China-Uzbekistan economic and trade ties deepen amid presidential visit

Chinese industry insiders and experts are hailing the fruitful achievements between China and Uzbekistan as bilateral ties experience a historic high against the backdrop of the state visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to China, scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday.

There will be more potential in bilateral cooperation, as connectivity between Uzbekistan and Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is expected to strengthen under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), experts said.

"My company is increasing exports of fruits and vegetables such as apples, nectarines and grapes from Xinjiang to Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, and it is estimated that the company's export value to Central Asia climbed to $1.2 billion in 2023, almost doubling from $683 million in 2022," Yu Chengzhong, chairman of local trading agency Horgos Jinyi International Trade Co, told the Global Times.

Besides, "China's new-energy vehicle and large-scale wind power equipment sectors have expanded exports to Uzbekistan in recent years," Yu said.

Yu's booming business with Uzbekistan is expected to continue, as Xinjiang's role as a trade hub and corridor to Central Asian countries - including Uzbekistan - is being further highlighted.

On Monday, just ahead of the Uzbek president's visit, a forum for China-Uzbekistan cooperation promotion was held in Urumqi, capital city of China's Xinjiang, attracting more than 1,300 guests from both sides.

Speaking at the forum, Ma Xingrui, Party secretary of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee, said that Xinjiang is accelerating the construction of the core area of the BRI, actively building the China (Xinjiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone with high quality, continuously deepening exchanges with five Central Asian countries, and establishing a bridgehead for China's opening up to the West.

Chinese and Uzbek officials signed 20 cooperation agreements at the opening ceremony of Monday's forum.

Xinjiang has played an important role in strengthening connectivity with the Central Asian region, from political interactions to trade and infrastructure development, said Liu Yu, executive chairman of the Uzbek Chamber of Commerce for Chinese Entrepreneurs.

More than 2,400 Chinese companies are doing business in Uzbekistan, covering various fields including petroleum, railways, agriculture and mechanical equipment, Liu told the Global Times.

In 2023, bilateral trade stood at 98.85 billion yuan ($13.93 billion), a year-on-year increase of 53.2 percent, data released by the General Administration of Customs showed. China's exports to Uzbekistan saw a whopping growth of 76.8 percent year-on-year.

Xinjiang has become a key gateway to the Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan.

"Uzbekistan is a populous country and important economic power in the region… strengthening interactions with China under the BRI, in the growing complexity of the world situation today, has become increasingly important to Uzbekistan, especially when it comes to helping the country play a greater role in world governance," Zhang Hong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Uzbekistan is enhancing its economic and trade connectivity with China by transitioning from being landlocked to becoming land-linked. How to effectively navigate its ties with the development of Xinjiang is the key to this transformation, experts said.

China discovers 1-million-ton lithium mine, largest in Asia

A lithium mine with nearly one million tons of reserves was newly discovered in Yajiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday, a development which will help raw material supply for China's sprawling electric vehicle sector. 

The newly discovered lithium mine was the largest pegmatite lithium deposits in Asia, which was an important breakthrough in China's lithium exploration efforts and will largely assist the nation's carbon neutrality, according to China's Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). 

As a vital mineral which drives development of the new energy sector, lithium is widely used in China's "New Three" export items, new-energy vehicle, lithium battery and solar panels, which together generated 1.06 trillion yuan ($148.89 billion) of exports in 2023, data from China's General Administration of Customs showed. 

The distribution of world's lithium resources is uneven, with the metal largely concentrated in South America, Australia, the US and China. 

China's lithium reserves are believed to be scattered in various areas while exploration is still in its early stage. The national conference on natural resources held from Monday to Tuesday stressed efforts to enhance domestic lithium mine exploration, along with overseas cooperation so as to secure the material supply for China's growing new-energy sector, according to Xinhua. 

Ministry of Natural Resources has vowed to promote lithium mine transfer to increase raw material supply, in a bid to ramp up China's lithium battery manufacturing and market consumption, according to the report. 

Chinese, Canadian FMs hold phone talks on ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday held a phone conversation with his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly at the latter's request.

Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said that both China and Canada are countries with important influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two countries have neither historical rows nor realistic conflicts of interests, and share many common interests and enjoy complementary advantages, he said.

Wang noted that the current challenging China-Canada relationship is not what China desires, nor is caused by China, while China is open to maintain contact and dialogue with Canada.

Wang put forward three points on improving and developing China-Canada relations:

Firstly, correct cognition. The root cause of the downturn of China-Canada relations in recent years is the serious deviation of the Canadian side's perception of China.

China hopes that the Canadian side can objectively, rationally and correctly interpret China's domestic and foreign policies. China neither exports ideology nor challenges the international order, but has consistently upheld the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the international system with the UN at its core and the international order based on international law. At the same time, China must firmly safeguard its own sovereignty, security and development interests and never allow the Chinese people to be deprived of their legitimate rights to development, Wang said.

Secondly, mutual respect. The differences in social systems and ideologies between China and Canada stem from their respective histories, cultures, national conditions and people's choices. The two sides should respect each other, engage in dialogue on an equal footing, increase trust, dispel misgivings and strengthen communication responsibly and constructively, so as not to let differences dominate bilateral relations, Wang said.

He also urged the Canadian side to earnestly implement its commitment to the one-China policy, preserve the political foundation of China-Canada relations, and not send any wrong signal to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces.

Thirdly, win-win cooperation. China will continue to expand high-level opening-up, and Chinese-style modernization will surely bring important development opportunities to Canada and other countries in the world, Wang said.

As promoters and beneficiaries of free trade, China and Canada should jointly oppose the politicization and pan-security of economic issues and create a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for business development, he added.

Joly, for her part, said that healthy and stable Canada-China relations serve the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples.

Despite the difficulties in bilateral relations, Canada is willing to bring bilateral relations back to the right track with a more open, practical and constructive attitude, and is willing to strengthen communication and dialogue with China, promote personnel exchanges, deepen economic and trade cooperation, and maintain close coordination and cooperation on environmental protection, biodiversity and international and regional issues, Joly said.

Nation remains a key engine for world economy despite uncertainties in 2024

China's economy experienced a steady rebound in 2023, exceeding international expectations. In the face of an unstable world economy, China persisted in seeking progress while maintaining stability. While properly preventing and tackling risks, China continues to move forward with its economic recovery. In the process, it keeps deepening reforms and expanding opening-up. New growth drivers and competitive advantages are continuously emerging. This year, with the introduction of more support policies, China's economy is expected to maintain stable and positive momentum. The Global Times invited two Chinese economists to discuss the economy's opportunities in 2024.

Despite considerable difficulties, the global economy in 2023 achieved several important goals, including a moderate growth and containing inflation. Global GDP growth in 2023 largely exceeded initial expectations, and the performance of most economies was better than originally forecasted.

Looking ahead to 2024, this improvement is likely to continue. In 2023, the supply-demand balance in the labor market was stabilizing, with a decrease in job vacancies and no significant increase in unemployment rates. The job vacancy rates in the world's other major economies remain elevated compared with the levels implied by economic fundamentals, indicating further room for improvement.

Inflation is expected to spiral down in 2024. Since the end of 2022, the core inflation rates of all G10 economies, except for Japan, have dropped from 6 percent to around 3 percent. Central banks have completed most of the adjustments to control inflation, and nominal wage growth has started to slow down. Therefore, the possibility of a resurging inflation in 2024 is low.

In an environment of lower inflation and a strong labor market, disposable income in developed markets is expected to significantly increase. However, just like the divergence between Europe and the US in 2023, the divergence in 2024 will still be evident, albeit with reversed positions. It is projected that the real income growth in the US, which was 4 percent in 2023, will slow down, while the Eurozone and the UK will have more room for real income growth as the impact of Russian gas supply shock subsides. 

Additionally, as inflation stabilizes, monetary policy tightening will gradually be phased out. Although they will still have an impact on GDP growth in the first half of the year, the drag on the economy will be smaller than in 2023. If the growth outlook is unfavorable, interest rate cuts may become a policy option. Several emerging markets that started raising interest rates earlier have begun to lower policy rates and may continue to do so this year.

The manufacturing sector is expected to recover from a slump in 2023. The export of goods from major exporting countries such as the US, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia significantly contracted in last year, and the World Bank predicts that global trade growth rate in 2023 will reach 1.7 percent, much lower than the 6 percent in 2022. In the second half of 2023, global trade begins to slowly rebound, and the export growth rates of the US, Japan, South Korea, India, and Vietnam all turn from negative to positive. In 2024, global trade growth is likely to follow a moderate growth pattern.

In 2023, China successfully navigated many external headwinds, overcame internal challenges and made progress in deepening reform and opening-up. The country also implemented effective macroeconomic regulations, prioritized the expansion of domestic market demand, optimized economic structure, instilled confidence, and effectively managed and resolved risks. The economy experienced a strong rebound in 2023.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has raised its growth estimate for China's economy in 2023 to 5.2 percent, while the IMF has increased it to 5.4 percent. Several financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, UBS, Deutsche Bank and ANZ, have also raised their growth estimates to 5-5.7 percent. This indicates that China remains a major driving force for economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. 

In 2023, China's economy underwent a structural transformation and upgrade, with home consumption showing an impressive growth among the three major driving forces. Despite the time lag effect for the recovery due to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person consumption and services consumption rebounded relatively quickly. Also, new types of consumption and consumption upgrades, such as digital and green sector explorations, cultural tourism and sports, maintained strong momentum.

From the perspective of exports, the "new three items," namely electric vehicles, solar panels, and lithium batteries are becoming the new growth drivers for China's exports. Sales of these products are booming, which is the result of China's technological innovation and industrial optimization and upgrading. 

As the only country that has all categories in the UN industrial classification system, China has a complete range of industrial products and well-established industry and supply chains required for producing the "new three items." With China's continuous role in innovation leadership and the deepening of its green transformation, high-tech industries are injecting new momentum into China's economic growth.

China's manufacturing sector has shown strong recovery momentum, as the inventory is consistently thinned. Industrial production has entered the "inventory replenishment" stage.

From an investment perspective, the development of emerging service industries has become a new force in addition to manufacturing, infrastructure and exports. The proportion of high-tech services industries in fixed-asset investment is only slightly lower than that of real estate. The high-tech services industry has maintained steady growth, which is not only beneficial for optimizing the nation's investment structure but also for the further transformation and upgrading of the manufacturing sector.

From the perspective of economic and trade relations, the relationship between China and the US is being stabilized, while China's economic and trade relations with emerging markets continue to strengthen. In the first eight months of 2023, the proportion of exports to emerging and developing economies in China's total exports rose from 25 percent in 2007 to 44 percent. Amid the complex global situation, this further enhances the resilience of China's economic cooperation.

In preventing and tackling risks, some provinces in China have issued special-purpose refinancing bonds worth nearly 1.5 trillion yuan ($210 billion) since October 2023. The funds raised are primarily used to repay outstanding debts owed by local governments to enterprises. The issuance of these special-purpose refinancing bonds signifies a new stage in the prevention and resolution of local government debt.

International financial institutions such as UBS and Goldman Sachs generally predict that emerging markets will experience a rapid rebound this year, with the important driving force being the development of the Chinese economy.

In 2024, with the implementation of a series of policy measures by the Chinese government and the growth of private-sector investment, the economy is expected to further gain pace to expand. China's economy will maintain medium- to long-term growth, and the government will ramp up efforts to stabilize growth, providing support for the economy. 

In 2024, the green economy, digital economy and intelligent economy will become the new "three engines" driving growth, while consumption upgrading will also quicken its pace, potentially boosting economic growth. With the weakening of the US dollar and intensified policy measures, the vitality of the Chinese economy will be unleashed fully, and economic growth will gradually return to normal.

In 2023, the global economy faced a spate of turbulences. In 2024, instability, uncertainty and unpredictability may become the new normal. Political turmoil brought about by multiple national elections is bound to affect the global political and economic landscape. 

The upcoming US election could bring uncertainties to the pace of the global economic recovery. Europe is confronted with the dilemma of regional conflicts and an energy transition, facing the difficult choice between inflation and deflation, and lowering interest rates or maintaining at the present levels. The outlook remains highly uncertain.

In the face of this complex and ever-changing international situation, China will continue to implement strategic initiatives, adhere to bottom-line thinking, calmly respond and focus on its own affairs. China will respond to the uncertainty of external environmental changes with its own certainty.

China, US work together for successful COP28: Xie Zhenhua

The Chinese and American teams have worked together to support the success of COP28, which was also one of the goals of the previous joint climate statement between the two countries, Xie Zhenhua, China's special envoy for climate change affairs, said on Wednesday. The two countries are expected to update their respective nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in line with the requirements of the Paris Agreement and the results of this first-ever global stocktake.

During COP28, China and the US agreed that following the requirements of the Paris agreement and also the suggestions made in the outcome for the first global stock take, China and the US will respectively evaluate their respective long-term strategies for climate action, and then based on that, update their NDCs, so as to better implement the Paris agreement, Xie said at a press conference along with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

Xie looked back the Sunnyland climate agreement jointly released by China and the US in mid-November, the two main goals of which were to support a successful COP28 in UAE and to enhance exchanges and cooperation between China and the US.

"Here in Dubai, we have already fulfilled part of what we agreed in Sunnyland, which is working together to promote a successful COP28. When the negotiations were getting stuck, we worked together and provided some joint proposals to unlock the deadlock in the negotiations and facilitated the success of the COP," Xie noted.

He said that China and the US also agreed to launch joint working groups on climate change between the two countries as soon as possible, including areas such as energy transition, circular economy, methane, and low-carbon sustainable provinces, states, and cities. "The four working groups should step up their activities to implement our respective NDCs and to promote multilateral processes," he said.

Kerry said at the press conference that the Paris Agreement and the global stocktake both emphasize the importance of developing and updating long-term strategies to reduce emissions and enhance resilience. "Two years ago, the United States and China agreed to submit updated long-term strategies at the Glasgow COP. We did exactly that. Today, we are announcing our joint intention to revisit and update our long-term strategies going forward. I wanted to highlight this commitment and take the opportunity to thank you for the efforts we have made together."

The two are old acquaintances as climate envoys, and Xie also extended his personal best wishes to Kerry, who celebrated his 80th birthday during COP28. "I feel so lucky that I can make such a good friend like Secretary Kerry. We have been friends for over 20 years. I hope we can continue to work together to make this world a better place," he said.

"My eight-year-old grandson asked me, 'Why are you still working so hard at your age?' I replied, 'Because we are all passionate about this common cause of addressing climate change.' And I believe with our younger generations, this cause will be carried forward generation after generation. Our cause must be sustainable," Xie said with a smile.

Productive diversion

A water diversion project in Sihong, East China's Jiangsu Province is seen on December 12, 2023. China's South-to-North Water Diversion Project has transferred over 67 billion cubic meters of water to the country's arid northern areas over the past nine years, official data showed. Photo: cnsphoto

Chengdu Universiade champion Ma Yigu transits intrinsic love into power for top podium

In the men's Sanda 60kg final of the Wushu event at the Chengdu World University Games in August, China's Ma Yigu overwhelmed Indonesia's Nada Guitara with a blast of rapid kicks winning 2-0 and claiming his first gold in an international multi-sports event.

China dominated the Wushu event with 11 golds and one bronze out of 20 golds on offer at the Chengdu Universiade. Indonesia demonstrated their growing enthusiasm about wushu by clinching four golds.

Hailing from a poverty-stricken family in Longjiagou village of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Ma, 20, told the Global Times after the game that wushu changed his life. 

"I would not have been able to become who I am if not for wushu. Sports have changed my life. No matter where you are from, you can work hard to chase your dream. I hope sports will attract more kids to explore the possibilities of life," said Ma. 

Living deep in the mountain, Ma had to help the family with herding cows and farming since early childhood. His intrinsic love for wushu came from a traditional sport of the Yi ethnic group. 

As the favorite sport of the Yi people, wrestling is prevalent in the life of the Yi ethnic group, from wedding ceremonies to local festivals. In Meigu county of the Liangshan prefecture, all of the 180 villages hold traditional wrestling activities throughout the year. 

Known for his ability to wrestle above his weight, Ma's father signed him up for a local amateur wushu school. But he was handed a reality check on the first day at the school, when he was beaten black and blue by his opponent.

Rapid progress

Failures lit up the fire in his heart and put him on a fast track to hone his kickboxing skills. His determination and perseverance paid off as he was scouted and made it to a prefecture-level wushu school. 

In a friendly game with the Sichuan provincial team in 2015, he was spotted by the provincial team coach for his potential and tenacity. 

He made his mark by snatching the gold in the 56kg Wushu event at the 2nd National Youth Games in 2019 and was recommended for admission to the Chengdu Sport University to pursue his dream. He went on to win 5th place in the 14th National Games in 2021.

In the third major multi-sports event of his career, Ma triumphed in the Sanda 60kg competition of the Chengdu Games. 

Ma told the Global Times that he was nervous at the beginning but learned to cope with stress game by game at the Universiade.

"Against tough adversaries, I gained match experience and learned to stay positive. I need to improve my strength and coordination," he said.

After a short break to reunite with his family, he has set his sights on the national trials in October. Winning the trials will qualify him for the World Wushu Championships in November.

"I dream of representing China in international competitions. The Chengdu Universiade is gone and I will go all out to fight for national glory in the world if possible," he noted.  

Fight for excellence

Wang Xiangquan, coach of Ma at the Wushu School of Chengdu Sport University, told the Global Times that he is proud of this intrepid and assiduous boy who cherishes every opportunity to fight for excellence. 

"Technically and mentally, he has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years. He is skilled in wrestling and kicking, having a knack for counter-attacking. He is a self-disciplined fighter who is keen on following through a challenging training regime," said Wang. 

The coach expected him to stay composed and ramp up his offensive "weapons" for consistent performances. 

"He is building strength and improving his boxing to vary his offensive options. Sometimes he gets overexcited in competitions. He will learn to keep composure whether getting an upper hand or facing difficulties," Wang noted.

The end of the Chengdu Games marks the beginning of a new cycle of training as the focus has been shifted to the upcoming World Wushu Championships and the 15th National Games in 2025. 

Wang wished his apprentice to strive for more national glory and showcase Chinese wushu on the international stage.

The 16th World Wushu Championships, hosted by the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), is the highest-level international Wushu event. 

About 1,000 athletes from more than 80 countries and regions will participate in the biannual championships to be held in Texas, in the US from November 14 to 22.

Zhang Qiuping, secretary general of the IWUF, said that the IWUF has 158 member associations, and the Wushu World Championships is the first highest-level martial arts event held after the pandemic. 

"We look forward to seeing old friends and new athletes. I wish all the athletes have a good performance in the championships and make friends through martial arts," said Zhang.

IWUF has endeavored for years to try to make Wushu an official Olympic event. In 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Wushu event will be included in the Dakar 2022 Youth Olympic Games (which have been postponed to 2026). 

This is the first time that such an event has been included in the Youth Olympics, a milestone in the development of the sport.

CAA penalizes two marathons for organizational chaos

The Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) recently disclosed the outcomes of its investigation into the 2023 Dalian Marathon and the 2023 Qingdao Bay Bridge Marathon, which drew widespread attention for their organizational mishaps.

The announcement from Xinhua News Agency revealed that during the 33rd Dalian Marathon on October 15, 2023, "a race vehicle left the track at the point where the men's full course leaders were approaching the finish line, causing an unexpected halt that blocked the athletes'  running path." 

The incident disrupted the normal course of the race and had a negative social impact, the announcement stated.

In accordance with the "CAA Road Running Event Management Measures," the CAA demanded that the event organizing committee submit a written rectification report to the association by November 13, after conducting internal talks with the relevant referees and the executive company Zhimei Sports Culture (Zhejiang) Co, Ltd.

In another announcement regarding the 2023 Qingdao Bay Bridge Marathon on October 15, the CAA pointed out that two hours after the race started, "due to irrational layout, an interrupted flow, and ineffective evacuation work, a large number of people got stuck ted, resulting in chaos." Moreover, the announcement said that the event also presented problems such as the operating company's unsatisfactory and unprofessional planning, and an irregular and disorderly organization.

Based on the relevant regulations, the CAA revoked the eligibility of the Qingdao Bay Bridge Marathon Organizing Committee to apply for the CAA-certified event for the  year 2024, and also requested that they submit a written rectification report to the association by November 13. 

The Qingdao Bay Bridge Marathon, which was advertised as an exclusive event before the race, had attracted a lot of attention and anticipation from runners, and was fully booked in less than 20 minutes after registration opened. 

However, after the race, there were constant complaints online about various aspects of the event, such as insufficient supplies. On October 15, the Organizing Committee issued an apology statement, saying that it would provide free express delivery for the participants who did not receive the finisher medals and clothes.

In China, the popularity of marathons had increased prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to the CAA, China saw a marathon boom in 2018 with 278 approved events hosted,  followed by 330 races in 2019. In 2023, the lively marathon weekend again returned to the public eye. 

Alessio Punzi, manager of road running for World Athletics, stated earlier in October that 68 Chinese running events had submitted bids to be included in 2023, while the CAA reported that 133 road races had been registered in China between January and June.

On October 29, six marathon races kicked off in capital cities including Beijing,Xi'an, Chengdu, Changsha, Jinan, and Zhengzhou.

Xi’s reply letter to Philadelphia Orchestra praises cultural envoy for connecting two peoples

Editor's Note:

Chinese people believe that letters are as valuable as gold. For thousands of years, letters, across mountains and oceans, have been delivering the writers' sentiments, friendship, and expectations.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has managed to find time to reply to some letters from different parts of the society and the world despite his busy work schedule. Xi is also Chinese president and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Through his letters, Xi has corresponded with international friends from all walks of life on numerous occasions. His letters have also been delivered to "home" senders such as Chinese experts and artists. The Global Times traced and contacted some of the addressees of Xi's letters to hear the inspiring stories behind the letters.

This installment tells the story of letters exchanged between Xi and Matias Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping replied to a letter from Matias Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, on November 10, the friendship of half a century was further strengthened through the art of music. This not only reflects the importance that both sides attach to cultural exchanges, but also provides a good opportunity for cooperation and understanding between the two countries.

On the evening of November 10, the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing hosted a concert titled "50 Years of Friendship" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Philadelphia Orchestra's first visit to China in 1973. The concert was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the China National Symphony Orchestra.

As the baton of Tristan Rais-Sherman, assistant conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was raised, the Overture of Candide composed by American conductor Leonard Bernstein was played to unveil the performance. The spirited piece was followed by a tranquil Chinese melody, Two Springs Reflect the Moon, that both Chinese and American audiences were familiar with.

Ahead of Friday's special concert, the letter was read inside the concert hall, in which President Xi expressed hopes that orchestras and artists from China, the US, and across the world would persist in efforts to strengthen people-to-people ties between China and the US, and spread friendship among the peoples of the world. Tarnopolsky said he was honored and grateful.

The concert was held at a special moment as, on the other side of the NCPA, the ballet Giselle mounted by the American Ballet Theater was also in progress on the same day.

These cultural exchanges were held only several days ahead of the planned meeting of the heads of state of China and the US.

"It's going to be an important meeting, and we're very much looking forward to it and receiving President Xi in our country," Tarnopolsky said on the day of the concert.

During the interview after the inaugural performance in Beijing, Tarnopolsky told the Global Times that he was honored and grateful to receive the letter from Xi.

"It is an honor for the Philadelphia Orchestra to receive a letter from President Xi in this moment of 50 years of visits to China. And we're very grateful for the warmth of the welcome that the Philadelphia Orchestra always receives in China," he said.

"President Xi has recognized that is a very important gesture and encourages us to keep coming and keep playing music and making these connections with the people of China."

No matter how the world changes, he believes that there are neither hierarchies nor differences between people when it comes to music. "Music can give voice to ideas that words alone cannot convey," added the CEO.
Collaborative endeavor

Tarnopolsky firstly wrote to Xi, reviewing the history of the orchestra's ties with China and introducing the activities to be held in China in November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its first China tour.

In return, President Xi wrote back to Tarnopolsky.

In his reply, President Xi said that he hopes the orchestra and artists from China, the US, and across the world will continue efforts to strengthen people-to-people ties between China and the US, and spread friendship among the peoples of the world.

Half a century ago, the orchestra's historic China tour marked a thaw in China-US cultural exchanges, which was a very important part in the normalization process of the two countries' diplomatic relations. Since then, the orchestra had visited China 12 times as an active cultural envoy, playing an instrumental role in strengthening China-US ties, Xi said.

Over the course of half a century, the orchestra has served as a dynamic cultural envoy between China and the US. Some of the musicians, such as Davyd Booth, were part of the ensemble since their first visit to China in 1973.

Ryan Fleur, executive director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, told the Global Times on Friday that the 50th anniversary celebration was a collaborative endeavor from both sides, which was made possible by the invitation from The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries that has been their partner since 1973.

But the connection of the orchestra with China goes back even further: As early as the 1940s, the orchestra staged concerts to raise funds for China's Eighth Route Army led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), in their resistance against Japanese aggression during World War II.

"It was a great achievement. Both China and the US want to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the tour, which was a historic event. Music had a profound impact on people's lives, and the orchestras' performance in 1973 was a life-changing event for many people," Tarnopolsky told the Global Times in a previous interview.

Adding to that, the CEO gave a glimpse into the perceived future.

"We're planning the next 50 years. And we also have another Chinese Lunar New Year concert planned in Philadelphia, so we'll be celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year in January."

Exchanges beyond music

Visits by the Philadelphia Orchestra to China over the years have been very influential to musicians from the two countries. They not only get to share the same stage, but also have exchanges beyond the musical arena.

Fifty years has passed, contributions by two members of the then Central Philharmonic (now China National Symphony Orchestra), 90-year-old Zhu Xinren and 88-year-old Yang Shi, in training with US musicians continue to be unforgettable experiences.

Eugene Ormandy, the then conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra until 1980, and other US musicians watched a performance by their Chinese counterparts on September 15, 1973. They showed great interest in the string ensemble Two Springs Reflect the Moon, which had just been adapted by Wu Zuqiang, leader of the composition group of the Central Philharmonic. The charm of Chinese melody immediately attracted them.

"They asked to get the score sheets in the hopes of performing it in the US. It was just finished a year before by Wu and the debut had made it possible for it to head to the US stage," violinist Zhu recalled.

Chinese conductor Li Delun led the Chinese orchestra in a performance of one movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He then handed his baton to Ormandy and requested that he conduct the next movement. Ormandy led the orchestra to thunderous applause.

"Music connects the world. He also praised us young performers for our strong receptivity. This can be said to have been a worldwide cooperation," said Zhu.

When musicians had talks after the performances, US musicians were particularly surprised when they saw the musical instruments that their Chinese counterparts held, recalled Yang.

At the time, the conditions under which our orchestra mounted performances were not good as instruments were broken or glued back together, and the scores were old handwritten ones and were pasted together. "They didn't expect that our musicians could play such good music with such instruments."

Musical instruments were given as gifts to each other. Chinese musicians were moved when their US counterparts presented them with instruments such as a clarinet, trumpet, flute, and a set of triangles, as well as scores of famous European and American composers, and hundreds of records and orchestra's professional books.

For the Central Philharmonic, which was facing a difficult period at the time, these instruments and materials solved the orchestra's urgent needs. Yang Shi said: "They sent us a batch of woodwind and brass instruments, which was a timely help. But the instruments we gave them also made them even more surprised and happy."

The Chinese musicians presented pipa, Chinese gongs, erhu, flower drums, and other national musical instruments that best represent Chinese music as gifts to US musicians. Zhu recalled: "The indispensable Chinese musical instrument is the gong. The gong we sent was custom-made by a master from Shandong. The diameter of the gong is 1.1 meters. Their gong is only 60 centimeters. So when they saw that we brought in such a big one, they were all shocked."

This past weekend, China again bestowed another gift to the Philadelphia Orchestra to mark the special occasion: A rare vinyl record of Yellow River.

As Yin Bo, deputy director of the China National Symphony Orchestra, noted on Friday, Chinese and American musicians will collaborate through music to foster cultural understanding among the youth of both nations.

"The gesture from President Xi was an acknowledgment and an incentive for most literary and art workers," Liu Zhiyong, deputy chief of the same orchestra said. "President Xi's reply letter conveyed his sincere aspiration for enhancing extensive cultural exchanges and cooperation between China and the US."

Chinese special envoy to visit Middle East as Israel-Hamas violence worsens

China's special envoy on the Middle East issue will visit the relevant countries in the region in the near future, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday, as the Israel-Hamas conflict has shown no signs of easing and chaos, panic and confusion filled the region under an Israeli barrage of airstrikes ahead of a ground invasion. 

Wang's comments were made while answering questions on the sidelines of the 12th EU-China Strategic Dialogue with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. China's top diplomat said that in view of the current grave situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, China believes it is imperative that a ceasefire be put in place as soon as possible. 

China will provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian National Authority through UN channels, Wang said. He noted that the root cause of the conflict lies in the historical injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, which has not been rectified. China believes that only when the "two-state solution" is fully realized will there be real peace in the Middle East.

Israel says it has attacked 750 military targets overnight in the densely populated Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reported Friday. As of press time, at least 1,537 Palestinians have been killed and 6,612 wounded in Israeli air attacks on Gaza. The number of people killed in Israel has reached 1,300.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday that China will "make the utmost effort" to prevent the conflict from further escalating and to avoid a severe humanitarian crisis.

In recent days, China's special envoy on the Middle East issue Zhai Jun held a series of phone calls with the foreign ministers of Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries to discuss the current situation, stressing that the fundamental solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution. 

As international aid groups warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis, the US has given "a powerful green light" to Israel to march ahead with its retaliation against Hamas with the arrival of Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday along with shipments of US weapons.

Chinese experts believe that the US does have the capability to mediate and prevent further escalation in the Middle East, but lacks the motivation and will to do so. 

"Peace or conflict in the Middle East doesn't really affect the US because the region's strategic importance has been decreasing in recent years, partly due to reduced American dependence on Middle Eastern oil and gas resources," Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, told the Global Times on Friday. What the US really cares about is whether Israel will lose influence over the Arab world, which could indirectly affect its control over the whole region, Zhu said. 

In that sense, the peace that the US wishes to see is a conditional one that caters to its own strategic interests, and it will go to great lengths to ensure that, rather than genuinely caring about the suffering of people in the region, observers noted. 

A subtle change has been observed in the attitudes toward the conflict in the Western world. The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said Tuesday that Israel's actions in Gaza may have already breached international law, as he underlined the need for the EU to continue funding the Palestinian Authority. 

Hamas' surprise attack on Israel has been widely labeled as a "9/11 moment" and the darkest moment for the Israeli people in decades. Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, however, believed that the analogy carries a cautionary note, because if the Israeli government responds to this moment like the US did, it will soon follow the same route from global sympathy to global outrage, The Guardian reported. 

If Israel insists on launching a large-scale ground assault in Gaza or even attempts to exert military control over the region, the conflict may be further prolonged and intensified, Zhu warned. With the US and UK adding fuel to the fire, the exacerbating tensions may force some Islamic countries to respond, making the situation even more complex and difficult to control, and providing opportunities for other forces to take advantage of the social unrest.

Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amirabdollahian has already said that if Israel's bombardment of Gaza continues, the war may open on "other fronts," AP reported Friday.