6 percent of Gaza's population, or more than 137,000 individuals, are now taking refuge in facilities administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, according to a statement made by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to reporters in New York.
China has paid high attention to the continued escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict and urged all relevant parties to enact a cease fire. China is willing to maintain communication with all parties and make efforts toward stabilizing the Middle East, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The bloodshed and deaths in the Middle East once again bring to light the disastrous consequences of the US and Western countries' long-term marginalization of the Palestinian issue, analysts said. It also highlights that the US' strategy to promote normalization between Israel and the Arab states would be a castle in the air without resolving the Palestine issue.
Although there has been no official information from any relevant parties, there have been growing reports that a US-brokered deal to formalize diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel may be victimized in the escalation of situation.
The Palestinian issue has historically been viewed by the global community as the most important, sensitive and fundamental problem in the Middle East. But in order to achieve reconciliation between Israel and Saudi Arabia and persuade more of its friends and other moderate nations to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, the US strives to sidestep or even ignore the Palestinian issue. Its goal is to put together a unified front to attack Syria and suppress Iran, Sun said.
The US should reflect its regional strategy and advocate for long-term solutions to Israel-Palestine conflict rather than stoking tensions, said Sun.
Palestine and Israel are neighbors that cannot be moved and the two-state solution is a concluding and right solution to solving the Palestinian issue. Without an independent country of the Palestinians, the security of Israel cannot be guaranteed, Sun said.
The highly anticipated Indonesian cultural festival kicked off in the opera hall of Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music recently to promote cultural exchanges between China and Indonesia and encourage people to learn more about the traditional Indonesian instrument the Kolintang.
Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun, delivered a speech saying that the Indonesian cultural performance held in Beijing is particularly important for the promotion of Indonesia's rich and colorful culture and enhancement of civil relations between Indonesia and China.
Oratmangun also stated that through this event, he hopes that the Kolintang instrument will be recognized by UNESCO in 2024.
Accompanied by the Kolintang, Oratmangun and his wife sang the Chinese song The Moon Represents My Heart, which resonated with the audiences and received thunderous applause.
This event serves as a bridge for cultural exchange between the two countries, enhancing cultural exchange and mutual learning, and strengthening the friendship between the two peoples, while promoting the healthy development of bilateral relations.
The Philippines and Japan hope to hold a joint exercise under a new bilateral security pact next year, which Chinese experts said on Wednesday is a dangerous plan that could pose several threats to regional peace and stability.
Gilberto Teodoro, Defense Secretary of the Philippines, said on Tuesday that a joint exercise by Philippine and Japanese troops under a proposed reciprocal access agreement (RAA) between the two countries could be held as early as next year, Kyodo News reported on Tuesday.
The talks on the RAA will go "very smoothly" and be signed at "the soonest possible time," Kyodo News quoted Teodoro as saying.
The RAA will not only facilitate joint defense drills but also contain a data sharing mechanism, Teodoro said, with Kyodo News noting that Japan is supplying coastal surveillance radars to the Philippines, and that the Philippines has a similar security agreement with the US and Australia.
Teodoro then pointed to China, saying that the pact is significant in order to make the Philippines and Japan more secure, and thanked Japan for "condemning China" for an event on October 22 in which Philippine vessels trespassed into waters off China's Ren'ai Reef in the South China Sea and intentionally caused bumps amid countermeasures by the Chinese side.
China should stay on high alert over the recent military cooperation attempts between Japan and the Philippines, because they are not simple bilateral cooperation, but can cause serious consequences to regional peace and stability, analysts said.
The Philippines knows that its own military capabilities cannot support its scheme of snatching Chinese islands and reefs in the South China Sea, so it is colluding with countries from outside the region including the US and Japan, a Chinese military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"It's like inviting wolves into the house," the expert said.
Song Zhongping, another Chinese military expert, told the Global Times that Japan is breaking its military restrictions by changing its principles on arms transfers and exporting weapons to foreign countries like the Philippines.
Japan also aims to contain China's development in concert with the US' Indo-Pacific strategy, Song said.
Using the Philippines and Japan as pawns, the US is strengthening its strategic encirclement on China through allies and partners along the first and second island chains, experts said.
Countries in the South China Sea region should be cautious over this situation of external interference, which could harm the main theme of cooperation and development that benefit all, analysts said.
The extreme rainstorm witnessed in Beijing on July 21, 2012, the heaviest rainfall in six decades that left 79 people dead and caused widespread havoc in the capital city over a weekend, left deep scars in many people's hearts. Fortunately, when Beijing broke a 140-year-old rainfall record in the days between July 29 and August 2, the nightmare witnessed by Beijing residents over a decade ago were not replayed.
Based on flood prevention experience and lessons learned from previous rainfall disasters, including the catastrophic Henan floods in July 2021, Beijing appears to have made quantifiable to the city's disaster forecasting, relief, and response programs. There have been no major recorded roof collapses, backlash on the internet, damage of power lines, or flooded highway underpasses, scenes that were widely seen in the tragedy 11 years ago.
New technology and digital networks have become an important force in averting tragedy. The Beijing Haidian District Water Affairs Bureau utilized a cutting-edge smart system to direct emergency rescue operations throughout the district, as the system can map out the most optimal rescue route in record time.
The system utilizes visualization, integrated analysis of big data, and other technologies to understand the distribution and anomalies of approximately 3,000 water facilities and sensors across the entire Haidian area, and can provide real-time monitoring of the status of water channels, gates, and dams, and respond to warnings and forecasts speedily, the Beijing News reported.
Moreover, technologies such as the "Sky Eye" telescope, radar maps, and satellite cloud images have also played a significant role in this round of rainstorm warning. Since the start of the current round of rainfall on July 29, the "Sky Eye" smart system installed in some streets has remained vigilant. High-definition cameras installed on flood prevention emergency vehicles and rescue team helmets can monitor precipitation in real time, greatly improving the efficiency of flood responses.
"Early assessment, early warning, and early deployment" are the most significant forms of progress that the Global Times witnessed amid the slate of heavy rain that hit Beijing.
While visiting and reporting in waterlogged Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, in July 2021, Global Times reporters found that the consensus among the public was they received warning notifications "too late." While other areas in Henan Province had already been hit by heavy downpours, Zhengzhou city government did not decisively put measures in place to stop gatherings, suspend classes, and require the closure of businesses, wasting critical time in flood prevention and missing a key rescue window.
The official investigation report on the severe rainstorm disaster in Zhengzhou which caused at least 398 deaths and missing, exposed serious misconducts in the city's response deployment, including inadequate warning, significant delays in emergency responses, and a lack of unified command at critical moments. These issues led to the highest disaster-related casualties seen in recent years, particularly with regard to the subway system and tunnel, which should not have occurred.
This time in Beijing, Global Times reporters found residents in the capital city received multiple flood prevention reminders via text from relevant departments before the heavy rain actually fell down. Beijing successively issued red rainstorm warnings, yellow lightning warnings, and blue wind warnings, reminding citizens to refrain from outdoor activities. Many organizations immediately issued directives for their employees to work from home.
News sources reported that in preparation, the Beijing Drainage Group initiated a top-level flood early-warning protocol, requiring all pump station personnel to be on duty. At the same time, a re-inspection and re-treatment of drainage facilities in key areas such as 155 depressed bridges and 249 subway stations, as well as a re-inspection of water pumps, backup power sources, flood control emergency equipment, and various monitoring systems in 87 rainwater pump stations across the city were conducted.
Power system companies also deployed emergency teams in advance. The State Grid Corporation of China (Beijing), for example, had 22 rescue teams with 510 personnel on standby, ready to transport power generation vehicles, small generators, lighting vehicles, and other flood control emergency supplies and equipment to be stationed in areas with strong rainfall forecasted by meteorological bodies.
Beijing's main cultural and tourism venues issued temporary closure notices soon after the Beijing city government temporarily asked to shut down access to all scenic spots on July 30.
All mountainous and water-related scenic spots and rural homestays in the heavily affected area of Fangshan district were temporarily closed and have stopped receiving visitors since then. All 17 tourist attractions in Huairou district were closed, and all homestays and folk accommodations were temporarily suspended to minimize risk.
Amid the heavy downpour sweeping through many parts of China, local authorities have stepped up efforts to counter flooding and power cuts. After days of search and evacuation efforts, disinfection work has begun in residential and commercial areas in the city over this weekend.
Throughout three major rainstorms, nonstop rescue missions have been executed with countless heartwarming stories. In the last decade, what has changed is our continuously honed ability to respond to floods, while what remains unchanged is the resilience exemplified by every individual, an essence of the Chinese civilization.
We believe that in the future, we will face floods and other natural disasters with even greater composure and unite together to withstand the tests they bring.
Editor’s Note: Whether the global economy can achieve recovery has become a hot topic of discussion in recent times. Along with this discussion, the growth prospects of the Chinese economy have become a global focus of attention. What potential does the Chinese economy hold for growth? Can it overcome short-term challenges and achieve long-term sustainable development? With these questions in mind, Global Times reporters Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi (GT) recently interviewed Yukon Huang (Huang), a senior fellow with the Asia Program, formerly the World Bank’s China country director.
GT: Recently there have been many discussions regarding China’s economy and its prospects. How do you view the prospects of China’s economic growth? Huang: I think it’s not a short term issue. It’s not about this year. It’s about the next four to five years, because you’re talking about sustainable growth. You’re not talking about a short term economic cycle. So the question is, can China grow at a reasonable rate for, let’s say, the next five years and beyond? I think the answer to this is it is possible. China still has significant growth potential. And if it actually addresses the right issues, it could grow a 5 or 6 percent on a sustainable basis.
GT: You mentioned that the Chinese economy still has significant growth potential. What is the potential that you refer to? How can this potential be realized? What are your suggestions for China’s economic transformation and development? Huang: Sustainable development not only means environmental sustainability, but also financial sustainability. In recent years, housing construction has been one of the main drivers of China’s economic growth, but given China’s population growth, it is difficult for real estate to play this role in the future. Exports will also play a smaller role now that economic growth is slowing in both the United States and Europe, and so is their demand for Chinese manufactured goods.
China does have several ways of increasing growth significantly on a sustainable basis without requiring more funding from the government. The critical question is not monetary expansion, or more expansionary policies, or lower interest rates, or more credit flows. It’s what can be done to increase growth without requiring more money. That’s the key question.
There are two issues that we need to be focused on. One has to do with consumption. The key question is, how do you increase consumption on a prudent basis, not just for 3 months, 6 months, or a year, and how do you increase consumption without requiring more money from the government? Now, in other countries, the answer is there isn’t any possibility to do this. But in China, you could actually increase consumption on a consistent, sustainable basis without requiring government support. It has to do with the household registration system, hukou.
So how can hukou reform provide a huge boost to consumption? The answer is, if you look at the major cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen, about 30 to 40 percent of the population and workforce do not have a local hukou. These households consume about 30 percent or less of their income compared to residents with local hukou registration as they spent less in housing, cars, and education. If more big Chinese cities are able to relax their hukou policies to a certain extent, the consumption of these households will increase significantly. They would consume 30 percent more. This would increase GDP growth by 1.5 to 2 percent annually. Think about that:1 to 2 percent every year for the foreseeable future, without any cost to the government. You don’t have to provide tax breaks. You don’t have to provide any subsidies. It would basically be driven by household consumption.
GT: In China, household registration (hukou) is not only an economic issue but also involves social concerns. Do you think further relaxing the restrictions on obtaining household registration in major cities is feasible? Huang: The government has signaled this even in the reform programs that were just launched, which talked about rapidly reforming the hukou policy. Hukou reform did not matter 10 years ago because people moved to the cities. When they moved to the cities, they made a lot more, they consume more, even though they didn’t have local hukou registration. When they had a higher income, people would spend more. So consumption increased rapidly in the past, even when you didn’t have hukou reform.
But now that urbanization has largely occurred, and it’s not increasing, rural migrants to big cities cannot be counted upon as much. You have to count on increasing the consumption of people who are already living in the cities. So that’s a completely different issue. Therefore, what needs to be done is the expansion of consumption among the population already living in cities.
GT: What other measures do you think can be taken to further unleash China’s growth potential? Huang: First is the adjustment of government investment allocation. When I moved to China in 1997, approximately two-thirds of government investment was directed toward the coastal provinces, while one-third was allocated to the interior. However, around the year 2000, China initiated the development of the western regions, leading to increased investment in the interior, particularly in the far west. Presently, the situation has reversed, with two-thirds of state investment flowing into the interior, while only one-third is directed toward the coastal provinces.
This was rightly done because the government was trying to deal with the inequality of poverty, because most of the poor people were in the interior. So you want to provide them with more services. But today the situation is quite different. If we look at it from an economic perspective, investment in the interior is 40 percent less in returns than investment along the coastal and central provinces. If China were to achieve a balanced allocation, with 50 percent of resources directed toward the interior and 50 percent toward the coastal central areas, it could potentially result in a 1 percent annual increase in growth. Moreover, this approach would not impose any additional burden on the government as the expenditure would remain the same.
Besides, there needs to be an adjustment in funding support for state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private enterprises. Currently, the return on assets for China’s SOEs is only about half that of private enterprises. Of course, a considerable portion of China’s SOEs fall within strategic sectors, and for these fields, continued financial support is necessary to foster their development. However, for a portion of areas that do not possess strategic value, a portion of the funds originally allocated to SOEs can be redirected to support more efficient private enterprises.
GT: Do you think that emerging economies, including China, can still become the engines of global economic development in the future? Huang: If we examine the period from 2007 to 2020, developing economies and emerging market economies performed exceptionally well. A significant contributing factor to the higher growth rate of emerging market economies was the rapid expansion of China. China’s growth is closely intertwined with the growth and demand of emerging market economies, and one of the key drivers is the commodity market. When China experiences rapid growth, it stimulates the prices of commodities, minerals, and oil, which primarily benefits developing countries. China’s imports and exports have consistently increased over the last 15 years, even during the pandemic, unlike what occurred in the West. Consequently, China’s share of global exports reached record highs in 2022, despite the challenges faced by Western countries due to the pandemic, recession, and slowed growth. So when China’s trade is very strong, it drives up the trade prospects of emerging market economies.
One thing that needs mentioning is, whether Europe can sell more consumption goods to China. That’s not the same issue for the EU depends much more on agricultural exports, service, and financial services. And that’s a different kind of issue. So, the emerging markets’ future is very much linked to China. Then the question is, well, Europe and United States recover fairly rapidly. Europe has a big problem because of its problems with Russia. So, one big issue in the future for Europe will be its economic future, which is actually dependent and is very much linked to China. Europe’s investment and Europe’s trade with China are much larger and much more closely linked than US trade investment with China.
It’s worth mentioning the role played by China-EU economic relations in this context. Europe is a producer of high-end consumer goods, whereas the US produces relatively fewer consumer goods. Such investment and trade relations between Europe and China are becoming even closer. If China’s economy thrives, Europe tends to exhibit a favorable economic performance as well. Thus, the outlook of the global economy and the strengthening of economic ties between China and Europe are closely interrelated. While some concerns arise due to political factors, my perspective is that ultimately, Europe will not take such a stance. Furthermore, given its diminishing economic connections with Russia, Europe needs to increase links with China.
"Surging demand for metals used in electric vehicle batteries has kicked off an international race to mine the deep seas. And there are no rules," read a recent New York Times article. Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI), a subsidiary of The Metals Company (TMC), a Canadian firm, applied for a mining permit through Nauru, prompting the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to initiate the development of rules and regulations within a two-year timeframe as per the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
While countries discuss the rules, opposition to deep-sea mining is growing. However, the ISA Council meeting in July 2023 did not approve deep-sea mining, and the agenda for the establishment of deep-sea mining regulations has been tabled until 2024. In this unknown realm of the seabed, how should the benefits and risks of deep-sea mining be balanced? How can the conflicting interests of a demand for energy transition and environmental protection be resolved? Experts told the Global Times that discussing deep-sea mining requires the balancing of various interests such as resource development, environmental protection, and sustainable development. In this process, global collaboration is crucial to ensure the best practices in environmental protection, sustainability, and social responsibility in mining activities.
A new option
With the increasing development of global technology, the demand for metals such as copper, nickel, aluminum, manganese, zinc, lithium, and cobalt is skyrocketing due to technologies like wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and smartphones. According to the World Bank, the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium, and cobalt, could increase fivefold by 2050 to meet a growing demand for clean energy technologies.
While some reports suggest that there are currently sufficient metal deposits on land from a technical standpoint, mining companies believe that these resources may not be economically viable to extract without causing environmental damage.
Moreover, some key minerals are highly dependent on a single country. Taking nickel as an example, almost half of the total global nickel production is from Indonesia, and this proportion is continuously increasing. Following this trend, nickel may replace palm oil as the main cause of deforestation in the country. Similarly, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) produces 60 percent of the world's cobalt. A report released in 2022 by Fitch Solutions, a subsidiary of Fitch Ratings, stated that the increasing political instability risk in the DRC could add pressure to the global battery supply chain.
In the above situation, analysis suggests that deep-sea mineral resources provide a new option to meet human mineral demands, and many countries have started to pay attention to deep-sea mining.
Deep-sea mining typically refers to the extraction of three types of mineral resources in the deep sea: Polymetallic (manganese) nodules, cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and massive sulphides.
"Deep-sea mining would extract cobalt, copper, nickel, and manganese - key battery materials - from potato-sized rocks called "polymetallic nodules" on the ocean's floor at depths of 4 to 6 km (2.5 to 4 miles). They are abundant in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the North Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico," read a Reuters report.
Analysts said that unlike land mining, which usually causes severe damage and widespread pollution locally, deep-sea mining only involves extracting polymetallic nodules that are not connected to the seabed. Some mining companies also claim that deep-sea mining projects cause less damage to nature compared to land mining in areas such as rainforests, and it is also more cost-effective.
Waiting for approval
However, due to deep-sea mining being a nascent industry for countries around the world, and with only a small portion of the deep-sea floor having been explored so far, people have limited understanding of it.
Therefore, while deep-sea mining brings possibilities, it is also a source of concern in terms of commercialization, marine ecology protection, and legal regulation. Some analysts believe that deep-sea mining technology is still in its relatively early stages, and there is uncertainty in commercializing new technologies. Until deep-sea mining technology is confirmed as being effective, newly discovered mineral deposits cannot be listed as "reserves" in the valuation of company assets. Without a clear value, it is difficult to raise the substantial funds needed to build mining infrastructure.
Moreover, just like the unexplored mineral resources under the sea, there are also many undiscovered marine organisms there, and the impact of deep-sea mining on these organisms is unknown. Therefore, now more and more people are starting to pay attention to the impact of deep-sea mining on the deep-sea ecological environment.
Reuters reported that a new study found that the cost of repairing the damage caused by deep-sea mining would be twice the cost of extraction.
Zhu Jianzhen, director of the School of Management of Guangdong Ocean University, told the Global Times that the formulation of deep-sea mining rules involves multiple international institutions and legal frameworks, with the key ones being the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Seabed Authority (ISA).
UNCLOS is the main legal framework for international maritime law, which sets out the basic principles and rules for ocean activities. The ISA is a subsidiary body of the United Nations responsible for the management of international seabed areas and their resources. The ISA consists of 168 member states and the European Union, and these members elect 36 members of the Council, which has the authority to formulate specific policies within its jurisdiction based on the general policies of the Authority, Zhu said.
In 2021, the government of Nauru wrote a letter to the ISA stating its plans to fund Canada's TMC company's deep-sea mining activities and hoped that the ISA would finalize regulations on deep-sea mining within two years. However, in July this year more than 20 countries had reportedly called for a suspension or ban on deep-sea mining during the ISA meeting, and as a result, the conference did not give the green light to deep-sea mining.
However, the member states reached an agreement at the last moment of the meeting to continue discussing regulations on deep-sea mineral exploitation and to advance this agenda by July 2024.
Zhu explained that the rules of the ISA only apply in the international seabed and contract areas (the international seabed area is defined by UNCLOS as an area that does not belong to any country's territory or exclusive economic zone; contract areas are designated areas within the international seabed area in which the ISA has signed contracts with developing countries or organizations to authorize activities in those areas). These rules do not apply to deep-sea mineral resource exploitation in national territorial waters, exclusive economic zones, and continental shelves, which are subject to the sovereignty jurisdiction of individual countries and their domestic laws. At the international level, rules for deep-sea mining must be established through international cooperation and negotiations to ensure widespread recognition and compliance on a global scale, Zhu noted.
Open playing field
Currently, countries such as France, New Zealand, Germany, Chile, Vanuatu, and Palau are skeptical about deep-sea mining and advocate for precautionary suspension measures until a set of environmental protection rules and compliant inspection systems is agreed upon. Additionally, some well-known multinational companies have joined the debate. Google, BMW, Volvo, and Samsung have pledged not to use metals from polymetallic nodules until further understanding of the impact of mining on the deep sea is obtained.
While on the other side, countries such as Nauru, Norway, Russia, Mexico, and the UK support the advancement of this industry. Norway, in particular, announced plans in June of this year to approve companies for mining in its own waters.
Zhu told the Global Times that that deep-sea mining has garnered attention and investment from multiple countries. Among them, China, the US, Russia, Canada, and Japan possess comparative advantages in terms of resources. China boasts abundant deep-sea mineral resources and has already conducted mineral exploration in the international waters of the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The US, with its extensive coastline, including areas like Hawaii and Guam, is believed to possess a substantial amount of deep-sea mineral resources. Canada and Russia primarily possess deep-sea mineral resources located in the Arctic seabed. Japan, situated near the Pacific Ring of Fire, possesses abundant deep-sea mineral resources. Its deep-sea areas, particularly the Western Pacific, are considered one of the world's richest locations for polymetallic nodules.
Currently, countries such as China, the US, and Canada have implemented relevant strategies at the national level, with the management of deep-sea mining or deep-sea areas being an important component. These countries have also enacted laws and regulations on marine resources to regulate activities related to the development of deep-sea bed resources.
Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times that China's seabed exploration and mining technology has reached a world-class level. By implementing deep sea technology innovation plans and promoting the involvement of state-owned enterprises, China has successfully achieved significant technological advancements and independent innovation in various areas, including full-ocean-depth manned submersibles, full-ocean-depth unmanned submersibles, and high-power artificial source electromagnetic detection technology.
Analysts pointed out that the current exploration and excavation of seabed minerals on a global scale is in an open playing field.
Lin believes that disputes over mining in these countries' own territorial waters are relatively small among countries, but deep-sea mining in international waters will inevitably involve geopolitical issues, in which the ISA does not have strong binding power. For example, although the ISA has not yet issued any deep-sea mining licenses, it has signed over 30 deep-sea resource exploration contracts with more than 10 countries.
Zhu noted that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a crucial agency of the US government. According to its official website, the agency has been conducting ocean exploration activities for over 20 years and has mastered several "game-changing technologies" such as underwater mapping, underwater robotics, and remote sensing.
Despite the ongoing disputes, it does not mean that deep-sea mining cannot proceed. When the prices of onshore minerals reach a certain level, countries will engage in large-scale development, and relevant environmental protection measures will gradually become clearer, experts noted.
In light of the numerous controversies and challenges surrounding deep-sea mining, Zhu believed that a balanced approach is necessary to address the diverse interests of resource development, environmental protection, and sustainable development. By fostering global collaboration, mining activities can be guaranteed to adhere to the best practices in environmental protection, sustainability, and social responsibility. Only by striking a balance between resource demands and ecological conservation can we achieve long-term and sustainable development of underwater resources.
The brave resistance of China's ironclad friend, Serbia, against NATO during its aggression against former Yugoslavia in 1999, has touched many in China. The legendary achievement of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defense in shooting down a stealth fighter for the first time in human history won the respect of many Chinese people. In April, the news of Belgrade's purchase of FK-3 air defense systems from Beijing sparked discussions in the Western world. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Milos Vucevic (Vucevic) shared his views on this and other hot button issues in a recent exclusive interview with Global Times reporters Hu Yuwei and Fan Wei (GT).
The defense minister expresses deep gratitude to China for its wholehearted support of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and reaffirms its adherence to the one-China principle. He noted that Chinese weapons will help modernize the Serbian armed forces, and looks forward to the further development of bilateral cooperation, especially on the military front.
The senior official said that China, unlike other great powers, does not attach any conditions to its cooperation with Serbia, and has selflessly dedicated its achievements in various fields to attaining its global goals. He expressed optimism about that the tenacity of friendship between the two countries, and regarded China as one of Serbia's most reliable friends.
GT: The Chinese and Serbian people have a long-standing tradition of friendly relations. During the NATO aggression against former Yugoslavia in 1999, the Chinese people stood firmly with the Serbian people to defend Serbia's sovereignty and its right to safeguard its national unity. How do you view the efforts made by the Chinese people to support Serbia's national stability and sovereignty?
Vucevic: Overall, Serbia-China relations have been extremely close in recent years and are developing chiefly due to the excellent relations between the two presidents - Aleksandar Vucic and Xi Jinping. The traditional "ironclad friendship" is evidenced by the fact that in two years' time, the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries will be marked.
We are deeply grateful for China's wholehearted support for the preservation of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for its ever-consistent and principled position on the Kosovo-Metohija issue. The mutual understanding between Serbia and China regarding sovereignty and territorial integrity suggests that we have an excellent relationship, which, I hope, will never change.
Serbia will never forget the support of the Chinese people who stood firmly with us during the defense against the 1999 NATO aggression that was immoral and unjust, launched without the consent of the United Nations Security Council, trampling on the fundamental principles of international law. Unfortunately, we also witnessed a terrible event in which the Chinese Embassy building in Belgrade was bombed and civilians who were doing their jobs lost their lives. A commemorative plaque was placed at that spot in memory of our deceased Chinese friends who, together with us, went through the ordeal of the bombing.
We are forever grateful to the Chinese people for everything they did for us during that tragic year of 1999, and for everything they continue to do, supporting us in everything so that our people and our country would persevere through challenging times.
GT: The Serbian military has purchased weapons and equipment developed by China, such as anti-aircraft missiles and drones. This is different from the choices made by other European countries, which mostly opt for American- or Russian-made equipment. Why did the Serbian military choose Chinese-made weapons and equipment, and what factors were considered in this decision?
Vucevic: Being a neutral country, Serbia cooperates with both its Eastern and Western partners, and has been committed to doing so for years. In the past, many assets have been delivered to Serbia, some of the most important ones undoubtedly being the Chinese FK-3 medium-range anti-aircraft missile system and the Chinese CH-95 and CH-92A UAVs.
The delivery of weapons and equipment from China has attracted public attention globally, but what is most important and what should be highlighted is that the Serbian Armed Forces are strengthening significantly thanks to the modern weapons and equipment, and are thus acquiring capabilities that they did not have before.
We will continue to enhance our capabilities, both in human resources and weapons and military equipment, in order to be able to protect our people, wherever they live, and in order to be the guarantor of Serbia's independence.
GT: What changes have Chinese weapons and equipment brought to the Serbian defense forces?
Vucevic: Equipping our armed forces with modern weapons and military equipment is excellent news for our military personnel, but also for our citizens. All decisions regarding the procurement of equipment for and modernization of our troops are based on thorough analyses and expert assessments carried out by the competent authorities of the Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Armed Forces. We are referring to modern weapons with which we strive to strengthen our defense capabilities and significantly improve our combat readiness. It is certain that the acquisition of the modern FK-3 anti-aircraft system has provided added security to our airspace and our country as a whole.
Furthermore, by acquiring the CH-95 remotely piloted aircraft from our Chinese partners, we have considerably improved our aerial reconnaissance and target engagement capabilities, which many countries in the region and the world do not have.
GT: We have noticed that the weapons and equipment provided by China to Serbia are mostly defensive in nature and primarily used for safeguarding the homeland. However, some Western media sources have taken the opportunity to hype up the claim that China's provision of weapons and equipment to Serbia has altered the regional military balance. What is your take on this view?
Vucevic: The Ministry of Defense and the Serbian Armed Forces are making great efforts to provide new and modernized weapons and military equipment intended for the defense of our country and our airspace.
Those who claim that the delivery of Chinese weapons has altered the regional military balance normally have no comment when it comes to our neighbors arming themselves with aircrafts, artillery-missile systems, armored vehicles, anti-armor systems, or drones whose purpose is the complete opposite of defense.
Serbia will continue to equip its military and enhance its defense capabilities in order to be able to address all security challenges, risks, and threats adequately, and preserve our people and our country.
GT: Some Western countries are now trying to contain China by exploiting the Taiwan question, similar to how they used the Kosovo and Metohija issue to pressure the Serbian government. What's your view on this?
Vucevic: We are truly grateful for China's wholehearted support for the preservation of Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. China's position on the Kosovo-Metohija issue has always been principled and consistent, which is proof of the true friendship between the two countries.
In the same spirit, as the President of the Republic and Supreme Commander of the Serbian Armed Forces, Aleksandar Vucic, has repeatedly said, Serbia supports the one-China policy and condemns all attempts to threaten its unity. We strongly support the preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the People's Republic of China. For us, there is only one government with its seat in Beijing, and we view the island of Taiwan as an integral part of China.
GT: Some Western countries often smeared China as a "warlike" nation. However, in reality, China has always advocated for peaceful dialogue to resolve international disputes, including in its own reunification cause. How do you view China's stance, and do you think China will be an important force in maintaining world peace?
Vucevic: China has experienced major changes in a relatively short period of time. Its achievements have attracted global attention.
Unlike other great powers, China does not attach any conditions to its cooperation with Serbia, and has selflessly dedicated its achievements in various fields to attaining global goals.
We consider China our traditional and long-term friend in these challenging times, but also one of the crucial factors contributing to global peace and stability, which it has been proven countless times with China's peacetime policy and wise political moves.
GT: In the future, in which areas will the Serbian military deepen cooperation with the Chinese military?
Vucevic: I am glad to see that the last decade has seen an upward trend in military cooperation between Serbia and China. Friendly relations and mutual respect between the two Presidents, Aleksandar Vucic and Xi Jinping, have greatly facilitated and accelerated cooperation in all areas, especially in the field of defense.
Our cooperation in almost all areas of mutual interest has achieved great results. Regarding the bilateral Serbia-China relations, I would single out military to military cooperation, as well as economic cooperation and numerous investments, which are very important for our country.
As for our relations and cooperation in the future, I am extremely optimistic and I have confidence in the tenacity of our friendship. China is our strategic partner and one of Serbia's most reliable friends, so I am convinced that we will continue to develop our overall relations, especially in the fields of military-economic, military-medical, and military-educational cooperation.
To tell the truth, when Chinese new energy vehicles shone brightly at the recent 2023 International Motor Show in Germany, we heard some envious and even jealous remarks. But we didn't expect Europe's response to be so "excessive." On September 13, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, announced that they are launching an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles (EVs). The European Union's decision is regrettable because while it acknowledges its own issues, it has chosen the wrong direction in haste and has not found the right solution to the problem.
The reasons provided by the European Union for initiating this anti-subsidy investigation are unfounded. It claimed that Chinese EVs receive "enormous state subsidies," resulting in artificially reduced prices that disrupt the European market. However, this does not align with facts. Chinese EVs are sold at significantly higher prices in Europe compared to China, whereas certain European EVs are priced lower in the Chinese market than in Europe.
Currently, Chinese EVs do not have a high market share in Europe, but they are gaining momentum. This has nothing to do with subsidies. Chinese EV companies have achieved "high quality and reasonable prices" by leveraging technological advancements and innovation, lowering costs, and improving overall quality, which has won the favor of consumers.
For both European consumers and major European car companies, Chinese EVs are not a "wolf" but a beneficial presence. EVs produced in Europe are often sold at high prices. The entry of Chinese EVs has provided European consumers with more and better cost-effective options, which is a tangible benefit. Any crackdown on Chinese EVs is bound to harm the affordability that European citizens currently enjoy.
A European Union diplomat told the media, "We cannot afford to lose our car industry." This statement unveils the true intention behind EU's actions: protectionism under the guise of "fair competition." The EU claims to "protect" Europe's automotive industry, but adopting policies of trade protectionism has been proven ineffective and costly in the past. The traditional European automotive industry has been strong and lying in its comfort zone for many years, which has led to a lack of drive for innovation in EVs and competitiveness. To change this situation, it is essential to step out of the comfort zone and enhance the competitiveness of their products in a fully competitive market.
If Europe lacks the confidence and courage to win the market through fair competition, it will be impossible to establish competitiveness in the EV industry. Keeping the EV industry in a protective green house will never lead to its growth and strength. Chinese EVs serve as a catalyst and motivation for the European EV industry to strive for innovation. Trade barriers cannot bridge the innovation gap; it will only exacerbate the situation further.
As the Chinese Ministry of Commerce responded, the automotive industries of China and Europe have formed a mutually beneficial relationship, so any harm to one side will also harm the other. The Chinese market is the largest overseas market for many EU car companies, and China provides a favorable business environment for European cars. If you take a look at the roads in Germany, you will see mostly German cars, while in France, you will see mostly French cars. The same goes for Japan and South Korea. However, on Chinese roads, you can find cars from all over the world, which vividly reflects the openness and diversity of the Chinese market. All of this should be cherished and valued by Europe.
In interpersonal relationships, reciprocity is important. China and Europe should create a fair, non-discriminatory, and predictable market environment for the mutual development of the electric car industry. They should jointly oppose trade protectionism and work together to address global climate change and achieve carbon neutrality. Particularly, the EU itself is also a victim of protectionism. The Inflation Reduction Act enacted by the US last year used similar tactics to protect its domestic industries, which caused strong opposition in Europe, with many saying, "The Americans stabbed us in the back." Now, the EU is responding to foreign competitors with the same mind-set, and it should feel ashamed of its decision today.
In her speech on Wednesday, von der Leyen mentioned the example of the solar industry, stating that "we have not forgotten how China's unfair trade practices affected our solar industry." The solar industry is indeed a worthy example to review. In 2013, the EU followed the US in imposing anti-dumping tariffs on imported solar panels from China, citing the same reason of "unfair subsidies." However, the result was that because of lack of competition, the European solar industry languished, and many companies increased costs by importing Chinese products through other channels.
Looking back today, we can draw two lessons from what the solar industry suffered: First, competitiveness cannot be gained through protectionism, and blindly engaging in protectionism often backfires; second, trade disputes and differences ultimately need to be resolved through mutual negotiation. We hope that the EU can extract the correct information from the case of the solar industry, listen more to the voices of the business community, and have fewer politicized interpretations. After all, towering trees cannot grow in a greenhouse, and a steel-winged eagle cannot fly out of a birdcage.