Saudi Arabia-China economic relations thrive as international model, reflecting strong trade volume and diverse partnership opportunities: chamber head

Editor's note: Saudi Arabia, as one of the earliest countries to participate in the joint construction of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has demonstrated a strategic alignment with its own Vision 2030. This synchronization has injected significant momentum into the economic and trade development of  the two countries. The robust economic complementarity between the two countries creates vast opportunities for collaborative fields, ranging from energy and transportation to finance and technology. In a recent exclusive interview with Global Times (GT) reporter Yin Yeping, Mohammed A. Al Ajlan (Al Ajlan), chairman of Saudi Chinese Business Council, highlighted the fruitful results of bilateral cooperation and expressed optimism for stronger economic ties.

GT: Saudi Arabia was an early supporter of the BRI. How has Saudi businesses benefited from the participation, and what are your expectations for future bilateral cooperation in the joint construction of this initiative?

Al Ajlan
: There are great opportunities for economic integration between the Kingdom and China through the "Silk Road Economic Belt," which in many aspects is consistent with Vision 2030 in terms of its directions to exploit the Kingdom's strategic location to connect the continents of the world and make it a global logistics center.

This harmony and alignment between Vision 2030 and the BRI enhances opportunities for cooperation and partnership between the two countries, helps accelerate the pace of development and its sustainability, and provides Saudi and Chinese companies with huge investment opportunities.

Chinese investments in infrastructure in the Kingdom, represented by the BRI, are estimated at about $5.5 billion. In general, Saudi and Chinese companies have benefited and will benefit in the future from the huge investment opportunities presented by both Vision 2030 and the China-proposed BRI.

GT: Since 2013, China has become Saudi Arabia's largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia has consistently been China's top trading partner in the Middle East for over 20 years. In what specific areas do you see the strongest complementarity between the two countries, and how can they enhance cooperation in these areas?

Al Ajlan: There is no doubt that the Saudi Arabia-China economic relations are strong and solid and are considered an international model to be emulated in fruitful, constructive cooperation and strategic partnership as a result of the support of the political leadership and government agencies in the two countries.

Given the volume of trade exchanges between the Kingdom and China, which amounted to about 397 billion riyals ($106 billion) in 2022, this reflects the strength of the strategic economic partnership and the diversity and multiplicity of trade and investment opportunities in the two countries.

Therefore, the areas of cooperation are open and multiple in sectors such as retail, technology, and the automobile industry, of which China holds a share of the Saudi market, in addition to energy, contracting, real estate, modern construction technology, smart cities, industry, and transportation.

Also, among the new investment areas between the two countries are the sectors such as renewable and clean energy, financial technology (fintech), tourism, entertainment, sports, and housing.

This steady development in the economic relations between the two countries came with the support of the political leadership in the Kingdom and China and this relationship is based on solid institutional frameworks such as the Saudi-Chinese Joint Committee, the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement, and bilateral cooperation agreements.

The Saudi-Chinese Business Council, which includes from the Saudi side about 350 companies, plays a great role in promoting bilateral trade, contributing directly to raising the level of trade exchanges and joint investments between the Kingdom and China.

GT: The People's Bank of China and the Saudi Central Bank signed a bilateral currency swap agreement in November 2023. What practical benefits do you anticipate from this agreement in terms of strengthening financial cooperation, trade, and investment facilitation?

Al Ajlan: This is an additional option that gives importers and exporters more flexibility and freedom to choose the currency they wish to deal in.

There is no doubt that it demonstrates the extent of the interconnected relationship between the two countries and also facilitates the process of trade exchanges.

 We do not negate here the importance of being subject to the regulations of the central banks in the two countries and the requirements and regulations according to which they operate.

GT: Energy cooperation is a major focus for the two countries. In your opinion, what additional paths can be explored in energy cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia, considering the dominance of conventional fossil fuels and the emerging trends in new-energy sources?

Al Ajlan: The Kingdom today has strong strategies and directions toward transitioning to a green economy and renewable and clean energy, and as China is considered the leading country in the global new-energy sector, the opportunities for developing investment and partnership in this field are promising between the two countries.

Chinese companies are among the largest companies in the world that manufacture solar modules, and indeed there is existing cooperation and multiple agreements between Saudi and Chinese companies in renewable energy projects, solar energy, and green hydrogen.

In the traditional sector, the Kingdom is the main supplier of oil to China, and cooperation between the two countries is great in this sector, including petrochemicals. 

Recently, Aramco signed several cooperation agreements with Chinese companies such as Rongsheng and Eastern Xinghong.

HKSAR government clarifies Chief Executive-recommended investment video is scam done by AI

The government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Wednesday clarified video clip about investment plan put forward by the HKSAR Chief Executive was done by artificial intelligence (AI), and called on the public to be aware of the scam content. 

The HKSAR government said the so-called remarks by the Chief Executive in the scam video were fictitious, and condemned those who have attempted deception under the name of the Chief Executive.

The government said the incident will be referred to police for further investigation, and noticed the public to be cautious regarding similar investment-related advertisements or promotional videos, verify the authenticity of the content, and keep personal information secure. 

The AI-generated scam clip circulated online plagiarized an interview between HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and a local journalist, and forged an investment video using AI, which promoted a claimed HK$60,000 ($7,674.45) of payback per week by investing HK$2,000, according to Hong Kong media, and another scam video showed "AI-created Elon Musk" also joined the investment plan. 

Local news site TVB News reported on Thursday that Hong Kong police have not received any reports of individuals being defrauded.

China vows to actively develop AI standards, governance rules

China aims to develop 60 percent of AI-related standards serving innovations of key technologies and applications by 2026, part of the targets mentioned in a draft aimed at encouraging the regulated development of AI. 

The draft, issued by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) on Wednesday, also aims to put in place more than 50 national and industrial AI standards and 20 international standards to facilitate high-quality development of the AI industry.

The draft also proposes for more than 1,000 companies to adopt and advocate for new standards. There will have more than 1,000 companies expected to contribute and embrace these new standards, while the draft also encourages Chinese AI enterprises to participate in international cooperation in this field. 

The draft is made in the background as China's AI industry is developing quickly in terms of technology innovation and applications. 

With the accelerated technologies represented by large models, the AI industry has shown new paths forward in tech breakthroughs and deep collaboration between countries, creating an acute need to put in place meaningful industry standards, the MIIT said. 

China would work with other countries to resolve global issues concerning AI ethics, security and privacy, and promote the construction of a fairer, more reasonable and effective global AI governance system, Wang Peng, an associate researcher at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

China will place more emphasis on the high quality growth and sustainable development of the AI in the future, Wang added, noting the proposed standards could play a pivotal role in shaping the future of AI development and collaboration on an international scale.

In October 2023, China put forward the Global AI Governance Initiative, which covers AI development, safety and governance. It offered a constructive way of thinking on AI issues that will provide a reference for relevant global discussions and rule-making.

The vast potential of AI across the economy has also attracted interest from major international players. 

Recently, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Juniper Networks, a leader in AI-native networks, announced that they have entered an agreement under which HPE will acquire Juniper in an all-cash transaction for $40.00 per share, representing an equity value of approximately $14 billion.

The combination of HPE and Juniper advances HPE's portfolio mix shift toward higher-growth solutions and strengthens its high-margin networking business. Following the merger, the overall network business line will be stronger and better able to provide network equipment services to Chinese users, the company said.

My work experience at UNC-Chapel Hill: Universities should build bridges, not knock them down

In January 2023, I took on a faculty position at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. During my first semester, I taught a course on China and the global economy, which aimed to help MBA students from across the world gain a better understanding of China's evolving role in international business and technology affairs. The course went so well that I was asked to teach two sections for the MBA students in the fall and introduce an undergraduate version of the course.

Unfortunately, in August 2023, I resigned from my position at UNC due to irreconcilable differences regarding the university's discouraging approach to engagement with China. The top academic administrators at UNC simply believed that deepening engagement with China would put the integrity of the university's research system in jeopardy and pose unacceptable national security risks.

My problems began when I was invited to speak at the Zhongguancun Forum in Beijing in May 2023. To obtain university approval, I had to navigate through a bureaucratic gauntlet that involved a review of my intended trip by the university security office, the office dealing with export controls, the vice provost for global affairs, the university research office and the IT office.

I was told that I could not bring my university-supplied computer to China, nor could I log in to the university email system from China. According to university security officials, since China deploys telecommunications equipment from Huawei, which is not an approved US equipment supplier (for security reasons), I could not access the university IT system while in China. However, despite these restrictions, I was eventually granted approval to travel to China as a keynote speaker. In order to obtain this approval, I had to disclose the details of my invitation, the source of my ticket and local expenses, the content of my presentation, and the expected audience size of 2,500-3,000 people.

The myopic thinking of the administration went even further. In July, the Chinese embassy in DC contacted me to arrange a meeting in North Carolina for a small visiting group of three people from the public affairs section - not the military affairs section or even the science and technology section. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange ideas about the state of China-US relations. This is the type of meeting I had organized on many occasions during my three-plus decades as an academic in the US. There were to be no campus visits to labs or other research facilities, no media and no photos. The Chinese group requested that I invite five to six UNC faculty members who had previous engagements with China so that they could get a broad perspective of opinions about the problems and issues involved in cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.

The morning before the visit, however, I received an urgent call from the UNC Provost reprimanding me for organizing such meetings without top-tier approval from the university, even if the meeting was only to be held in the business school where I had my faculty appointment. While Kenan-Flagler Business School colleagues and administrators were extremely supportive of my activities with China, the same could not be said for the university administration. The provost subsequently sent me a strong written admonishment stating that my contract did not include inviting foreign diplomats to campus. The embassy visit did proceed as planned because there was not enough time to cancel it, but the actions that I seemed to provoke were totally inconsistent with the idea that UNC Chapel Hill is a true global university. 

The final straw in this downward spiral was a decision made by the university that there would be no university-sponsored student trips to China. For both undergraduate and graduate students in the business school, it has become common to participate in a two-to-three-week global immersion experience to highlight the fact that all business is international. Of course, given my four decades of connections in China, I wanted to bring one or two student groups to China to meet both Chinese and international business executives and local officials to learn about doing business in the world's second-largest economy. However, I was told that the university follows the US State Department rating system about country risk and since China was in the Category Three designation, it could not be an approved destination. Category Three means "Do not go if you do not need to go." To the best of my knowledge, no foreign student has ever been restricted from leaving China, but this remains US policy. Accordingly, no trips are recommended to the Chinese mainland or even Hong Kong due to recent developments regarding its national security policy.

For me, this way of approaching engagement with China represents narrow-minded thinking and ignores the reality of China's growing importance in world affairs. The US needs graduates who are knowledgeable about China from their on-the-ground experience - about Chinese culture, society, geography and politics. We also need a cohort of young people who speak Chinese to facilitate better communication. By restricting university interactions with China, UNC and many other public universities in the US are acting in ways that are detrimental to both the interests of the US and the possibility of mending fences with China.

The souring of China-US relations over the last several years has had an important shaping effect on international relations, and the tensions between the two countries have frequently become highly problematic. Nonetheless, we must face reality: There is no global problem out there whose meaningful solution will not require close China-US cooperation. In other words, we must find a better way to work together if there is to be any hope of effectively unraveling the plethora of growing transnational problems we face - climate change, global pandemics, food security, management of AI and water management, to name a few. Universities should be at the forefront of building bridges across borders and cultures, not knocking them down.

Moreover, universities, through the education and training they provide to our young people from across the world, are our best hope of overcoming ethnic and racial bias, socio-cultural misperception, and outdated perspectives that contain antiquated cold war thinking. Fortunately, some universities, especially the private ones in the US, have not succumbed to this type of obsolete thinking. In this regard, the proposal by Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2023 for China to host 50,000 American students over five years represents a breath of fresh air. Of course, many details need to be worked out. Let us all hope that reason will prevail and that even universities such as UNC will allow their students to participate in this and other types of related education exchanges and cooperative projects between the two countries.

Xi urges more ‘bridges’ to be built between China, Europe in meeting with Belgian PM

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday met with visiting Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, agreeing to enhance ties and voicing against "decoupling."

The meeting carries unique significance as it opens a new year of high-level diplomacy between China and the EU in 2024, and can serve as an opportunity for the two sides to continue the momentum of engagement to deepen mutual understanding and expand cooperation, analysts said.

Such contact is even more important when the world is struggling with a sluggish economy, geopolitical uncertainty and regional conflicts, they said.

New momentum

China and Belgium are both beneficiaries of economic globalization and share common interests in resisting protectionism and safeguarding free trade, Xi told De Croo, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

China appreciates De Croo's open opposition to the decoupling or severing of industrial and supply chains on many occasions, welcomes Belgian companies to invest in China, and stands ready to provide them with a sound business environment, Xi said, expressing his hope that Belgium will also provide a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

Xi said the two sides can combine their respective strengths to expand cooperation in traditional areas such as transportation, logistics and biopharmaceuticals, and explore new growth areas for cooperation such as green development and digital economy.

He called on the two sides to encourage government departments, legislatures, and sub-national areas to strengthen exchanges and dialogue, expand tourism and exchange of students, organize large-scale cultural activities in each other's country, and carry out research on giant panda protection.

Xi said China is willing to strengthen communication with Belgium within multilateral frameworks such as the UN and carry out cooperation on issues such as climate change and biodiversity protection.

De Croo said the Belgium-China relationship is a pacesetter in European countries' ties with China in many aspects, noting that Belgium will continue to abide by the one-China policy, and have candid dialogue with China to deepen understanding and push for continuous development of bilateral relations in political, economic and other fields.

De Croo said Belgium opposes decoupling or severing of industrial and supply chains, welcomes Chinese enterprises to carry out cooperation in Belgium, and hopes to strengthen personnel and cultural exchanges with China.

A number of Belgian entrepreneurs accompanied De Croo on his visit, including industry leaders such as Solvay and Bekaert, said Cao Zhongming, Chinese ambassador to Belgium.

"I believe they will take full advantage of the high-level visit opportunity to engage in in-depth exchanges and collaborative discussions with Chinese officials and the business community to inject new impetus into bilateral economy, trade and investment cooperation," Cao told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

China and the European Union (EU) have already conducted frequent interactions in 2023. But the visit by the Belgian prime minister carries unique significance as the country is the EU's political heartland and holds the presidency of the Council of the EU for 2024.

During the Friday meeting, while stressing that China maintains long-term consistency in its policy toward Europe, Xi said China has always regarded Europe as a partner and hopes that Europe will play a positive and constructive role as an important force in a multipolar world.

In the face of the changing and volatile international situation, China and Europe need to build more "bridges," he added.

Xi said the two sides should work more closely to promote an equal and orderly global multipolarity and an economic globalization that benefits all, and jointly promote world peace, stability and prosperity.

China is willing to work with the EU to foster progress in China-EU relations in the new year and hopes that Belgium, as the EU rotating presidency, will play a positive role in this regard, Xi added.

De Croo noted that he was deeply impressed by President Xi's vivid description of "bridges" during his visit to Belgium a decade ago.

Amid the changing and turbulent international situation, the world needs China and Europe to work as partners and strengthen cooperation in a wide range of areas such as promoting world economic growth, addressing climate change and building a more stable world, De Croo said.

Belgium, as the rotating presidency of the EU, is willing to play an active role in the development of EU-China relations and hopes that this visit will help elevate Belgium-China and EU-China relations, he added.

Cui Hongjian, a professor at the Academy of Regional and Global Governance of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Friday that China-Belgium relations remain more stable with China-EU ties witnessing major changes in the past few years. It is hoped that the country can make positive contributions to resolving some China-EU trade disputes, Cui said.

The expert also underlined that China and EU should communicate on global hot spot issues including the Russia-Ukraine conflict and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and try to maximize common views to facilitate the settlement of those issues.
Coping with changes

Despite the overall momentum of engagement, noises and waves still persist in China-EU relations. The European Commission initiated an anti-subsidies probe into electric vehicles (EVs) from China in October 2023 and hyped Chinese espionage in recent months.

Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of European Studies, told the Global Times that trade disputes between China and the EU are nothing new, and there have been many cases of this. However, they have not affected bilateral economic and trade cooperation in the past.

The "spy" claims were mainly hype from some media and right-wing politicians, Zhao said, as he stressed both sides should avoid escalating individual cases in certain fields to the level of overall trend of bilateral ties.

It is irresponsible and shortsighted to conclude that "sound China-EU relations are over" as a result of small skirmishes, Zhao said.

According to analysts, the EU shows duality in dealing with China - emphasizing cooperation while being harsh on values and ideology.

Cui pointed out that Europe has to cling to "political correctness" on "political" topics such as security and human rights. "Improving the EU's public opinion environment [toward China] and dispelling misconceptions requires practical cooperation and remains a challenging task."

China also recognizes that the EU's position - its economic structure and security dependence on the US - means it is difficult to maintain a completely independent policy, and handles disputes with the bloc in a way that is resilient to external disruptions, Cui said.

The EU is encouraged to adjust its mind-set in front of a strong China that is different from Europe in many aspects but is a sincere and trustworthy partner, analysts said.

Through a series of interactions in 2023, China and the EU have reached consensus on the importance of bilateral relations as well as the fact that the relationship is undergoing major changes.

"The crux is how to cope with the changes," Cui said. China copes with them with a positive attitude, believing that changes bring about new opportunities; but the EU tends to see those changes through a negative lens as risks and challenges.

Against the backdrop of a resurgence in European populism and conservatism and the European Parliament elections, the EU is in urgent need of leaders who have the strategic vision and political wisdom to guide the bloc as it goes through this concurrent turbulence, Chinese observers said.

They hope that in 2024, more European politicians can come to visit China, see a real China through their own eyes and engage with China in person, so as to establish a more comprehensive and less biased view of the country on the other end of the Eurasian continent.

Indonesian president visits Philippines for peace, stability in S.China Sea

As Indonesian President Joko Widodo kicked off his visit to the Philippines with the South China Sea issue on the agenda, Chinese experts believe that as leader of a major country in the region, Widodo will try to talk some sense into his Filipino counterpart to stop instigating tensions in the South China Sea, and that the Code of Conduct cannot be reached without the consensus of all regional countries, which must include China.

After meeting with Widodo on Wednesday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said they had a "fruitful and honest discussion" on regional events of mutual interests including developments in the South China Sea, media reported. 

However, the Indonesian side made no such mention of this, saying only that the two countries agreed to "expedite revision of joint border patrol and crossing agreements, also to strengthen the defense cooperation including on military hardware," the Strait Times reported on Wednesday. 

Ahead of Widodo's three-day visit to the Philippines, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday her country is "ready to work together with all ASEAN member states including the Philippines to finalize the [South China Sea] Code of Conduct as soon as possible," Reuters reported.

Widodo's trip to the Philippines demonstrates Indonesia's strong commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the region, Gu Xiaosong, dean of the ASEAN Research Institute of Hainan Tropical Ocean University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

Experts said that the Indonesian president's visit came at a time when the world is in tumult, with the US, Europe and the Middle East being all embroiled in turmoil, while the Philippines is still trying to stir up troubles in the South China Sea that may threaten the hard-won peace and stability in Southeast Asia. 

Indonesia understands the value of peace and the positive relations with China, Gu said, so Widodo will likely engage in talks with Marcos to urge the Philippines to abandon its attempt to seek external interference from countries like the US to try deterring China, as well as call for the formation of a code of conduct that is agreed upon by all regional countries, including China. 

Although China and ASEAN have been working on a South China Sea code of conduct for more than two decades, the Philippines claimed in November 2023 that it is pushing for a separate set of rules and regulations with its neighbors, excluding China.

Gu said Marcos' proposal is simply not possible because many ASEAN member countries would not come on board with a plan that will provoke China. "Most ASEAN members are friendly toward China, as time has proven that closer ties with China will greatly boost their economy, trade and investment and tourism."

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, warned that the Philippines' move is destructive to the unity and cohesion of ASEAN, which are of utmost importance, and could even lead to the division of ASEAN itself. 

Wu criticized the recent provocative actions by the Philippines as "naive" and "veering off track." He noted that China is not the only claimant in the South China Sea, but more importantly, a key player in the negotiations regarding the disputes, and without China's participation, the "code of conduct" has no meaning. 

China’s services sector in Dec expands at fastest pace in five months with private Caixin PMI rising to 52.9

China's services sector continued to revive in December 2023 as its yearlong recovery kept on going, a survey showed on Thursday. The Caixin services purchasing managers' index (PMI) - a private gauge - expanded at the quickest pace in five months in December to 52.9 from 51.5 in November.

The Caixin PMI surveys cover mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and private-sector companies. The rebound in both the services PMI and the manufacturing PMI demonstrates a continuous pickup for companies at the midstream and downstream of industry chains, and the strong momentum will persist in 2024, analysts said.

The rise in the services PMI for December was the quickest since July, an accompanying press release showed. Companies signaled a solid increase in activity and new business, with the expansion of new business at the quickest pace since May.

The gauge remained in expansion territory throughout all of 2023, signaling a sustained recovery in the services sector, Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, was quoted as saying in the press release. A reading below 50 indicates contraction, while one above 50 indicates expansion.

Wang said that both supply and demand expanded, while external demand continued its upward trajectory for the fourth consecutive month with the reading hitting the highest level since June.

SMEs are the major participants of the services sector with a relatively strong market dynamic. The continuous growth of the services PMI indicated that the recovery of the country's economy, especially the services sector, has been keeping pace, Cong Yi, a professor at the Tianjin School of Administration, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The continued growth for the PMI reading also showed market demand has been bouncing back as the services sector is the closest to the market, Cong said.

The rebound in both the services and manufacturing PMIs showed that the midstream and downstream of the country's industry chain has continued recovering, Hu Qimu, a deputy secretary-general of the digital-real economies integration Forum 50, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The manufacturing PMI for December, which was released earlier this week, hit a four-month high at 50.8.

The positive figures show that the private sector is making progress, flagging a revival for the market mechanism, Hu said. Market players are willing to rebuild their inventories, representing a further recovery of the country's economic fundamentals.

The consumption boom with bustling travel and spending during the just-concluded New Year's Day holidays was the latest example of the recovery.

During the three-day holidays, a total of 135 million domestic tourist trips were made, up 155.3 percent year-on-year, and total domestic tourism revenue reached 79.73 billion yuan ($11.22 billion), jumping 200.7 percent from the same period in 2023 and 5.6 percent from 2019 before the pandemic, data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed.

Transitioning into 2024, experts are optimistic that fresh momentum will emerge amid favorable conditions and support.

"Optimism prevails in the services industry, with enterprises expressing confidence in an improved economic outlook for the coming year. This sentiment was reflected in the gauge for businesses' expectations about future activity, " Wang said.

Hu said that some concerns such as systemic risks related to the real estate sector and local debt have been eliminated, and further macro policies will be rolled out and will produce effects.

Amid the sustained recovery, experts said that challenges linger. For instance, Cong said that companies still face pressure from operating costs and uncertain external demand. More stimulus is likely to be rolled out, he said.

Favorable conditions outweigh unfavorable factors in China's development, and the fundamental trend of the economic recovery and long-term positive outlook has not changed, noted the Central Economic Work Conference, which concluded in December, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The December meeting called for efforts to pursue progress while ensuring stability, consolidate stability through progress, and establish the new before abolishing the old, regarding the economic work for 2024.

Chinese operating systems to see explosive growth as US crackdown speeds up self-reliance process: experts

Domestic operating systems (OS) are set for an explosive growth in 2024, as the sector's self-reliance efforts show effectiveness amid the intensified US crackdown, industry observers said, and the coming of the Internet of Everything era, where Chinese firms have an advantage, will bolster that trend.

Huawei's HarmonyOS will be one of the main OS to lead that growth, and it will take share away from foreign counterparts, they said.

According to a report by TechInsights, Huawei's HarmonyOS is projected to surpass Apple's iOS as the second-biggest OS in China. The report suggests that HarmonyOS is poised to achieve a milestone in 2024 with the commercial launch of the HarmonyOS NEXT, a revised version that is not compatible with Android.

Despite Huawei's previous challenges related to the supply constraints of the Kirin 9000s chipset, TechInsights anticipates a potential easing of these limitations in the coming months. This could lead to a solid recovery for Huawei in 2024, reshuffling the landscape of the Chinese smartphone OS market and challenging both Apple and Android manufacturers for their market shares.

"The past year was extraordinary and marked the beginning of native HarmonyOS applications. Today, on the first day of 2024, we are entering a crucial year for the comprehensive evolution of the HarmonyOS ecosystem," He Gang, chief operating officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group, said on Monday.

The Shenzhen-based telecoms giant launched HarmonyOS in August 2019, three months after Google stopped providing its suite of proprietary mobile software services to the company due to US sanctions.

Rather than being a replacement, the company stressed that the OS can also be deployed across multiple devices, including smartphones, computers and other electronic devices.

"The HarmonyOS was designed for the Internet of Everything era. It was launched earlier than expected in 2019 due to the US sanctions, but it also helped the OS gain an early foothold in the highly competitive domestic market," Ma Jihua, a veteran industry analyst and close follower of the company, told the Global Times on Thursday.

The ecosystem of HarmonyOS has gradually taken shape after years of development, spanning all walks of life including transportation, social networking, gaming, office productivity, shopping, lifestyle uses and education, Ma said.

In recent months, several major domestic internet companies and leading enterprises including financial technology giant Ant Group, e-commerce firm, video gaming giant NetEase and food delivery market leader Meituan have announced plans to build new versions of their mobile apps based on HarmonyOS.

On December 6, 2023, McDonald's China and Huawei reached a cooperation agreement, officially announcing that the McDonald's China app will adopt the HarmonyOS NEXT, making it one of the first global multinational chain restaurants to join the ecosystem, McDonald's China said in a statement it sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

Apart from Huawei's HarmonyOS, 2024 is poised to be a breakthrough period for the development of domestic OS in China, Zhang Hong, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times on Thursday.

One of the main reasons for this development is that the intensified restrictions imposed by the US will accelerate the process of localization in China, placing a dual emphasis on security and development. This trend has spurred a concerted effort to reduce dependence on foreign technologies and foster the growth of Chinese alternatives, Zhang said.

Moreover, the rapid development and usage of smart devices in the nation is expected to enable Chinese companies to further outpace their global counterparts in the Internet of Everything era, Ma said.

Update: Beijing hospital worker detained for leaking actress Kathy Chow’s medical records

Actress Kathy Chow Hoi-mei has died at the age of 57 due to an illness, Chow's studio announced on Tuesday. Netizens were angered by the leak of a screenshot of an electronic medical record believed to have belonged to Chow, allegedly from a hospital in Beijing's Shunyi district. They called for greater respect for the deceased and expressed anger over the leak.

The public security bureau in Shunyi district announced on Thursday that a 36-year-old male suspect surnamed Fu has been placed under administrative detention after he took advantage of his job at a hospital in Shunyi and released a screenshot of a patient’s medical record to WeChat group on Monday for the purpose of showing off, leading to the spread of personal information and creating a bad social impact. 

Fu and the hospital involved will possibly face multiple penalties according to the health administrative punishment rules of Beijing municipality which were revised in January of 2023. 

The hospital may be issued a warning and receive a penalty between 10,000 yuan ($1,394) and 50,000 yuan. The punishment will be publicized for 12 months or longer. Doctors and nurses involved may face suspension or have their medical licenses revoked under severe circumstances. 

The Shunyi district health authority said that it had noticed the situation and an investigation is underway, media reports said on Wednesday. The screenshot of the medical record went viral online on Tuesday night, showing Chow's personal information, treatment time, and other related information, according to media reports.

The results of the investigation will be announced to the public in due course, said the report, citing an employee from the health authority. The police have also started to investigate, according to media reports.

An insider said that two suspects have been handed over to the police, one of whom is an employee at the hospital involved and the other is the employee's friend. The employee has been suspended from work and the hospital is waiting for the result of the police investigation, The Beijing News reported.

The exposure of the medical record caused outrage among many netizens, who expressed their anger: "She has already passed away, and her privacy is being exposed in such a naked manner!" "This is so unethical!" "It disrespects the privacy of the deceased!"

Some netizens asked who could have released the medical record and queried whether it violated laws and regulations.

"I didn't look at it. I hope the relevant medical department will investigate the case. This is a violation of patient privacy," one netizen wrote.

China's top health authority issued a special action plan for patient safety (2023-25) in September, emphasizing the importance of information security and prevention of data leakage, destruction, and loss. It is strictly prohibited for anyone to provide patient diagnosis and treatment information to others or other institutions without authorization.

Chow was a highly talented actress noted for many iconic roles throughout her acting career. The roles that are unforgettable for the post-80s generation include her portrayal of Zhou Zhiruo, one of the lead characters in the wuxia novel The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, by famous Chinese martial arts novelist Louis Cha Leung-yung, more widely known by his pen name Jin Yong.

Chow's talent and dedication to her career made her a respected figure in the industry, and her most famous roles are still cherished by her fans. Chow's passing has been a trending topic on Sina Weibo since Tuesday, with fans and netizens expressing their shock and sadness over her sudden death. Many shared their favorite memories of the actress. Chow's Weibo account has nearly 1 million fans.

Various actors, including her ex-husband Raymond Lui Leung-wai, also paid tribute to her. "I can't calm down for a long time after hearing this news. Thank you for bringing so much beauty to the world. May you continue to laugh in another world," Lui wrote via Weibo.

Temperatures plunge to historic lows as severe cold fronts impact most of China

Severe cold fronts have extended their grip over the majority of China, sending temperatures plunging below freezing and breaking historic extreme low records in multiple places, prompting authorities to deploy preventive arrangements to deal with possible extreme situations.

While experts reminded the public to take preventive measures to protect themselves as well as livestock as some places recorded temperatures below -40 C, they also assured the public there was no need to panic since China has strong capability to cope with extreme weather emergencies.

The past weekend was the coldest in the latter part of the year for a vast area of the country, with 23 provincial capital cities seeing record low temperatures since November, according to

The temperature difference between the highs and lows recorded at meteorological stations across China reached 76 C on Saturday, with the highest temperature of 31.8 C recorded in Baoting in South China's Hainan Province and the lowest of -44.2 C recorded in Tulihe township of Yakeshi city in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

A total of 30 national-level meteorological stations in multiple provinces and cities such as Hebei, Shanxi, Beijing, Tianjin and Liaoning, recorded historic extreme low temperatures for December on Sunday morning, with five stations in Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning seeing new records since their establishment.

On Sunday, China's capital Beijing also suffered the coldest day of the winter season at -15.5 C. It was the third lowest temperature for the period since 1951, when China started collecting complete and continuous meteorological observation data.

As of 8 am in Beijing, 14 of 20 national meteorological stations saw new records for extreme low temperatures for mid-December.

Over the past few days, snowfalls have swept through the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest desert, in the Tarim Basin in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, covering the sand dunes under a "white coat."

Temperatures in some places in South China's Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region plunged 12 to 16 C in one day, leading to freezing rain and roads.

Affected by heavy snow, on Thursday evening, a subway train along the Changping Line in Beijing collided with the rear of a preceding train that had made an emergency stop, resulting in a separation of carriages, according to the preliminary investigation into the accident. A total of 102 people suffered fractures with no fatalities, authorities said on Friday.

In the wake of the accident, the national commission for disaster prevention, reduction and relief in a notification on Sunday urged authorities to strengthen patrols and control of key road sections, inspections of subways, overpasses, underpasses, and roads prone to freezing and accidents to effectively prevent accidents.

Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said that these cold waves have caused a vast area of snowfall, which will have a huge impact on the buildings, traffic and other infrastructure facilities that may affect the normal production and life orders in cities. Besides this, the snow can reflect sunlight and further slower warming during the day.

Especially in areas with extreme cold weather, such as in Inner Mongolia and Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province where temperatures below -40 C have been recorded, great caution should be taken to keep people and livestock warm and prevent damage from freezing, Ma told the Global Times on Sunday.

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing, who is also director of the national commission for disaster prevention, reduction and relief, has required related departments to hold "red-line thinking" and "extreme thinking" to address possible extreme situations.

In a separate notification on Sunday, the commission called for all-out effort to be deployed to prevent and respond to low-temperature, rain, snow and freezing disasters. It emphasized that departments should establish complete emergency command systems to combat extreme weather, strengthen monitoring, warning, and analysis of weather patterns.

The commission said that there is an emergency dispatching mechanism for various energy sources to complement each other and carry out cross-provincial and cross-regional energy dispatching to ensure a steady and orderly supply and demand of energy across the country.

While the impact of this round of cold fronts has basically concluded, a new wave is predicted to sweep from the north toward the south from Monday to Wednesday that will affect the middle and eastern parts of the country, keeping the temperatures in the majority of the country at low levels next week, according to the China's National Meteorological Center (NMC).

It is expected that the lowest temperatures in Beijing will remain below -14 C through Thursday and that temperatures will remain below freezing throughout the following two weeks.

In Northeast China's Jilin Province, it is expected that temperatures in the eastern part of the province, the majority of Tonghua city, Baishan city, and Changbai Mountain National Nature Reserve will drop to -32 C, with some parts in the province even dropping to -35 C on Sunday and Monday.

Besides snow storms, the NMC has also forecast rainfall in multiple places, including the northern part of the Xinjiang region, the Jianghuai and Jiangnan regions and southern China.