Multinationals up investment in China

Multinational companies are scaling up investment in China despite the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating their confidence in the Chinese economy and its huge market potential, while improving the business environment.

A staff member introduces BSH products at the company’s R&D center. (People’s Daily Overseas Edition/Qiu Haifeng)

Construction of a warehouse store of U.S. retail giant Costco is in full swing in the Suzhou New District, east China’s Jiangsu province. With a total investment of about 1.27 billion yuan (about $189 million) and a floor area of over 50,000 square meters, the store is expected to be open to the public by the end of next year.

In February, the retail giant announced the start of the construction of its second store on the Chinese mainland with a total investment of 2.6 billion yuan. At the end of July, Costco established its subsidiary with a registered capital of $160 million in Hangzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province.

Costco is one of many multinationals that are stepping up making investments in China. Foreign investment has gradually stabilized in China, posting better-than-expected growth, despite the fact that global cross-border direct investment declined significantly this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Meng Wei, deputy director of the Policy Research Office of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

In dollar terms the country’s actual use of foreign capital increased by 2.5 percent year-on-year to 103.3 billion during the January to September period, Meng said, adding that a number of major foreign projects have been implemented in an orderly manner.

For example, German chemical giant BASF’s new integrated petrochemicals project in Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong province, has completed the pile foundation construction for the first batch of equipment.

Several multinational companies have also picked up the pace in their deployment of regional headquarters and R&D centers in China.

BSH Home Appliances Group from Germany opened its largest global R&D center in China at the end of September. With a total investment of about 400 million yuan, the center is expected to have about 1,000 R&D personnel by 2025. So far, the group has five subsidiaries in China.

BSH Home Appliances has always put consumers first and satisfied the diverse needs of Chinese consumers with high-quality products, as evidenced by the launch of the center in China, said Lars Schubert, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Greater China of BSH Home Appliances Group.

Some multinational companies have also announced their new investment plans in China. French energy management and automation firm Schneider Electric has announced its new investment in such cities as Xiamen, Beijing and Xi’an this year.

The company’s investment in new projects was mainly determined by its optimism about the Chinese market and the development prospects of the country’s digital economy, said Yin Zheng, president of Schneider Electric China.

Noting that China has become Schneider Electric’s second-largest market in the world, Yin added that the company would expand R&D and build advanced production lines in the next three to five years to produce a new generation of digital green electrical products.

Multinational pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) opened its digital lab and external innovation hub in Shanghai this year.

Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of the company’s China branch, said BI plans to invest 451 million euros (about $534.3 million) in China over the next five years.

China will create a better environment for foreign investment. “We will let more foreign companies enjoy opportunities in the Chinese market,” said vice commerce minister Wang Shouwen, explaining that the Ministry of Commerce is working faster to significantly increase items on the industry catalogue that encourage foreign investment and help foreign-funded firms to receive benefits from preferential policies.

‘Cliff village’ in SW China rid of poverty

Residents of the “cliff village” live on slope area near ridge lines and depend on cultivation and animal husbandry for livelihood. They have been secluded from the world for generations. (People’s Daily Online/ Rao Guojun)

A fleet of tandem trucks carrying wind turbine blades moved slowly along a winding mountain road from Xichang, capital of Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture of southwest China’s Sichuan province, to Zhaojue county of the prefecture.

With one ends of the blades being fixed to hydraulic mechanism on the trucks and the other ends pointing to the sky, these blades, which were more than 40 meters long, rotated as the trucks inched forward and created quite a spectacle as they deftly avoided obstacles and trees along the road.

Abu, a driver of the Yi ethnic group, has long been familiar with such scenes.

In recent years, Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, which has been known for its high mountains and precipitous mountain paths, has gradually got access to tap water, electricity, roads, and the Internet.

Impressive spectacles of engineering are easily seen in the prefecture as many facilities that used to be unimaginable to the local people have become an indispensable part of their everyday lives since they bid farewell to poverty.

The experience of Atulieer village in Zhiermo township of Zhaojue county is the best example of the great changes in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture. In recent years, the village has witnessed how people walked an unusual path out of poverty and shifted from rattan ladders to steel ladders and then stairs.

According to local villagers, their ancestors migrated to the village as they found the place has pleasant climate and a natural environment suitable for living, farming, and raising livestock, and that the mountain paths, though steep, can help protect them from banditry and wars.

A special group of people have since lived a confined and self-sufficient life in the village for six or seven generations.

As times change, the “land of idyllic beauty” in the eyes of their ancestors gradually became a barrier blocking people’s expectations of a better life.

With an elevation drop of about 800 meters between the village and the bottom of the cliff it is located atop, Atulieer village is called “cliff village”.

In the past, when there were no roads, Internet, or stable power supply in the village, local people lived in adobe houses and relied on the weather for food. Besides, the only access from Atulieer village to the outside world was slippery rattan ladders, which made it extremely difficult for villagers to deliver goods and materials to the village or even get out of the village.

During the annual meetings of China’s top legislature and its top political advisory body, or the “two sessions” in 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid special attention to the newly-built steel ladders in the “cliff village” at the deliberation of Sichuan delegation.

The new path is made of welded steel tubes and consists of a total of 2,556 steps. It is 2.8 kilometers long and 1.5 meters wide. With steel tubes penetrating deep into the rock wall, and every joint firmly welded, the steel ladders can remain absolutely still in strong winds.

Thanks to the steel ladders, the road up and down the mountain has become much easier. In less than a year, the village got access to electricity, the Internet, and 4G signals, and enjoyed closer ties with the outside world.

As more and more people came to the “cliff village” to experience the steel ladders and visit the village atop a cliff, Atulieer village has seen rapid growth in its tourism revenue.

In 2019, the “cliff village” received nearly 100,000 person-times of tourists, generating an income of nearly 1 million yuan (about $148,900) for villagers.

In May 2020, 84 households of the “cliff village” were gradually relocated to houses with stairs at a poverty-relief resettlement site. The resettlement caught the attention of foreign media.

For villagers of Atulieer village, life surrounded by the clouds is over, said an article published on CNN.

The resettlement site is at Nanping community near the central area of Zhaojue county. The new houses are spacious and bright, while the community is clean and tidy. In addition, the community also holds popular cultural and sports activities for villagers on a regular basis.

The resettlement site is equipped with public services facilities including kindergarten, school, and hospital. Instead of climbing rattan ladders, children in Atulieer village can now play at the playground of the community after school.

Being not afraid of heights and good at climbing used to be the special gift that people of Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture were proud of, said an Internet user of the prefecture, adding that although children of the area who now live in urban areas probably won’t inherit the gift, he feels happy for them.

Yi people in the prefecture also have other gifts: hospitality and being good at singing and dancing. They are natural tour guides and travelling companions.

Based on two-way choice, about 30 households of Atulieer village decided to stay in their old village on the cliff and take part in the development of tourism projects after all the other families move to the new resettlement site.

In the future, the “cliff village” will have cable cars and “cliff-style” homestay hotels, offering unique tourism experiences for visitors while serving as an open-air museum that demonstrates China’s achievements in fighting poverty.

With the further development of the “cliff village”, more villagers will enjoy the benefits of tourism industry.

Moreover, thanks to a variety of favorable policies, villagers of Atulieer village have started to speak Mandarin Chinese, learn new skills, and take part in various work in the development of infrastructure, services, and poverty relief industries in the village.

After bidding farewell to agricultural economy, the “cliff village” enjoyed leapfrog development and gradually caught up with the modern lifestyle, making steady progress in ensuring care for the elderly, employment for labor force, and education for children.

Today, the once isolated “cliff village” is welcoming visitors and moving toward a bright future with unique charm.

Rural tourism booms in China

China has seen faster development of its rural tourism sector in recent years, offering travelers more programs and services.

A tourist picks fruits in an orchard in Shengzhou, east China’s Zhejiang province. (Photo/Xinhua)

Last year, the total number of trips to rural areas in China was 3.1 billion, up 9.7 percent year-on-year, accounting for more than half of the total domestic trips, and the total revenue of rural tourism was 1.8 trillion yuan, an increase of 11.3 percent year-on-year, according to monitoring data from the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT). Employees in the rural tourism sector accounted for 34.3 percent of the total number of employees at the sites monitored.

One typical example is Shimen Shanzhuang village in Qufu, east China’s Shandong province. As a national key village for rural tourism, it has vigorously developed rural tourism to boost rural vitalization, yielding fruitful results. Now the village receives over 400,000 tourists each year, with total revenue of 4 million yuan (about $595,717), which means an annual per capita net income of 11,000 yuan. It also creates jobs for more than 860 people each year.

China has also witnessed continuous improvement in the development quality of the sector. The MCT’s data show that 91.9 percent of the sites monitored set up waste collection points and the penetration rate of flush toilets reached 72.5 percent. Meanwhile, over 90 percent of rural tourism operators at the sites monitored had access to wireless networks.

So far, the country’s rural tourism has taken the lead in boosting the recovery of the tourism market amid the COVID-19 epidemic.

By the end of August, about 94.5 percent of the businesses in rural tourism had returned to operation, according to the MCT. In the second quarter, revenue from rural tourism increased by 148.8 percent month-on-month. The number of tourists and the total income of rural tourism in July and August basically reached the level of the same period last year.

Rural tourism has also offered visitors more products and services, including agritainment, unique natural sceneries, local conditions, folk customs, distinctive B&B hotels, parent-child trips, and nighttime tourism activities, to meet the diversified travel demand of the tourists.

To implement the country’s rural vitalization strategy and boost the further development of rural tourism, the MCT has recently made public a list of 680 key villages for promoting rural tourism.

The development of China’s tourism market and consumption upgrading means that the country’s rural tourism sector still has great potential to be tapped, said Wu Ruoshan, a researcher at the tourism research center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The country should fully leverage natural and cultural resources in rural areas and combine local customs, fine traditional rural culture, and modern tourism needs to offer more products and services in the rural tourism market, unleashing new impetus for growth, Wu added.

Domestic brands popular with the youth

China’s home-grown brands incorporating Chinese traditional style and culture have become increasingly popular among young consumers, as these brands are not only known for their high-cost performance, but have become a leader in quality and trend.

Models present creations by China’s sportswear brand Li Ning at New York Fashion Week. (Photo/Xinhua)

The country’s fast-fashion brand Peacebird launched its collection with Disney’s established film Mulan, blending new elements with a modern take on traditional Chinese fashion, which quickly went viral.

In the past, the brand has frequently collaborated with established brands, such as the potato chip brand Lay’s and Sesame Street, drawing a great deal of attention on social media.

While many young Chinese thought the brand’s clothes were too formal several years ago, post-95s surnamed Li said, “I felt that the brand is not suitable for young people.” Yet after recently discovering that the brand has launched many good-looking and trendy clothes, Li bought a T-shirt from the brand’s Coca-Cola collection.

Like Peacebird, many time-honored Chinese brands have taken the initiative to launch bold transformations and rejuvenate their brands by introducing new concepts, techniques and models.

With the emergence of new Chinese brands, GENANX launched a T-shirt this past spring which has been purchased over 100,000 times on the Shanghai-based trendy-lifestyle platform DEWU App. China’s beverage brand Genki Forest, which produces an eponymous brand of sugar-free and low-calorie drinks, has become a real hit over the four years since its launch, while the official account of cosmetic brand Perfect Diary has gathered more than 25 million followers, racking up more than 1 billion views each month.

According to a recent report on Chinese brands issued by AliResearch, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s research arm, over 80 percent of products consumed by the Chinese population on the company’s Tmall store in 2019 were manufactured by domestic brands. Data also indicates that 173 of China’s home-grown brands reported a sales volume of over 100 million yuan ($15 million) during last year’s “Double 11” online shopping festival, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the total revenue.

While some domestic brands evoke feelings of nostalgia, others ignite young consumers’ sense of cultural identity and national pride.

To appeal to more young consumers, many domestic brands not only cater to their aesthetics and needs in product design, but also actively explore new forms of business such as new retail and live-streaming e-commerce to advertise their products.

On June 7, GOME, one of the largest electrical appliance retail outlets in China, and CCTV.com held a live-streaming session for Chinese products, which was viewed by roughly 10 million people, selling products worth a total of 720 million yuan (over $100,000).

Experts say that the trend is not only due to the rise of China’s manufacturing sector and Chinese brands but also consumers’ pride in the nation. The rise of these brands is also attributable to the upgrading of the country’s manufacturing sector, Chinese people’s increased consumption capacity and confidence in Chinese culture, as well as joint efforts of the government, media and companies.

China’s Tibet eradicates absolute poverty

A tourist poses for a picture in front of the Potala Palace with a 50-yuan Chinese bank note on which the palace is printed, July 2. (People’s Daily Online/Wang Jianfeng)

China’s Tibet Autonomous Region has accomplished the historical feat of eradicating absolute poverty, said a recent press conference held by the country’s State Council Information Office.

The press conference, introducing the poverty alleviation efforts of the autonomous region, also briefed the policies of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on governing Tibet for the new era.

As of the end of 2019, Tibet has removed all of its impoverished counties from the poverty list, and lifted all of the 628,000 registered impoverished residents out of poverty, reducing poverty incidence to zero. The annual net income of poverty-stricken residents increased from 1,499 yuan ($226) in 2015 to 9,328 yuan in 2019, and over 99 percent of the residents were satisfied with the autonomous region’s poverty alleviation work.

Due to natural conditions and historical reasons, Tibet autonomous region was once an extremely impoverished area with the highest poverty headcount ratio, the highest cost for poverty alleviation, and the highest difficulty of poverty alleviation.

As of the end of 2015, all of the autonomous region’s 74 counties were impoverished, with an impoverished population of 590,000, leading to poverty incidence of 25.32 percent.

The CPC Central Committee has always attached great importance to the work related to Tibet, and cared about the people of all ethnic groups in the autonomous region. Since China’s reform and opening-up, the CPC Central Committee has convened seven central symposiums on work related to Tibet, aiming to promote the development of the region by issuing specially tailored measures and policies based on its actual conditions.

In recent years, Tibet has taken overall planning of economic and social development by eradicating poverty, and issued over 70 documents related to policies about poverty-alleviation after analyzing the reasons of poverty incidence.

China has adopted multiple measures of poverty reduction for Tibet, including developing featured industries, launching poverty alleviation relocation, promoting education and employment, implementing guaranteeing policies, and offering assistance to the autonomous region.

Since 2016, Tibet has invested a total of 39.89 billion yuan to implement 2,984 poverty alleviation projects, which lifted 238,000 people out of poverty and benefited 840,000 residents. The autonomous regions has completed building 965 poverty alleviation relocation sites, offering housing for 266,000 people. Over 90 percent of college graduates are employed, and 176,300 people from impoverished families have received training. Besides, 340,500 people in the autonomous region have secured a job other areas. All of the 110,000 impoverished residents in the region receive minimal living allowances, and 193,000 officials were sent to villages in 9 batches for poverty alleviation. In addition, 313 projects have been implemented to aid the autonomous region, with paid-in capital of 19.52 billion yuan.

Spillover effects of CIIE expand

Photo taken on July 25 shows the festive decorations outside the venue for the 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. (People’s Daily Online/Yan Daming)

As more companies get ready for the debut of their products, services, and technologies at the upcoming 3rd China International Import Expo (CIIE) scheduled to kick off on Nov. 5, the spillover effects of the event continue expanding.

Exhibits at the previous expos are becoming commodities, exhibitors are turning into investors and a great number of outcomes are implemented at a faster pace.

In January, a new-generation cardiac cryoablation catheter exhibited by Medtronic, a medical technology and services company headquartered in Ireland, at the 2nd CIIE was successfully used in the surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation for the first time in Boao Super Hospital in south China’s Hainan province with the help of the green channel of Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone in Hainan.

At the 1st CIIE, Medtronic showcased its star product—the smallest pacemaker, Micra. A month later, the product was placed inside the body of a patient in China for the first time.

Since it was officially launched into the market during the 2nd CIIE, Micra has been implanted into the chests of more than 500 patients. The second-generation Micra, dual-chamber pacemaker, is going to be exhibited at the 3rd CIIE.

According to Alex Gu, Medtronic’s senior vice president and president of Medtronic Greater China, before they took part in the 1st CIIE, they weren’t quite sure of what the expo was, and when the 2nd CIIE started to enroll participants, they raced to sign up for it.

The company is going to search the bottom of its treasure chest for the best and latest products to send to the 3rd CIIE, Gu said.

What the CIIE has brought to Medtronic are not only rocketing number of orders and the opportunity to get better understanding of clients in third-and fourth-tier cities, but also a good reputation that the company didn’t quite acquire in 30 years since it entered the Chinese market, according to Gu.

The CIIE has become an indispensable platform for Medtronic’s development and cooperation with Chinese partners, Gu noted.

The contracted area of the registered enterprises for the 3rd CIIE has exceeded the planned area, and the number of Fortune Global 500 companies and industry leaders that have signed up for the upcoming event has reached the level of the previous expos, according to the China International Import Expo Bureau.

Most of the world’s well-known top ten enterprises in such industries as pharmaceutical, medical device, high-end consumer goods, and automobile have registered for the event, with dozens of enterprises applying to take part in the expo in the next three consecutive years, said the bureau.

In February, the Estee Lauder Companies Inc. announced that it would invest in China to build a world-class research and development center. The group’s net sales in the Chinese market returned to double-digit growth in March.

Over the past 27 years since its entry into the Chinese market, China has become the most important international market for Estee Lauder, said Joy Fan, president of the Estee Lauder Companies China.

The holding of the CIIE as scheduled is a vivid demonstration of China’s success in becoming the first country in the world to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control and the general trend of the Chinese economy towards long-term growth, said Fan, adding that the company is optimistic about China’s development prospects.

Estee Lauder is ramping up efforts to prepare for the 3rd CIIE. In addition to expanding its exhibition area by about 100 square meters and bringing its 14 brands to the expo, the group is going to unveil multiple high-end products at the 3rd CIIE for the first time in the world.

Multinational pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) recently announced in Shanghai that it planned to add 451 million euros (about $534.3 million) into its investment in China to speed up research, development and innovation in the next five years.

The next decade is expected to witness the approval of 71 new products of the company in China, according to BI.

According to Felix Gutsche, president and CEO of Boehringer Ingelheim Greater China, during the 2nd CIIE, the company not only received high-value tentative deals on the purchase of drugs, but saw the approval process of multiple innovative drugs in China further accelerated.

In the end of 2019, Baize’an, a new anticancer drug jointly developed by BI and Chinese biotechnology company BeiGene, was approved to market, becoming the first innovative biological drug that was licensed in China through the model of sub-contract production.

This year, BI opened a branch of its digital lab BI X and its External Innovation Hub China in Shanghai to fully incorporate China into its global early clinical development programs and accelerate the entry of new drugs into China.

The European Commission approved an additional indication for the company’s product nintedanib in adults for the treatment of other chronic fibrosing interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) with a progressive phenotype beyond idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in July. Only a month and a half later, the indication was approved in China.

China is not only an important production base and consumer market, but also a source of global innovations in the future, Gutsche said.

When China raises the curtain for the grand event featuring the country’s higher-level opening up and efforts to promote cooperation and win-win results for the international community in the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, guests and exhibitors from all over the world will witness one more time how the country is determined to open its doors wider to the rest of the world.

TCM brings China and Ukraine closer

Former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, called on countries to value traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and apply it in the cause of health for mankind in a recent interview.

In August this year, Tymoshenko was diagnosed with COVID-19 and at one point was in critical condition. After hearing the news, the Chinese embassy in Ukraine not only sent her traditional medicines, but also contacted a TCM doctor named Cai Chuanqing to provide telemedicine services for her.

“I once falsely thought of the novel coronavirus as flu, and it was when the virus actually happened to my family and myself that I finally realized how serious it is,” she said.

“At the most difficult time, Chinese friends offered their help, which meant a lot to me,” she added.

After more than two weeks of emergency treatment, Tymoshenko recovered and later repeatedly expressed her gratitude to Cai via video and email. “TCM has played an important role in helping my family and me recover,” she said.

China is promoting TCM to the world under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which will benefit countries along the route, according to Tymoshenko, who added that she will actively facilitate the establishment of a TCM research and treatment center in Ukraine, and contribute to deepening the cooperation between Ukraine and China in this field.

TCM is very popular among the Ukrainian people. Doctors who have studied TCM are trusted in the country, and TCM has been used in clinical treatment in Ukraine, according to an associate professor of acupuncture and moxibustion at the Ukraine National Medical University and executive of the Qihuang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ukraine.

In October 2013, the Gansu University of Chinese Medicine in northwest China’s Gansu province and Ukraine National Medical University jointly established the Qihuang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ukraine to promote TCM culture and knowledge.

From 2013 to 2018, five batches of 55 trainees from Ukraine studied basic knowledge of TCM in Gansu.

Gansu boasts rich resources of TCM materials, a profound TCM culture, and a sound foundation for the development of Chinese medicine, said Yuan Ying, head of the foreign exchange and cooperation office at the health commission of Gansu province.

The province has carried out extensive and in-depth cooperation with Ukraine over the past five years, contributing to the promotion of the development of culture, medicine and friendship between the two countries, Yuan added.

China sees great progress in medical care

China has made substantial progress in medical care from 2016 to 2020, the period covered by the 13th Five-Year Plan. By the end of 2019, the country had over one million medical institutions. The number of licensed practitioners and assistant practitioners topped 3.86 million, up by 33.7 percent compared to 2014.

A medical worker at a health center in Zhili town, Wuxing district, Huzhou city, east China’s Zhejiang province, teaches children at Zhibei Kindergarten how to wash their hands, Sept. 24, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

To better meet the needs of the people, the country has made remarkable improvements in its medical technologies and quality, and made continuous efforts to build a high-quality and effective medical service system since 2016, laying a solid foundation for the implementation of the Healthy China initiative.

Guo Yanhong, an official of the National Health Commission, explained that the most notable achievement in the past four years has been the increase in medical resources. As the number of medical institutions grows, more patients have been able to seek medical services. In 2019 alone, there were 8.7 billion visits to medical institutions across the country, up by 14.7 percent in 2014.

Guo added that fields that have had weak numbers such as paediatrics and obstetrics have been strengthened. Last year, there were 2.2 hospital beds per 1,000 children, an increase of 0.17 on the figure in 2015.

In terms of human resources, compared to the growth in number of licensed practitioners and assistant practitioners, the scale of registered nurses has expanded more rapidly. The figure now totals 4.45 million, an increase of nearly 50 percent from that of 2014, according to Guo.

Moreover, the country has improved the efficiency, quality and safety of its medical services, and used drugs more rationally and scientifically, with the proportion of inpatients using antibacterial drugs dropping from 61.4 percent in 2011 to 40.4 percent in 2018, Guo revealed.

Going forward, the country will continue to expand its medical resources, and address the disparity in medical resources between developed and underdeveloped areas.

Over 80 percent Chinese speak Mandarin

Bamboo slips printed with a poem are tied to a tree on a street of Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu Province on April 10, 2019. (People’s Daily Online/Wang Luxian)

At present, about 80.72 percent of China’s population speak Mandarin, and more than 95 percent of the literate population can use standardized Chinese characters.

The illiterate population accounted for over 80 percent when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was just founded, but now the proportion has been reduced to less than 4 percent. The language barriers hindering the communication among Chinese ethnic groups have almost been removed.

Since the founding of the PRC, the country has greatly advanced its popularization of standard Chinese language, which tremendously promoted the construction of national economy, as well as the development of education, science and culture. It played an irreplaceable role in upholding national unity and ethnic solidarity, improving the well-rounded development of the people, and enhancing the moral and ethical standards of the society.

To vigorously promote and popularize the standard spoken and written Chinese language is the core task of the language affairs in the new era. In recent years, China has made further efforts to promote Mandarin in rural areas, remote areas and ethnic-minority areas. The country enhanced bi-lingual education and training in ethnic-minority areas and rolled diversified measures to popularize Mandarin. These efforts yielded rich results, and have greatly improved the popularity of standard spoken and written Chinese language in ethnic minority areas.

“Mandarin is a ‘road’ for me, on which I can communicate with more people and thus improve my livelihood,” said Yu Wulin, a farmer from Fugong county, Nujiang Lisu autonomous prefecture in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province. “Using Mandarin helps me better understand the outside world, achieve better development and enjoy a better life,” said Sonam Rinchen, an education worker from Gegye county, Ngari prefecture, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

At present, the popularization of Mandarin is gaining speed in areas of extreme poverty, resulting in a constantly reducing number of impoverished residents unable to speak Mandarin, especially among the young laborers. Besides, the impoverished residents now have better communication capabilities in Mandarin, and stronger willingness to work or start businesses.

To inherit and promote the excellent language culture of the Chinese nation is a new measure of the language affairs in the new era, which is demonstrated by a series of data and projects in recent years.

The country launched a national Chinese classics recitation project, held Chinese classics contest, and distributed Chinese classics to grassroots units. The country gathered nearly 400 episodes of video resources about Chinese classics totaling 12,000 minutes, and organized online and in-person training sessions for over 10,000 teachers for recitation Chinese classics.

Language and cultural TV shows such as the Chinese Poetry Conference have been watched by over 3 billion times. In addition, China has initiated a protection program for Chinese language resources that collected and sorted Chinese dialects and minority languages in about 1,700 regions across the country.

China also built the world’s largest language source base that gathers 123 languages and over 10 million pieces of data about Chinese dialects. It launched a project to spread key concepts in Chinese thought and culture worldwide, and started studies on Chinese oracle bone inscriptions. As a result, the Chinese oracle bone inscriptions have been included on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Last year, the country commemorated the 120th anniversary of the discovery of oracle bone inscriptions with a series of high-profile events.

Meanwhile, China is continuously enhancing language and cultural communication and cooperation. The Putonghua (Mandarin) Proficiency Test, after being implemented for over 20 years, has been participated by more than 120,000 people, training more than 1,000 Mandarin teachers for Hong Kong and Macao. China and its Taiwan province have launched cooperation to compile Chinese reference books since 2010. So far, nearly 10 dictionaries have been published, and a website about Chinese language has been launched.

In 2014, Suzhou Consensus was reached at the International Conference on Language. Four years later, the International Conference “Role of linguistic diversity in building a global community with shared future: protection, access and promotion of language resources” kicked off, during which the “Yuelu Proclamation” was adopted.

As of the end of 2019, over 60 countries have incorporated Chinese language in their national education system, and more than 80,000 schools have been offering Chinese language courses for over 25 million students. There are around 110 million people studying and using Chinese language outside China.

Calendars scratch heads to seize market

As paper calendars have lost popularity, many people are turning to digital calendars on smartphones, with creative calendars featuring novel designs and Chinese cultural elements regaining popularity in China in recent years.

With the year 2021 approaching, several types of creative calendars have already hit the market.

A calendar themed on traditional Chinese poems features paintings of blooming flowers. (Photo/Liang Yuan)

The Palace Museum’s themed calendar for the next year features 365 collections of different types from various dynasties, specifically exhibiting Chinese farming culture.

The National Museum of China selected 365 collections from its over 1.4 million treasures, arranging them in chronological order for the themed calendar of 2021, using fonts originating from traditional Chinese calligraphy.

Both themed calendars of the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China introduce knowledge about China’s cultural relics, sharing cultural information along with historical dates.

Another popular calendar themed on select traditional Chinese poems in both Chinese and English, with the English versions translated by distinguished Chinese literature translator Xu Yuanchong, features works from an album of flower paintings by Italian painter Giuseppe Castiglione.

File photo: a page of the Palace Museum’s themed calendar for the year 2021. (Photo/Courtesy of the Palace Museum)

“The choice of a theme for a creative calendar is very important, requiring painstaking effort and relatively high production cost,” said Liang Yuan, an editor at the China Intercontinental Press.

The popularity of creative calendars also reflects a change in people’s consumption as they focus more on design, which is reflected in how delicate calendars will generally sell well despite their high price, Liang added.

According to data from an e-commerce platform, the latest calendar of the National Museum of China comes to the cost of 99 yuan (almost $15), while the price of the Palace Museum’s stands at 76 yuan (about $11).