Chang'e-6 spacecraft components arrive in Hainan; launch of lunar mission set in first half of 2024

Spacecraft components of China's Chang'e-6 lunar mission have arrived at Hainan Meilan International Airport aboard the An-124 and Y-20 transport aircraft successively on Monday and Tuesday before they were then transported by road to the Wenchang Space Launch Site, Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on Wednesday.

According to the CNSA, the latest development marks a significant step for the fourth phase of the lunar exploration program, with pre-launch testing preparations underway.

The launch site facilities are currently in good condition, with all preparations progressing smoothly according to plan. Chang'e-6 is scheduled for launch in the first half of this year, said the CNSA.

The Chang'e-6 mission aims to break new ground in lunar retrograde orbit design and control, intelligent sampling on the moon's far side, and ascent from the lunar surface. It will conduct an automated sample return from the moon's far side, along with scientific exploration of the landing area and international collaboration, according to the CNSA.

Wu Weiren, chief designer of China's lunar exploration program, has previously revealed that Stage 4 Chang'e lunar probe missions - the Chang'e-6, -7 and -8 - will carry out new planetary exploration missions and further upgrade the country's space launch capabilities in the next 15 years.

According to Wu, who is also the chief scientist and director of China's Deep Space Exploration Laboratory (DSEL), the Chang'e-6, to be launched in the first half year of 2024, will attempt to achieve the world's first lunar sample return from the dark side of the moon.

The scale of such samples retrieved from the moon would be around 2,000 grams. The epic Chang'e-5 mission retrieved 1,731 grams.

To enhance international cooperation, Chang'e-6 will carry payloads and satellite projects from countries and institutes including France, the European Space Agency, Italy and Pakistan.

The Chang'e-7 mission, set for 2026, aims to land on the moon's south pole and carry out lunar resource and environment surveys in the area. Besides that, the Chang'e-8 will verify new technology that makes use of lunar resources.

Wu said that China plans to achieve a manned moon landing around 2030.

China's Wednesday update on its fruitful lunar probe series, Chang'e, named after the Moon Goddess in Chinese mythology, came within the same week that US private firm Astrobotic Technology said its NASA-backed spacecraft's attempt to be the first US lander to reach the moon in more than 50 years had "no chance" of touching down on the lunar surface due to an apparent issue with the vehicle's propulsion system.

NASA on Tuesday also announced that it was delaying the mission for US astronauts to travel to the moon by about one year. Artemis III, originally targeted for late 2025, is now set for September 2026, and even that time frame is "very aggressive," the agency said.

Chinese authorities summon three express courier companies for talks

Chinese authorities on Thursday summoned three express courier companies, including YTO Express (Logistics) Co and Yunda Holding Co in Shanghai and Beijing-based JD Logistics, for administrative talks, which are suspected of providing consignment of firecrackers that breach government rules.

According to the official WeChat account of the State Post Bureau (SPB), the enterprises subject to inspection were suspected of posing serious security threats to both individuals and the public by delivering parcels of fireworks and firecrackers inappropriately.

In addition, some employees were found to be lacking in workplace discipline and safety awareness when collecting, receiving and inspecting the parcels.

The companies were required to fully and faithfully put the safety of the delivery process as  their first priority, uphold and act on the principle of seeking development in a safe manner, and putting the interests of the people above all else.

In the face of concerns over air pollution and out of other safety concerns, firework bans have been imposed by many local governments in China, and holiday fireworks activities have therefore been strictly restricted before the New Year’s Eve in 2023, according to

The authorities include Department of Market Supervision & Inspection of the State Post Bureau (SPB), the Ministry of Emergency Management (MEM) and relevant department of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

Why Pentagon has trouble taming its wild V-22 Osprey

The US military has grounded its entire fleet of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft after a deadly crash off Japan last week. Sputnik spoke to veteran Russian combat aircraft pilot Vladimir Popov to get a better sense of the problems associated with the fledgling technology, and why the US refuses to just close the Osprey program down.

A US Air Force Special Operations CV-22B Osprey flying from Yokota Air Base in Tokyo to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on Okinawa went down over the East China Sea on November 29, killing all eight airmen onboard.

The crash was at least the 40th accident involving an Osprey since the aircraft's introduction into service with the US military in 2007, with crashes killing at least 53 US service members to date.

The Osprey program is the realization of an idea going back over a century ago of a tiltrotor, also known as a convertiplane - an aircraft with the ability to take off and land vertically using helicopter-style rotors attached to its wings, and which can adjust them during flight to a something closer to an airplane turboprop engine-style configuration. This dramatically increases the convertiplane's speed characteristics relative to those of an ordinary helicopter (up to doubling them).

The United States, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Britain were the first countries to begin experimenting with tiltrotor designs, with each country building prototypes from the 1930s into the early post-war period before concluding the technology was too revolutionary to be implemented effectively using equipment and materials that existed at the time.

The USSR began work on a modern-day iteration of the convertiplane in the 1970s with the Mil Mi-30 Vintoplan (lit. 'Rotorplane') project, which featured an airplane-style fuselage design and characteristics allowing it to carry up to 32 people or up to five tons of cargo. The project, envisioned as a prospective replacement for the Soviet and Russian rugged Mi-8 workhorse series fleet of helicopters, was abandoned in the mid-1990s due to lack of funding after the USSR's collapse.
The Osprey project, designed by Bell and Boeing in the 1980s and first flown in March 1989, entered mass production in 2007, and has since been introduced into service with the US Marines Corps, Air Force, Navy, and Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force. The aircraft can carry up to 24 combat troops or nine tons of cargo. The V-22 is the only convertiplane to be mass produced by any nation, with over 400 built to date.

But as often happens with complex, innovative engineering designs, the glory of having the first fully operational, mass-produced convertiplane is also a heavy burden to bear, with the United States military not only reveling in the Osprey's advantages, but suffering from its flaws, with the V-22 suffering dozens of crashes and at least 16 hull losses to date.

Last week's crash in the East China Sea was the fourth fatal incident involving a V-22 in less than two years, and follows the August 2023 Marine MV-22B crash on Melville Island, Australia during an exercise, killing three service members, the June 2022 crash of a Marine MV-22B in California, killing five troops, and an MV-22B crash in Beiarn, Norway in March 2022, which killed another four Marines.

Investigations into the latest incidents have pointed to technical problems (including a drive system failure caused by a malfunctioning gearbox in the case of the June 2022 incident in California), and pilot error in the case of the March 2022 crash in Norway.

Investigators are yet to offer details on what may have caused the November 29 CV-22B crash off Japan, although eyewitnesses have reported fire coming from one of the aircraft's engines and the Osprey reportedly flying upside down before an explosion spewed wreckage into the surrounding water.

Sunk Costs

Speaking to Sputnik about last week's Osprey crash, and asked why the US military continues to use the convertiplanes despite their crash-prone nature, Honored Military Pilot of Russia Vladimir Popov explained that it likely has to do with the resources the Pentagon has expended on the project.

"The fact is that financial resources have already been invested into the aircraft's creation and implementation," the retired Air Force Major-General with decades of service under his belt told Sputnik.

"Most likely, the engineers, designers, technologists and everyone who took part in the Osprey's development decided that its reliability can be assured, and that it can be improved in the course of operations," Popov said.

"They are likely hoping to get an effective machine, but everything remains in the stages of development and refinement. For now, of course, such an aircraft cannot really be used anywhere, since doing so means losses of personnel and money down the drain. The idea is good, but the implementation, not so much," the veteran pilot explained.

The problem with convertiplane technology at its current stage lies with the components allowing the aircraft to switch from vertical to horizontal flight mode, Popov said. "This node is 'charged' with a great deal of energy, because large loads hang on it. It may not be able to process the transition quite correctly" at times, resulting in accidents.

"Tiltrotors have been flying for a very long time, and they have a short service life. Thus, it's too early to say that it has already reached the peak of its operational maturity. What needs to be done is to clarify what went wrong in each specific case, and to approach the issue carefully and get to the bottom of it. What's also needed is to improve working with personnel, to conduct additional tests, and change the training of the pilot and crew members. The US may continue to operate Ospreys, but they need to think long and hard about how to do so without making sacrifices. Sometimes it's enough to replace only one bolt and everything will work as it should," Popov stressed.

Last week's accident may have been the result of any number of factors, from pilot error and equipment failure to errors in the mathematical calculations by the Osprey's onboard computer, Popov believes.

That said, the veteran pilot is convinced that tiltrotor technology has good prospects for the future, given its status as what is effectively a hybrid airplane/helicopter design that can accelerate to speeds of up over 550 km per hour, far above the roughly 300 km per hour achieved by modern helicopters, which have now maxed out as far as further improvements in speed characteristics go.

COVID-19 infections in China at low epidemic level, no unknown viruses have been found: China CDC

COVID-19 infections in China are at a low epidemic level and no unknown viruses or bacteria have been found during the monitoring of respiratory pathogens in China, according to Chinese health authorities on Sunday.

BA.2.86 and its subvariants, including JN.1 variant, have become the dominant variants in some countries, yet, their public health risk in China is low given their low proportion, Chang Zhaorui, a research fellow from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) told a press briefing on Sunday.

The proportion of BA.2.86 variant strains in the reported sequences in China is very low, but the proportion among imported cases has increased rapidly since November, and the growth trend has gradually converged with that of the world, Chang noted, 

Since the first imported case of BA.2.86 variant strain was reported on August 31, a total of 160 sequences of BA.2.86 and its subbranches have been reported in China, including 148 imported case sequences and 12 local case sequences, but no severe or critical cases have been found, the research fellow from the China CDC noted.

According to a statement published by National Disease Control and Prevention Administration on Friday, the possibility of the JN.1 variant, a branch variant of BA.2.86, becoming a dominant strain in the country cannot be ruled out due to the subsequent impact of international strains and imported cases.

On November 21, the World Health Organization (WHO) adjusted BA.2.86 from a variant requiring global surveillance to a variant requiring attention, evaluating the risk of clinical severe infection as low and the overall assessment of public health risk as low.

Experts reached by the Global Times said infectious diseases are common throughout the world. New variants of the novel coronavirus can appear in the future at any time and people should get used to their existence. More attention should be paid to overlapping infections of influenza and other respiratory diseases. 

In the past months, China has been experiencing a spike in respiratory disease. 

Mi Feng, a spokesperson from National Health Commission, said on Sunday's press briefing that hospital visits for respiratory diseases across China have shown a downward trend. 

Mi said that local medical institutes have been doing their part to ease pressure on major hospitals, accounting for 44 percent of total fever and outpatient visits.

The spokesperson called for the continued strengthening of surveillance and overall situation analysis for respiratory diseases and the allocation of medical resources to cope with the spike.

According to latest weekly report by the China CDC, the positive rate of influenza virus in the southern and northern provinces of China slowed down between December 4 and 10, and some provinces showed a downward trend. 

Rescue work concludes as earthquake kills 131 and injures 1,000 in NW China; Resettlement and treatment underway amid secondary disasters

The devastating Jishishan earthquake that rattled Northwest China overnight has led to a total of 131 fatalities, including 113 in Gansu Province and 18 in Qinghai Province. Nearly 1,000 people are reported injured, while 16 remain missing. Rescue work is drawing to an end, and the focus next will be the treatment of the injured and the resettlement of affected populations, authorities said at a press conference on Wednesday.

At present, more than 87,000 people have been temporarily evacuated and resettled in safe places, Gansu officials said at the press conference, revealing that nearly 15,000 houses collapsed and 207,000 more were damaged after the quake, affecting 145,736 people. 

According to the latest data, a total of 78 trapped individuals have been rescued, with 6,653 people evacuated as of 6:00 am on Wednesday. Additionally, 360 tents have been set up, 683 hazardous areas have been cleared, and 47 tons of relief supplies have arrived at the disaster-stricken sites. 

After 10 hours of nonstop efforts, all damaged roads and highways leading to the disaster area, especially toward the epicenter, have been cleared and reopened, including all 24 severely damaged rural roads, so that relief and supply vehicles were able to access impacted communities, the Gansu transport bureau said at the press conference. 

All routes within the Lanzhou Railway Bureau, which had been delayed significantly due to impacts of the earthquake, have also resumed normal operations on Wednesday morning.

The damaged main power grid circuits in the earthquake-stricken area of Gansu and Qinghai have also been fully restored as of Tuesday evening, according to the State Grid Gansu Electric Power Company.

A total of 423 aftershocks have been recorded over the one and a half days since the initial impact, including 10 aftershocks measuring 3.0 magnitude or higher. 

The strong earthquake triggered various secondary disasters. In Minhe county, Qinghai, which borders the epicenter Jishishan county, two villages experienced moving sand shortly after the earthquake. A significant number of houses were buried and washed away by mudslides, resulting in 20 individuals going missing. Following the incident, the Qinghai Provincial Fire Rescue Team swiftly organized overnight rescue operations.

The houses of 36 families, totaling 177 villagers, were destroyed by rushing sand in Jintian village, and 13 individuals are still missing. A firefighter on-site told the Global Times that after overnight search and rescue efforts, as of Wednesday morning, the bodies of four deceased have been discovered.

“The entire area is now covered with a thick layer of wet, thick and adhesive sludge. Rescue personnel told us that it’s so heavy and dense that it cannot be dug manually and requires heavy machinery for removal,” reporters from China Central Television said in a video shot from an impacted village.

Three excavators, brought in urgently, have been operating continuously, the CCTV report showed. “Shortly after the earthquake, waves of thick slurry, rising up to three meters high, surged and inundated the villages,” the reporter said in the video.

Over 20 provinces across China expect to suffer freezing temps due to new cold front

A new strong cold front pushing north to south through China is expected to turn a vast area of the country’s territory into a huge “refrigerator” from Thursday till Saturday, leading to over 20 provinces, regions and municipalities bracing for below freezing temperatures. 

From north to south, many places across the country suffered blizzards, freezing rain, and other extremely weather conditions on Thursday. Meteorological experts explained that the recent frequent cold fronts were caused by global warming heating up the Arctic and bringing cold fronts southward. 

Temperatures in multiple places in Northeast China and North China will further plunge to record lows, as severe cold snaps and cold fronts have been making their way across the country from the north to the south since earlier this week, according to Weather China. 

The meteorological forecast website predicted on Thursday that temperatures in multiple places in the southern part of the country will drop to the lowest seen so far this season, with 0 C temperatures expected in the southern part of Southwest China’s Guizhou Province and the northern part of South China, making people from more than 20 provinces feel like they are living in a “refrigerator.”

The cold fronts that came in December, earlier than usual, have been particularly severe. Although temperatures are reaching levels rarely seen in the past, this does not mean that brass monkey weather, which usually occurs in January or February, will be colder this year, Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

When the rare cold front ends next week and highs rise back to 0 C or above, the average temperature will return to usual levels. 

China’s National Meteorological Center (NMC) continued to issue a yellow alert for low temperatures early Thursday morning, forecasting daily lows or daily average temperatures 5 C lower than usual in multiple regions from the middle and western part of North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the regions south of the Huanghuai region. The 0 C isotherm will stretch from the southern part of Guizhou to the northern part of the South China.

According to the weather forecast on Thursday by Weather China, from north to south, the highs in the majority of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province and the middle and eastern parts of Inner Mongolia will be lower than -18 C. Temperatures in most parts of Northwest China, North China, and the Huanghuai and Jianghuai regions will remain below freezing, making them the “freezer compartment” of this “refrigerator” wave. 

Whereas in the southern parts of China, such as the Jiangnan area, Sichuan Basin, Chongqing and Guizhou areas, highs will remain at 10 C or below, while highs in South China and Southwest China’s Yunnan Province will remain above 10 C. 

Since the beginning of December, the temperatures across the country have experienced roller-coaster-like temperature fluctuations. The national average temperature from December 1 to 13 was higher than usual, the highest of the same period in history. However, since December 14, affected by the large-scale cold wave, the temperatures have plummeted in most parts of the country, and the maximum daily temperature drop of some national weather stations has broken historical extremes.

Between December 14 and 17, a large-scale cold wave affected a vast area of the country with wide influence, long duration and large accumulative precipitation. The maximum temperature drop reached or exceeded 20 C in 95 national weather stations, among which the maximum temperature drop in Datong, North China’s Shanxi Province, reached 26.3 C.

While a warm winter was previously forecast this year, Ma explained that such extreme cold weather conditions will not necessarily overturn previous predictions. Before the impact of the recent cold waves, the southern part of the country, especially the Yangtze River basin, did experience warmer weather than usual. The overall average temperature in the next phase will decide whether this winter will be considered a warm winter, Ma said, noting that more attention should be paid to increasing extreme weather.

Since the strong cold wave gripped Northeast China’s Jilin Province on December 15, temperatures in the province have plunged to freezing. According to the Jilin Meteorological Service, the highest temperatures during daytime in Jilin on Thursday was between -20 C and -16 C and the lowest temperature was forecast to be between -30 C and -27 C, with temperatures in some mountainous areas in the southeastern part of the province dropping as low as -32 C. 

On Wednesday, the Jilin Meteorological Service forecast that temperatures in the middle and western parts of the province will rise starting Saturday while the eastern part of the province must wait to Sunday to see a rise. 

In East China’s Shandong Province, the coastal cities of Yantai and Weihai have suffered snowstorms since December 15, with a blizzard pouring 35.6 millimeters of snow on the Wendeng district in Weihai. 

The Shandong Meteorological Bureau has forecast snowstorms or blizzards in Yantai and Weihai from Wednesday to Friday with accumulated snowfall reaching 35 millimeters or above. 

Meanwhile, East China’s Shanghai recorded the chilliest day of December in four decades with temperatures expected to remain below zero all day throughout the city, the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau said, noting the city’s lowest temperatures will reach -4 to -6 C in the city’s suburbs. 

Local meteorological experts have forecast that the lowest temperatures will remain below 0 C in Shanghai between Thursday and Monday, possibly the coldest mid-December in the past four decades. 

The water in the West Lake in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province, even froze over early Thursday morning as the temperature dropped to only -4 C, the NMC said in a post on Sina Weibo. 

Affected by the continuous low temperature, patients suffering from frostbite are also increasing, and some hospitals have set up frostbite clinics. 

A doctor from the dermatology department of Zhongda Hospital Southeast University told the Health Times – affiliated to People’s Daily – that the recent frostbite patients mainly suffer from frostbite on the hands, feet, ears, face and other parts. Most of them had stayed outdoors for a long time, such as riding electric bikes and doing outdoor work. Some children suffer from ear frostbite due to playing outdoors.

Yiwu Intl Trade City attracts customers to purchase imported goods for New Year

Editor's Note:

The Yiwu International Trade City Import Commodity Pavilion is a new benchmark set up by Yiwu to transform the Yiwu market from one-way export trade to multi-directional trade. The import commodity pavilion has a business area of 100,000 square meters, gathering products from more than 100 countries, including food, health products, clothing, shoes, hats, daily necessities, household items, kitchenware, daily chemical products, maternity and baby products, jewelry and accessories, and other 8 major categories of source goods. As the end of the year approaches, citizens come to purchase New Year goods and gifts. Photos: Li Hao/GT

China's Zheng Qinwen secures first ever WTA title

After overcoming several disappointments and obstacles, China's 20-year-old tennis prodigy Zheng Qinwen has finally made a spectacular breakthrough in her embryonic career by winning her first-ever Women's Tennis Association (WTA) singles championship.

Zheng, a wild card in the competition as a late entry, defeated local favorite Jasmine Paolini in the final of the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy on Sunday, becoming the Chinese mainland's 12th WTA singles champion.

"This is very special to me as it is my first WTA 250 title. I'll remember that," said Zheng, who is also the youngest Chinese mainland player to win a WTA tour championship, said during her acceptance speech.

Zheng was awarded the WTA's 2022 Newcomer of the Year following a stunning run at the French Open, when she stunned two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep and French number one Alize Cornet on route to the quarterfinals.

She had great aspirations of progressing farther in the next season, but her fitness and form were lacking. Despite recently changing coaches to seek a change, she had four consecutive losses.

Under enormous pressure, the young Chinese player, who finished second to Liudmila Samsonova in her debut final in Tokyo in 2022, ultimately turned the tide by winning the championship in Palermo, putting an end to her losing streak and recovering her confidence.

Zheng's stunning breakthrough brought to mind her compatriot Li Na, the first Asian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title at the French Open.

Ever since the Women's tennis competitions have been put on hold in China since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WTA announced in April that it will resume tournaments in China from this September.

As the country has long been a dominant force in women's tennis, Zheng is always considered as being among the rising stars of the young generation of Chinese female tennis players.

The women's tour hosted nine events in China in 2019. The prestigious China Open, a mandatory event in WTA's China tour, is expected to return, along with events in Wuhan, Li's hometown and Hong Kong as well as the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.

The season-ending WTA Finals, which has a 10-year partnership with Shenzhen and delivers a record $14 million in prize money, is the most important of these tournaments.

Men's tennis is also expected to restart, with the Shanghai Masters as the main event in 2023.

This year has seen the reintroduction of international sports tournaments such as the WTA, athletics' Diamond League, figure skating's Grand Prix, and multi-sport events such as the University Games and Asian Games.

China’s Asian Games champions underline friendship, solidarity amid international competitions

China's Olympic champions believe the universal language of sport is a key to bridge communications for athletes as well as people of different countries and regions, as they continue their preparations for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.

"Winning or losing is indeed the essence of competitive sports, but now I no longer think it's everything because we have something more valuable than victory," swimming queen Zhang Yufei told reporters at a forum held by the China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing on November 22.

The essence of competitive sports goes beyond winning and losing, believed Zhang, who won six gold medals at the Hangzhou Asian Games. 

Zhang's touching moment with Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee at the Hangzhou Asian Games, where they embraced despite being rivals, became a memorable scene. 

"We participated in the same discipline but it was until the final day of 50 meters butterfly final that she made onto the podium," Zhang said. 

"Her ability to return to the competition is a miracle. It is her perseverance that inspired me to continue when facing a bad situation."

Zhang was referring a fever she caught on day four of her competitions at the Asian Games, when she had to continue to achieve her personal goal of becoming the MVP of the event, which required more gold medals at the time. 

"It is her perseverance she demonstrated after wading through leukemia which sidelined her from competing after achieving six gold and two silver medals at 2018 Asian Games," Zhang noted. 

Zhang's teammate Qin Haiyang, a breaststroke specialist who set a new 200 meters world record this year, noted that he hopes to inspire more people to participate in sports activities, expressing his desire to showcase not only athletic achievements but also the confidence, unity and friendship of Chinese athletes on the international stage.

The power of role models is limitless as gymnasts Zou Jingyuan and Zhang Boheng mentioned the influential figures in their sport, such as Li Ning, Li Xiaoshuang and Japan's Kohei Uchimura.

"Although we are competitors on the field, off the field, we are friends. Athletes worldwide share a common philosophy of developing modern gymnastics, innovating movements, and spreading the love for sports globally," Zou said.

All-rounder Zhang is often linked to Japanese gymnast Hashimoto Daiki, as the duo  are being considered the top athletes in the sport. This year they have competed head-to-head in China at the Chengdu Universiade and the Hangzhou Asian Games.

"Although this year I won, but I don't think he is at top form. I expect to compete with him when both of us are in-form. Maybe the stage will be the Olympics next year," Zhang said. 

"All the gymnasts in the world share a common philosophy, that is, to develop modern competitive gymnastics, constantly innovate movements, share our understanding of gymnastics, and our love for sports with the world," Zou added.

Off the field, interactions and friendships among athletes from different countries and regions highlight the Olympic spirit that unites the world, as two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Wu Jingyu, now chair of World Taekwondo Athletes Committee, underlines the communication among the athletes facilitate the Olympic spirit. 

"In addition to athletic achievements, athletes' perseverance and pursuit of dreams are also part of the Olympic spirit. This Olympic family allows athletes to freely show and express the spirit of sports, inspire more people with spiritual strength," Wu said. 

Chinese soccer still languishing as World Cup hopes seem faint

Criticism of China's national men's soccer team is raging again after recent disappointing matches, and the debate continues about how to find the right track for the development of soccer in China.

The team produced a drab draw with Malaysia at the weekend and suffered a 0-1 defeat to Syria in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Tuesday.

The two warm-up matches were designed to offer stylistic similarities to Thailand and South Korea, whom China will take on in the second round of the World Cup 2026 Asian qualifiers that are set to kick off in November. 

Even though an expanded format for the 2026 tournament in the US, Canada and Mexico will allow more teams from Asia to qualify, China' s hopes appear to be slim.

The recent results reinforced a fact that many fans have been reluctant to accept: China has descended to the middle and lower echelons of Asian football. 

Malaysia is not the same team that China faced a few years ago, but China has found itself stuck in a rut. 

It was the national team's attitude that outraged the public. In the nine minutes of stoppage time during the game against Malaysia, Chinese players retreated into their shells and wasted time by passing from side to side at the back as if on course to victory. 

Head Coach Aleksandar Jankovic felt embarrassed and apologized to the fans after the game. In the second game against Syria, the team moved up a gear and accelerated the pace of passing and pressing. However, the Syrian goalkeeper produced a string of brilliant saves to earn some relief for the war-torn country.

In the World Cup Asian qualifiers in 2019, the then head coach Marcello Lippi quit in a huff after a 1-2 defeat to Syria. 

The gap between China and the Asian powerhouses was made more stark as Japan coasted to a 4-1 win over Germany and saw off Turkey 4-2 in their warm-up matches.

Midfielder Xie Pengfei was the only redeeming feature of this lackluster team as his incisive runs and telling passes sparked some life in an ineffectual attacking line headed by Wu Lei and nationalized Ai Kesen.

"We need to find the right track and keep moving forward. We will not flinch when encountering difficulties. Perseverance is needed to be successful in football. We hope to get everyone's support and we will not give up," Xie said after the defeat to Syria.

Chinese soccer has been derailed from the right track for a long time, and there have been problems with personnel in the governing body. 

A total of 14 people ranging from the chief of the Chinese Football Association to head coach of the national team have been put under investigation since November. The governing positions appear to have become a way for people to pursue their personal interests instead of driving the development of soccer. 

China will not get out of the deadlock until the authorities reflect on the missteps and map out a path that conforms to the development of soccer. There is no easy way to stop the rot.

Fighting for a place in the 2026 world cup is not the primary goal. It is more important to step back and see if teenage Chinese soccer players are on the right track and what can be done to promote the development of soccer across the country.