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From a Barren Land to the World’s Largest Man-Made Forest, Saihanba and China’s Ecological Efforts

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Decades ago, no one would imagine that Saihanba – the once barren land located in north China’s Hebei Province – would turn into the world’s largest man-made forest. 

China did it. 

Saihanba now sees a forest coverage of 80 percent, which can conserve and purify 137 million cubic meters of water every year, an achievement hailed “great” by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“It is a model in the world’s ecological civilization history,” he said during his recent two-day tour in Hebei.

During his trip, Xi learned about the management and protection of the forest farm, as well as Hebei’s coordinated efforts in conserving its mountains, rivers, forests, farmlands, lakes and grasslands, and desertification control. 

The president stressed the importance of developing the green economy and furthering ecological progress, urging to carry on “Saihanba spirit”—a term attributed to generations of workers on the farm who have kept their mission in mind, worked hard and pursued green development. 

Xi urged the workers at the Saihanba forest farm to gain a deeper understanding of ecological conservation and continue their hard work for new achievements.  

Xi encourages elderlies to stay active in job market

Facing a rapidly aging labor force in a continuously expanding economy, Xi encouraged more elderly folks to “stay active” in the job market when inspecting the Binhe community service center.

Xi suggested those “younger seniors” to participate in duties like community volunteering jobs.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, there are currently 264 million people aged 60 and over, accounting for 18.7 percent of the total population. The trend – many say – could potentially pose threats to the world’s second-largest economy.

The country has put it explicitly in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) that it will raise the statutory retirement age “in a gradual, flexible and differentiated manner” to adapt to that “new normal.”

During his visit, Xi also stressed the need to achieve this year’s major goals for the country’s economic and social development. 

He underlined the need to achieve a balance between COVID-19 prevention and control and economic and social development, and between development and security, to promote high-quality development, and to strive to fulfill major social and economic targets and tasks for this year to ensure a good start of the 14th Five-Year Plan.

A new development philosophy in an all-round, faithful manner is need to put into practice, Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said.

Xi calls for preservation and development of cultural heritage

In the renowned Chengde Mountain Resort – a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site—Xi learned about its history as well as the preservation efforts there.

The resort serves important historic meanings to communication between different ethnic minority groups, adaption of religion and the society, preservation and development of cultural heritage, as well as the peaceful coexistence between human and nature, Xi pointed out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping conducts field research on the preservation and development of cultural heritage at Chengde Mountain Resort during an inspection tour of Chengde in north China’s Hebei Province, August 24, 2021. /Xinhua

He also highlighted cultural confidence and the unity between multi-ethnic groups.

The Chinese president then visited Puning Temple, a famous Buddhist temple near the resort, and the Chengde Museum.

Xi: From ‘rural revitalization’ to ‘industry revitalization’

China has always viewed rural vitalization as one of the keys to developing a modern economy, and President Xi took that a step further. He stressed the importance of “industry revitalization.”

Daguikou village—where Xi visited—now grows strawberries, grapes and cherries. Yet fruit was not their first choice.

The village had tried rice, corn and vegetables. But for all sorts of reasons like the lack of water, these products were underproduced. Therefore, villagers couldn’t make money off them. So they turned to growing fruits instead.

Now, growing strawberries has become the main business for the 1,700 residents, with each household making around $15,000 a year.

Xi called on villages to implement tailored methods and find out their distinctive resource in singling out their advantages, while also calling to strengthen rural infrastructure and public service system.

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Xi-Biden Call Analysis: Cooperation Should be Based Upon Mutual Respect

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In the first phone conversation between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies in seven months, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning had a “candid, in-depth and extensive strategic communication and exchanges” with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, according to a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

“On the basis of respecting each other’s core concerns and properly managing differences, the relevant departments of the two countries may continue their engagement and dialogue to advance coordination and cooperation on climate change, COVID-19 response and economic recovery as well as on major international and regional issues,” Xi told Biden. 

White House officials said Biden initiated the 90-minute phone call, which is only the second of this kind since the U.S. president took office.

There had been high expectations for Biden to improve bilateral relations ever since he replaced former President Donald Trump in January.

Biden’s China journey four decades on

Biden came to China in 1979 as a member of the first delegation the U.S. Congress sent to China. The then senator said in a speech that China’s development was good for the United States.

He visited China again in 2011, and wrote in a New York Times op-ed that “a successful China can make our country [U.S.] more prosperous, not less.” 

“On issues from global security to global economic growth, we share common challenges and responsibilities – and we have incentives to work together,” read the article titled “China’s Rise Isn’t Our Demise.”

In his first phone call with Xi on the eve of the Chinese New Year in February this year, Biden sent his greetings to the Chinese people. He said he was prepared to have candid and constructive dialogue with China in the spirit of mutual respect and to improve mutual understanding and avoid miscommunication and miscalculation.

Yet such goodwill failed to match up with the actions, according to Yuyuantantian, a public WeChat account that focuses on current affairs. And hostility has been particularly evident in the U.S. Congress. 

In recent months, there have been more China-related bills in the U.S. Congress than ever before, with more than a dozen in July alone, most of which recommended the adoption of opposing or restrictive policies against China. 

The U.S. has made a major strategic miscalculation on China, said Wu Xinbo, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as quoted in the Yuyuantantian article. “It mistakenly takes China as a major strategic competitor and believes whatever China does is aimed at undermining the U.S. leadership and dominating the international order.”

Xi has said China and the United States will have different views on some issues, but the key is to respect each other and treat each other as equals. But the U.S. has yet to learn to do that, according to Yuyuantantian.

‘Whether China, U.S. can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world’

China and the United States are respectively the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country, whether they can handle their relationship well bears on the future of the world, and it is a question of the century to which the two countries must provide a good answer, Xi said in the Friday phone conversation.

The two countries should bring relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible for the good of the people in both countries and around the world, he added.

How to get China-U.S. relations back on track has become a “must-solve problem,” Yuyuantantian commented, adding that the ball is now in the U.S. court. 

Washington is gradually losing its reputation all around the world, the public account said. “If it really wants cooperation, it has to ‘get off its high horse,’ face the reality and start an open dialogue with China,” it added. 

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Through the lens: How 20 Years of Conflict Since 9/11 Changed Afghanistan

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The Afghanistan war ended just as abruptly as it had begun. Two decades ago, the September 11 terrorist attacks led the U.S. to formulate its controversial counter-terrorism policy, including its longest war in history – the war in Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, the mountainous country nestled in the heartland of Asia has once again come to a crossroads as the U.S. withdrew its troops, with the Taliban reclaiming the power they lost two decades ago.

Afghanistan has long been a battlefield for global powers, but it has never been conquered, hence its moniker – the “Graveyard of Empires.”

In the series “Through the lens: Afghanistan 2001-2021,” we dive into the scars the war has left on the country, and the fear, wrath and resilience of the Afghan people, in eight episodes.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: How the ‘war on terror’ begins

The September 11 attacks claimed some 3,000 lives, making it the deadliest attack in U.S. history. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: America’s longest war

The U.S. military invaded the country, already war-plagued and impoverished, in the name of the “war on terror.” 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The poppies blossom

In decades of war and destitution, opium poppy plantation and production have become a major source of income for local farmers. “Either Afghanistan destroys opium, or opium will destroy Afghanistan,” former Afghan President Hamid Karzai once said.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: Fears and tears

In the protracted war in Afghanistan, no one suffered more than Afghan civilians. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from homes with no shelter and rarely any food.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The Displaced

Wars after wars have made migration a norm for the Afghan people. As of 2021, Afghanistan is the third largest source of refugees in the world, with the number of Afghan refugees standing at 2.6 million. Domestically, 4 million internally displaced persons are still in temporary camps.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The skyline and the slum

In the capital, Kabul, there are only two kinds of people – the rich and the poor.

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The withdrawal

On April 14, Biden announced the U.S. troop withdrawal would be completed by September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked the invasion. In the months that followed, the country witnessed massive chaos. 

Afghanistan 2001-2021: The future is murky

How the new Afghan government deals with the wide range of social, political and economic issues will determine how an Afghanistan under the Taliban will be received by the Afghan people and the world.

Editors: Zeng Ziyi, Zhao Yue, Wang Xiaonan, Yu Jing, Zhong Xia, Du Junzhi 

Images designed by Liu Shaozhen

Graphics by Yang Yiren 

Producer: Wang Xiaonan 

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Xi Jinping Urges ‘True Multilateralism’ in World’s ‘Daunting’ Economic Recovery from COVID-19

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Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said the world economy is undergoing a “daunting recovery” which requires “true multilateralism” in the face of fresh COVID-19 flare-ups.

“We are ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a community with a shared future for mankind,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link from Beijing.

The forum – held in Russia every year since 2015 – has the goal of promoting multilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year’s session was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the speech, Xi called for the international community to unite. “We need to intensify cooperation in vaccine research, development and production, provide more public goods to the international community,” he said.

The Chinese president also voiced opposition to any sort of politicization of COVID-19 vaccines and origins-tracing.

Extra efforts for mutually-beneficial cooperation

“We need to redouble our efforts to advance mutually-beneficial cooperation,” Xi said at the opening ceremony.

He called for the deepening of collaboration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Eurasian Economic Union in areas including digital economy and climate change.

The Chinese president also urged the group to embrace a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security” by “narrowing differences” and “building consensus through dialogue and exchanges.”

As Friday marks the 76th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, Xi also called for the defense of the victory’s outcomes.

“The international community must defend firmly the victorious outcomes of World War II, safeguard the truth of history, and stay committed to taking history as a mirror to open up a brighter future,” Xi said.

(Cover: Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via video link, September 3, 2021. /Xinhua)

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