Chemical leaks hit indigenous community in Canada

Canada on Friday ordered some petrochemical plants in Ontario to take strict measures to control pollution from cancer-causing chemical benzene after a release from a facility forced a First Nation community to declare a state of emergency.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault issued the order to the petrochemical industry in Sarnia, Ontario, a city less than 300 kilometers west of Toronto.

Last month, Aamjiwnaang First Nation declared a state of emergency due to a chemical release from German company INEOS Styrolution’s (STYE.NS) plastic manufacturing plant, which resulted in at least 10 people visiting the hospital.

The order will require some petrochemical production facilities to implement vapor-control measures, specifically, for those that have fence-line concentrations of benzene above 29 micrograms per cubic meter in any of the two-week sampling periods ranging from March 1, 2023, to February 29, 2024.

“It is simply unacceptable that the people of Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Sarnia face ongoing issues with poor air quality,” Guilbeault said in a statement.

“Indigenous peoples have a right to a healthy environment and too often are impacted by polluting industries.”

Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which has 1,000 residents, is surrounded by industrial facilities. The Frankfurt-based company, a unit of privately owned INEOS Group (INEOSE.UL) had shut down its facility on April 20.

The First Nation community said that the order will add to the protection of air quality in Aamjiwnaang.

According to a research by the University of Toronto, around 40 percent of Canada’s petrochemical plants are located in the Sarnia area, known as “Chemical Valley.”

(Cover image via CFP)

Source(s): Reuters

China Railway Express: A land bridge for China’s booming tech trade

03:55

China’s exports of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and solar panels, known as the “new three” products, are surging, exceeding 1 trillion yuan ($140 billion) in a year-on-year increase of nearly 30 percent. To meet the growing demand for faster and more reliable transportation of these goods to Europe, China is increasingly utilizing the “China Railway Express” (CR Express) network.

CGTN traveled to Xi’an, a major hub city on the CR Express network, to explore this innovative logistics solution. Xi’an’s freight trains bypass traditional seaports altogether, transporting goods directly to European destinations. The network’s efficiency has made Xi’an a leader in international cargo transportation, boasting an annual capacity of over 66 million tonnes.

The CR Express offers a faster and more cost-effective alternative to both air and sea cargo. While cargo planes are significantly more expensive, cargo ships take considerably longer to reach Europe. The trains carry a wide range of goods, with electric vehicles being a particularly strong export category.

Ma Li, head of port management at the Xi’an International Trade and Logistics Park, sees great potential for electric vehicles in European markets. “The increase in our auto exports in recent years is largely driven by new energy vehicles,” Ma said. “From an economic standpoint, consumers should welcome our new energy vehicles. This market has great potential.”

The CR Express network’s significance extends beyond economic benefits. Increased trade volume has led to deeper international collaboration. Ma highlighted this by mentioning the presence of over a dozen employees from Kazakhstan who relocated to Xi’an to work at the terminal. Their children even attend schools in the city, signifying a growing human connection alongside the economic ties.

The importance of the CR Express was underscored by the Red Sea crisis since November 2023, which disrupted a major global shipping lane. When traditional shipping routes became unreliable, CR Express stepped in to ensure seamless cross-border logistics.

Today, the CR Express network connects over 200 cities across 25 European countries. With over a thousand trains operating monthly, this land route has become a vital platform for trade and exchange between Asia and Europe. Ma concluded by expressing his belief that Xi’an is well-positioned to be a hub for further international cooperation and exchange along the Belt and Road Initiative.

(Some voices in the video have been generated by AI.)

Tech Please: Is it too early to be wowed by GPT-4o?

04:16

OpenAI recently released an updated version of its artificial intelligence model, the GPT-4o. During the live-streamed demo session, the multimodal model is shown to respond faster than the previous versions and interact with people more naturally. Is it, however, a bit too early to be wowed by the changes it might bring to our lives? What does the future hold for AI? In this episode of Tech Please, we asked experts from this industry their thoughts on this new product and their concerns for AI.

(Cover image by CGTN’s Liu Shaozhen, with background generated by Ideogram.)

China’s insurance market to double in 10 years, Swiss Re CEO says

The size of China’s insurance industry is expected to double in the next 10 years amid strong economic growth, making the country an even more important market for the group, said Christian Mumenthaler, group CEO of Swiss Re.

China’s economy continued its steady recovery in April, official data released on Friday showed.

The country is expected to maintain an annual economic growth rate of about 5 percent, continuing to rank among the world’s fastest-growing economies, Mumenthaler said in an exclusive interview with China Daily.

China’s insurance market is growing faster than its economy, Mumenthaler added.

“The size of premiums could double in 10 years, so we want to be part of that. I’m very excited about the market opportunities in China,” he said.

China completes testing of a new bench for liquid rocket engines

China’s first vertical high-altitude test bench for liquid rocket engines. /CASC

China’s first vertical high-altitude test bench for liquid rocket engines. /CASC

In a significant milestone for China’s space program, the country’s first vertical high-altitude simulation test bench for liquid rocket engines successfully completed its ground testing on Wednesday, marking its readiness for operation.

This facility, developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), is expected to play a crucial role in advancing the development of next-generation engines for the Long March-10 liquid hydrogen rocket, which is expected to carry out China’s ambitious manned lunar missions.

The test bench, equipped with cutting-edge capabilities, boasts the ability to simulate high-altitude conditions for liquid engines with remarkable precision. It can replicate a near-vacuum environment below kilopascal level for extended periods of thousands of seconds.

The engineers at the test bench installed digital simulation system to enable real-time system health check, achieving the high reliability required by developing more advanced engines.

Laos to reduce use of harmful pesticides

The Financing Agrochemical Reduction and Management project, funded by the Global Environment Fund, will be implemented in Laos to reduce the use of pesticides dangerous to humans.

The project will be conducted by the United Nations Development Program in Laos, in cooperation with the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, according to a report from the ministry on Friday.

Laos’ project is aimed at reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to humans, by focusing on integrated pest management methods that are ecologically sustainable. /CFP

Laos’ project is aimed at reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to humans, by focusing on integrated pest management methods that are ecologically sustainable. /CFP

The project will run from 2024 to 2028 in the Lao capital Vientiane and the provinces of Xieng Khuang, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay and Bokeo.

It is aimed at reducing the use of pesticides that are harmful to humans by focusing on integrated pest management methods that are ecologically sustainable.

The main goal is to strengthen policymaking, legislation, management and investment in the field of pesticide use and to increase sustainable income generation by modeling and disseminating safe pest control methods as an alternative for farmers.

The project will raise awareness and build capacity in pesticide waste management, as well as the ability to monitor and evaluate pesticide management work.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency

World famous ballerina takes to the stage in Shanghai

Svetlana Zakharova in 
Gabrielle Chanel. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Svetlana Zakharova, one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the world, is in Shanghai. She is joining hands with the star dancers of Russia’s esteemed Bolshoi Theatre and presenting four performances at the Shanghai Grand Theatre from May 15 to 19.

On May 16, the Bolshoi prima ballerina and her colleagues will present Modanse, which consists of two parts: a one-act dance drama Come Un Respiro, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, and Gabrielle Chanel, a dance drama about the life story of the fashion icon. Zakharova wears the trademark outfits of Chanel and presents her journey from a cabaret performer to the legendary fashion designer, highlighting her close ties to Russian ballet and her love story with Arthur Edward “Boy” Capel.

Stable devt of China-Russia ties beneficial to world peace, prosperity: Global Times editorial

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet the press on May 16 in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet the press on May 16 in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

On May 16, Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is in China on a state visit, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The two heads of state jointly met the press, signed and issued the Joint Statement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation on Deepening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era in the Context of the 75th Anniversary of China-Russia Diplomatic Relations (hereinafter referred to as the “Statement”). Under the strategic guidance of the two leaders, China and Russia have consistently developed their bilateral relations based on the principles of non-alignment, non-confrontation, and not targeting any third party, setting an example of peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation between major powers. This not only aligns with the fundamental interests of both countries and their peoples but also contributes to regional and global peace, stability, and prosperity.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia. Summarizing the notable progress in China-Russia relations over the past 75 years, President Xi said that it is attributable to the two countries’ commitment to five principles. First, China and Russia are committed to mutual respect as the fundamental principle of relations, and always render support for each other’s core interests. Second, China and Russia are committed to win-win cooperation as the driving force of relations, and work to foster a new paradigm of mutual benefit. Third, China and Russia are committed to lasting friendship as the foundation of relations, and carry forward the torch of Sino-Russian friendship. Fourth, China and Russia are committed to strategic coordination as an underpinning of relations, and steer global governance in the right direction. Fifth, China and Russia are committed to fairness and justice as the purpose of relations, and dedicated to the political settlement of hotspots. These “five principles” set an exemplary model for relations between neighboring major powers and will continue to guide China-Russia relations toward new successes.

The relationship between China and Russia, two major powers, is unique in the history of modern international relations. The two countries are not military-political allies, but rather represent a new model of major power relations characterized by non-alignment, non-confrontation, and not targeting any third country. The development of their relationship has its own internal logic and driving force. It is not a threat to any country, nor is it subject to any interference or discord sown by any third party. This is a summary of the extraordinary 75-year development history of China-Russia relations. Both countries respect each other’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests, as well as their own chosen development path, which is the “secret” to why their relationship has become a model for the development of partnerships between major powers and neighboring countries. As President Xi said, this is not only the correct way for China and Russia to get along, but also the direction that major-country relations should strive for in the 21st century.

The close cooperation between China and Russia is a driving force for stability in the international landscape. This year, Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the BRICS countries, and China will also take over the rotating presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization within the year. The two countries work together to promote regional stability and development, strengthen the alignment between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union, and jointly promote cooperation among the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS mechanism, and countries in the Global South. Both countries uphold multilateralism, oppose hegemony and unilateralism in international organizations such as the United Nations and the G20, effectively promoting the democratization and multipolarization of the global order, as well as firmly upholding international fairness and justice.

Currently, some countries are using “national security” as a pretext to promote deglobalization and group politics, kidnapping allies to push for “decoupling” and build “small yard, high fence.” This has increased the complexity and uncertainty of regional and global security situations. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia share similar security views and maintain effective strategic communication. They jointly oppose zero-sum games and Cold War mentality, group politics, confrontational blocs, dividing the world based on ideology and political systems, and confrontational policies and interference in other countries’ internal affairs. This is a positive asset for the world. In the Statement, China and Russia propose that, given the current geopolitical context, it is necessary to explore the establishment of a sustainable security system in the Eurasian space based on the principles of equal and indivisible security, outlining a blueprint for achieving genuine regional common security.

In recent years, with Russia’s focus on “turning to the East” in foreign economic cooperation, China-Russia economic and trade cooperation has developed rapidly. China has been Russia’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years, accounting for 32 percent of Russia’s foreign trade. Russia became China’s fourth largest trading partner in 2023. These achievements are not easy and have been achieved by both countries overcoming various external challenges and unfavorable factors, highlighting the solid foundation of the China-Russia relationship. This year also marks the “China-Russia Years of Culture.” The two countries and their people have a strong driving force to enhance mutual understanding and continue lasting friendship through deepening cultural exchanges.

A mountain is formed by accumulation of soil and an ocean is formed by accumulation of water. After 75 years of solid accumulation, lasting friendship and all-round cooperation between China and Russia provide a strong impetus for the two countries to forge ahead despite wind and rain. In the future, guided by head-of-state diplomacy, the two countries, standing at a new historical starting point, will jointly promote the all-round development of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era, create more benefits for their peoples and make a due contribution to global security and stability.

China, Russia create a new paradigm of major-country relations

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing (left) and Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower. Photos: VCG

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing (left) and Moscow Kremlin’s Spasskaya Tower. Photos: VCG

Editor’s Note:

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Russia. Before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to China scheduled from May 16 to 17, Global Times reporter
(GT) Xia Wenxin, Yang Sheng and Yang Ruoyu exclusively spoke with the Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui
(Zhang) on the development of the relationship between the two countries, the Ukraine crisis and China-Russia cultural exchanges, among other topics.

GT: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was formally sworn in on May 7 and chose China as the destination of his first foreign trip after his inauguration. What are your expectations for President Putin’s visit to China? This year is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Russia, what new opportunities will the future development of China-Russia relations bring to the two countries?


Zhang: Under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Putin, the comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era between China and Russia is currently in its best historical period. Not long ago, President Xi sent a congratulatory message to President Putin when the latter was re-elected, highlighting the close friendship and political mutual trust between the leaders of the two countries.

China and Russia are both major powers and permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and adhere to the principle of non-alliance, non-confrontation and non-targeting of any third party. They continue to deepen their friendly relations and strategic cooperation to create a new paradigm of major-country relations that is completely different from the Cold War era. Over the past 75 years of diplomatic relations, the political mutual trust between the two countries has continued to deepen, and the results of mutually beneficial cooperation have been fruitful, with increasing people-to-people exchanges and close international cooperation. 

Last year, the trade volume between China and Russia reached a historic high of over $240 billion, with “Made in China” products becoming increasingly popular and trusted by Russian consumers. Meanwhile, Russian agricultural and seafood products are selling well in China, fully demonstrating the strong resilience and broad prospects of mutual cooperation between the two countries. Maintaining and developing the relationship between China and Russia meets the common expectations of the two peoples and is in line with the trend of global development, with important implications for maintaining global strategic stability and promoting positive interactions among major countries. 

As this year marks the 75th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, China and Russia will further strengthen strategic cooperation, cultivate new momentum for cooperation and help each other achieve development and revitalization. The two countries will also continue to enhance international multilateral cooperation, practice true multilateralism and make contributions to the security and stability of both countries and the world.

GT: Switzerland will host a high-level international conference in June to discuss the Russia-Ukraine crisis, but Russia said it is not invited. Do you think it’s overly optimistic to expect a cease-fire in the current conflict to be reached? What are the biggest obstacles to reaching an agreement? Some voices in the West believe that Russia’s strategic partnership with China is the source of confidence for Russia to continue this conflict. What is your take on this?

 

Zhang: In regard to the Ukraine crisis, China has always adhered to an objective and just position, always standing on the side of peace and dialogue, actively advocating for peace and promoting talks. President Xi has put forward four principles, called for joint efforts in four areas and shared three observations on Ukraine which outline China’s fundamental approach to the issue.

Unfortunately, there is still no sign of a cease-fire in the current crisis, and the conflict is still escalating and expanding. The parties involved are not willing to budge on their positions, with significant differences in understanding. Some external forces are still adding fuel to the fire and fanning the flames. 

History has proven that the end point of any conflict is the negotiating table. China supports the timely convening of an international conference recognized by both Russia and Ukraine, with equal participation of all parties and fair discussion of all peace proposals. China is willing to continue to play its unique role and contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to promote a political solution to the Ukraine crisis.

The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era has never targeted any third party, nor does it tolerate any third party interference or coercion. China is neither the creator of the Ukraine crisis nor a party to it. China firmly rejects groundless accusations over the normal trade and economic exchanges between China and Russia, under excuses of the Ukraine crisis. We will firmly defend the legitimate rights and interests of our enterprises. At the same time, we advise relevant countries to stop shifting blame on China and make real efforts to politically resolve the Ukraine crisis.

Zhang Hanhui. Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Embassy in Russia

Zhang Hanhui. Photo: Courtesy of Chinese Embassy in Russia

GT: Over the past two years, the US and some Western countries have imposed sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction on Russia. What impacts do these measures have on foreign companies operating in Russia, including Chinese companies?

Zhang: China opposes any form of unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction that have no basis in international law. Implementing economic sanctions not only fails to solve security issues, but also harms the normal lives of the people in the relevant countries, disrupts the global market and worsens the already slowing world economy. 

China and Russia are natural partners with a strong vitality and broad prospects for cooperation. China firmly opposes illegal unilateral sanctions against Chinese companies and will take necessary measures to firmly defend the legitimate trade interests and rights of Chinese companies and steadily promote cooperation in various fields between China and Russia to benefit the people of both countries.

GT: The 2024 BRICS Summit is scheduled to be held in Russia in later half of this year , marking the first summit since the expansion of the bloc. What are your expectations for the future development of the BRICS mechanism? Meanwhile, China is the rotating chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year, and China and Russia will work together to illuminate the “Southern Moment” of global governance. How do you think both sides will promote the multipolarization of the world order?

Zhang: The collective rise of emerging market countries and developing countries, represented by BRICS and the SCO, is fundamentally changing the international landscape. As leaders of the Global South, BRICS and the SCO have expanded successively, once again demonstrating the strong vitality of the two organizations and reflecting the increasing influence of the Global South in global governance. 

Russia undertakes chairmanship of BRICS this year, and China supports Russia in hosting the first summit after the expansion of the BRICS mechanism. China is willing to work with Russia to deepen cooperation in various fields among new and old member countries, lead the BRICS mechanism steadily forward, and further taking on the role building a better world through BRICS. China will be the rotating chair of the SCO in the second half of this year, and China supports Kazakhstan in hosting this year’s SCO summit. China is willing to work with all parties to continue to promote the “Shanghai Spirit,” solidly implement the summit outcomes, promote cooperation in various fields and build a closer SCO community of shared future.

Unlike some countries that form small cliques and groups with a cold war mentality, the BRICS countries and members of the SCO have always adhered to the principle of win-win cooperation, insisting on dialogue instead of confrontation, partnership instead of alliance, and handshake instead of fist. 

They have become a model for building a new type of international relations and practicing true multilateralism, and are a strong force against hegemonism and for promoting world multipolarity. China will continue to work with all countries, including Russia, to deepen and solidify cooperation within BRICS and the SCO, injecting BRICS-style dynamic and SCO’s contribution to the establishment of a just and reasonable new international political and economic order.

GT: This year is also the “China-Russia Year of Culture.” What role do you think cultural exchanges between China and Russia play in their relationship? How do the Russian people perceive Chinese culture? Could you introduce some of the activities that China will hold this year to promote cultural exchanges between China and Russia?

Zhang: In October last year, Xi and Putin agreed to take the 2024-2025 China-Russia years of culture as an opportunity to carry out more diverse cultural activities. Cultural exchange is the bridge for the people of China and Russia to learn from each other and understand each other.

In recent years, we have held many exciting Chinese cultural activities in Russia, which have greatly aroused the strong interest of the Russian people in Chinese culture, effectively promoting mutual understanding between the two countries and deepening the traditional friendship between China and Russia. At the same time, with the continuous promotion of visa-free travel between the two countries, more and more Russians are traveling to China. We believe that Russian friends will be able to experience the real China and fall in love with the diverse Eastern culture during their travels.

Within the framework of the China-Russia Years of Culture, we will organize a variety of rich and colorful exchange of activities, including exhibitions of cultural relics, film screenings, stage art performances, youth cultural and creative exchanges, and exchanges between Chinese and Russian writers. This goal is to achieve a multi-channel, multi-level and all-round development of China-Russia cultural exchanges. Through cultural exchanges, we will continue to promote bilateral cultural exchanges, deepen mutual understanding between the two peoples, strengthen the foundation of friendly sentiments between the two countries and make new contributions to the deepening development of China-Russia relations.