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. 

Young dominators: ‘Chinese table tennis being shared with the world’ has become a reality

Editor's Note: 

Young Chinese people in the new era are confident, aspirational and responsible. With a global vision, they stand at the forefront of the times, ready to fully commit to a more global outlook. Chinese people accept and quickly respond to the world's trending schools of thought. Some members of China's Generation Z have started to practice the tenets of their "global citizen" identity and use their thought processes and actions to influence the society. The Global Times has therefore launched a series of introductory stories to China's Gen Zers who are interested in different global topics such as environmental protection, equality, and employment issues, and invites them to share their stories, sentiments, and ideas on social media platforms.

As the match point arrived, the stadium with nearly 6000 seats sat in silence. When the last ball landed, accompanied by a tsunami of cheers from the crowd,  celebrating with fist pumps, shouts, and embraces, raising the Five-Star Red Flags to show their sincere gratitude to the audience and the country they beloved. 

Similar scenes unfolded six times during the table tennis competition at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. Generation Zers Sun Yingsha, Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin, the absolute mainstays of the Chinese table tennis team, presented a lot of world-class pinnacle competitions with players from different countries and regions in a firm and confident manner. 

Compared with the older generation, this group of world champions, who are blowing up a storm of youth, are more confident in expressing their love for table tennis, their desire to enjoy the game regardless of winners and losers, as well as their courage in communicating with the outside world to build up a more positive and united force, adding a more contemporary and vibrant expression to this sport, which is considered the national game by the Chinese people.

Enjoy the game

"When the last ball landed, the first thing I recognized about my performance was that it was very good," Sun, who was born in 2000, the current world No. 1 in women's singles, said while answering a question from the Global Times during a post-match interview on October 1, 2023.

And in a subsequent interview with the Global Times, Sun said she has gained a lot from the Hangzhou Asian Games. "Compared with the Asian Games in Jakarta five years ago, I have taken on more responsibility, but compared with the pressure, I am also more motivated, and am satisfied with my play."

In Jakarta in 2018, the enduring impression left by Sun to the public was a cute little girl with a round face and eyes. There is no Tokyo Olympic gold medal, Houston and Durban mixed doubles champions. At that time, Sun represented the national table tennis team in the women's team and mixed doubles events.

Five years later, Sun took the oath as a representative of the participating athletes at the opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Games, and competed in women's singles, doubles, team and mixed doubles, winning gold medals in three of them.

"I feel very proud to be sworn in as an athlete representative at a major international competition hosted by my country. To be able to fight on home soil, there were also many fans who came to cheer me on, I told myself to focus on every game on the field, and I hope I can really enjoy the feeling that the game brings to me. I didn't think too much about the result," Sun said.

But for Sun, the Asian Games in Hangzhou is not without regrets. Earlier, in a shock result, women's doubles world No. 1s Sun and Wang Manyu lost 1-3 to Japanese duo Miwa Harimoto and Miu Hirano.

Sun admitted that after the defeat, both her coach and her partner gave her a lot of encouragement so that she could adjust quickly be ready to face the next match. But she also told the Global Times that such a defeat is precious and needs to be fully faced, and that she will take stock of the loss after the game.

Fan, the world's number one men's singles table tennis player, also tasted defeat at the Asian Games. In the table tennis men's singles final on October 2nd, Fan lost 3-4 to his teammate Wang and won the silver medal. After the match, Fan told the Global Times that he was still very happy with his performance in his third Asian Games he attended. 

"Being able to participate in the Asian Games in China and be a torchbearer is a great honor for me. It is a recognition of my past achievements. I also really wanted to win the final singles match and defend my title, but both of us played very well in the final. I feel a little regret for my lost, but not enough to be disappointed," he said.

Fan, who is 26 years old this year, made his debut in the Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. Starting his career at a young age and gaining fame early, Fan admitted that he felt "not very young" anymore. However, he still hopes to focus on the competition and give his all in every match, using his superb skills and competitive state to bring more positive energy to his teammates and fans who love him.

Valuing heritage

23-year-old Wang, who took home four championships in the table tennis men's team, singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, becoming the first person in the history of table tennis at the Asian Games, first to expressed his gratitude to the country for its cultivation in an interview with the Global Times. 

Wang noted that China's nationwide system allows athletes to train in a world-class environment. "At the same time, the Chinese table tennis team is a strong team, with a lot of world champions, allowing us - the younger generation - to constantly progress and improve in a fine tradition."

"When you wear the national flag on your uniform, you represent Team China. The honor of this collective is passed down through generations through unremitting efforts, and we will do our best to defend it," Wang said.

However, Wang also noted that in competitive sports, no one can maintain their peak state forever and there can never be eternal victory. "This is also the charm of competitive sports."

In the men's and women's team finals of the Hangzhou Asian Games, the Chinese team defeated their opponents 3-0. The coaches of the Chinese table tennis team told media that although they ultimately won the matches, the process was not easy and the women's doubles event failing to reach the top four made the whole team realize that the competition in the world of table tennis is becoming increasingly fierce.

"Winning championships in table tennis may seem easy for the Chinese team, but in fact, every member of our team has put in unimaginable efforts in various aspects throughout this process. For us, it has always been about striving for first place, not just maintaining it," Fan said.

In the current world of table tennis, the level of athletes from various countries and regions is getting closer, Fan pointed out. "Every competition and major event requires us to give our all to achieve good results." 

But for Fan and Wang, this kind of competition is positive and necessary. "We are also looking forward to these challenges, which are in fact mutual promotion that can further improve and develop the Chinese table tennis team," Fan said.

More open and international

"Play the fiercest ball on the court, and be the most sincere and lovely teenager in life." This is a popular comment of this group of all-powerful table tennis made by their young Chinese fans. 

And it's not just the fans who are attracted to them. 

On the first match day for the table tennis at the Hangzhou Asian Games on September 22, when Fan was warming up on the sidelines, a foreign coach took the initiative to shake hands with him. The handshake between them conveyed the friendship and respect built on this sport. 

After the women's team first round match, Team Macao player Seak Hui-li specifically took a photo with Sun with her racket, which also received a friendly response from her idol. 

After the women's team semi-finals, Korean athlete Jeon Jihee happily revealed in an interview that she exchanged pins with Sun. 

Despite the tight schedule of the competition, Sun still lived up to her title as the "pin exchange master" with her actions. 

"If I meet someone have pins I like or find cute, I will think about exchanging with them. We are all friends," Sun told the Global Times. 

With the promotion of this more open and international Gen Zers, the slogan of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, "Chinese table tennis is shared with the world," has become a reality. 

Sun, Fan and Wang told the Global Times that they love table tennis and hope to connect with more like-minded people through the sport. As idol for many despite their young age, they hope that more young people, like them, focus on what they love, can always go forward, ultimately realize the dreams.

Film by late Tibetan writer-director Pema Tseden wins at Tokyo Film Festival

The film Snow Leopard, directed by China's late Tibetan writer-director Pema Tseden, won the Tokyo Grand Prix at the 36th Tokyo International Film Festival held from October 23 to November 1.

This movie was Pema Tseden's last film before his passing in May. Born in December 1969, Pema Tseden passed away this year due to an illness. Recognized as a pioneer of Tibetan-language films, the director created several famous works, including the 2018 film Jinpa and the 2019 film Balloon.

Pema Tseden was also an award-winning novelist, whose work has been translated into English, French, German, Japanese and Czech. He was a professor at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, and a member of the China Film Directors' Guild as well.

Described as a family drama, Snow Leopard was Pema Tseden's eighth Tibetan-language film. The film explores the close association between humans and animals through a story in which a snow leopard kills nine of a sheepherder's flock. It delves into the differing perspectives of various individuals regarding whether to release the snow leopard after it gets trapped in the sheep pen.

It took about three years to make the film, which was shot at the scenic Donggi Cona Lake in Madoi county in Northwest China's Qinghai Province. The name of the lake means "lake surrounded by a thousand mountains" in the Tibetan language. The area is also a habitat for snow leopards and many other endangered species.

Jigme Trinley, Pema Tseden's son and assistant director on Snow Leopard, said that his father's works have always told stories of the culture and life of Tibetan people, and how modern civilization has been impacting and integrating into their lives and thinking, media reported.

Snow Leopard was considered a significant breakthrough in Pema Tseden's filmmaking journey, embodying his new understanding of life, the world, and Tibetan culture, Jigme Trinley added.

STEM institute in Shanghai to advance innovation in China

The resolution adopted by UNESCO to establish a UNESCO International Institute for STEM Education (IISTEM) in Shanghai will assist China in sharing its education experience and growing to be a leader in global STEM education, an expert told the Global Times on Wednesday.

During the 42nd Session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris last week, UNESCO announced the establishment of the IISTEM in Shanghai. This marks the first UNESCO Category 1 Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics to be established in China.

Category 1 institutes are crucial to UNESCO's mission. They act as incubators for new ideas and serve as standard-setters, facilitators of international cooperation, hubs for information sharing and capacity builders within their respective areas of competence. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at an earlier press conference that the Chinese government attaches great importance to education and treats STEM education as a key approach to cultivating innovative and versatile talent. 

"We will act earnestly on our commitment, collaborate with UNESCO to implement the resolution and work for the early establishment and operation of the institute to contribute more to the UN's agenda for sustainable development as well as world peace and development," said Wang. 

The move was preceded by UNESCO's resolution to establish a teacher education center in Shanghai Normal University in 2017. The teacher education center is a UNESCO Category 2 Center and followed two other Category 2 education centers in China: the International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education in Beijing and the International Centre for Higher Education Innovation in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province.

The establishment of the IISTEM demonstrates the recognition of China's national strength and a nod to China's commitment to building a community of shared future for mankind, Ning Bo, a professor with the Research Institute for International and Comparative Education of Shanghai Normal University, who is also a project manager at the UNESCO teacher education center, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The decision is also a reflection of Shanghai's increasing prominence in international education.

Shanghai topped two consecutive rounds (2009 and 2012) of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, a triennial survey of 15-year-old students that focuses on proficiency in reading, mathematics and science. The city's education system stands out as one of the strongest in the world, according to a report by the World Bank.

"Finland was a paragon when people talked about a successful education system. But global attention has been diverted to Shanghai thanks to the city's stellar performance in PISA," said Ning. 

Shanghai's policies and investments have created a great teacher workforce, established clear learning standards and regular student assessments, and struck a balance between autonomy and accountability in school management, the report said.

"Shanghai is a pioneer in China's opening-up and reform in all sectors. The city eagerly welcomes international institutions like IISTEM to come and contribute to the development of its cosmopolitan nature," Ning said.

The institute is a fresh example of China's efforts to increase its influence on the world stage and play a leading role in international organizations, said the professor.

Technically, it's a platform for China to share its education experience with the world, especially in the field of STEM. Expertise and resources from around the world will be drawn to Shanghai, so it will advance the development of STEM education in China and promote Shanghai's economic and social development, Ning noted. 

"China has achieved globally recognized progress in economic and social development. Through this opportunity, we aspire for the world to gain a comprehensive understanding of China and its developmental path from an educational and cultural perspective," Ning said.

Vietnamese version of hit Chinese reality show gains huge popularity

The Vietnamese version of China's hit reality show Sisters Who Make Waves has recently been released on the country's national television platform VTV3 and sites like YouTube. The show is crowded with Vietnam's hottest celebrities and has become highly popular, attracting a wide range of local viewers. The original show made a similar splash in the Chinese entertainment market when it was first released in 2020.

The Chinese version included stars like Zhang Yuqi, who has gained over 13 million viewers on China's Sina Weibo, and the Vietnamese show is star-studded as well. 53-year-old Vietnamese singer Hồng Nhung has joined the show, along with actress Ninh Dương Lan Ngọc and model H'Hen Niê.

Wanghe Minjun, a TV industry expert, told the Global Times that celebrities on the show need to be successful women, but also need to have contrasting personalities.

"Like all reality shows, the program needs tension and something that can spur discussion," said the expert, such as "a woman who has been to red carpet events many times but still remains childish in everyday life."

The show has become popular on YouTube, with an episode released two weeks ago having been viewed by 4.97 million viewers.

"A singer can connect with listeners' emotions through her voice. Listening to Hồng Nhung is like watching a movie unfold in my mind. I'm impressed that her skill is increasing as she gets older," a Vietnamese netizen said in a post on YouTube.

Xu Shuming, a cultural sociologist, told the Global Times that Sisters Who Make Waves is actually an "encouraging show that gives the audience an image of modern women's potential in the social sphere."

"Compared to shows about young idols, ones about mature and successful women can be more eye-catching since they can draw the attention of a larger group of people," Xu told the Global Times.

Vietnamese actress and singer Chi Pu joined the original Chinese show for its 2023 season and became widely popular with domestic viewers.

Her appearance on the show reassured the international market about the "universal acceptance of the subject of women's power," Wanghe told the Global Times. Chi Pu's Chinese journey was also significant for the later Vietnamese adaptation.

The original Chinese version is available on China's video platform Mango TV, which collaborated with Vietnamese platforms VTV3 and YeaH1 Group, as well as production company STV Production.

"With the advantages of multiple platforms and a large audience, we are confident in creating a reality show that will be successful in the Vietnamese entertainment market in 2023," Le Phuong Thao, the chief investment representative of YeaH1 Group, told the media.

So far, the Vietnamese version of Sisters Who Make Waves has attracted a total of 33 sponsors, the highest ever for a Vietnamese reality TV show.

The show's international success also indicates that the burgeoning Chinese entertainment industry is able to produce cultural IP of a "global standard," Wanghe said.

Other Chinese reality shows like Street Dance of China and Our Songs, a singing program, have also been adapted into Vietnamese and Spanish versions. The singing program Super Vocal has also been brought to audiences in North America.

"Chinese IP is good not only because of the shows' creativity, but also the growing Chinese entertainment industry. Its scale has convinced many international insiders," Wanghe told the Global Times.

Koala habitats under increasing bushfire threat in Australia: study

Almost half of Australia's koala habitats will be under high bushfire threat by 2070 as a result of climate change, a study has warned.

In a research published on Monday, a team led by researchers from Flinders University in South Australia generated fire susceptibility maps for the current day and for the year 2070.

They found that the proportion of the habitat of Australia's iconic koalas that is highly susceptible to fires will rise from 39.5 percent currently to 44.6 percent by 2070 as the frequency and severity of bushfires rise due to climate change.

"Wildfires will increasingly impact koala populations in the future. If this iconic and vulnerable marsupial is to be protected, conservation strategies need to be adapted to deal with this threat," Farzin Shabani, who led the research at Flinders University before moving to Qatar University, said in a media release.

"It is crucial to strike a balance between ensuring that koala habitats and populations are not completely destroyed by fire while also allowing for forest rejuvenation and regeneration through periodic burns."

On a state-by-state basis, the research projected that 89.1 percent of the total koala habitat in South Australia and 65.2 percent in Queensland in northeast Australia will have high or very high fire susceptibility by 2070.

Koalas, also known as koala bears, was declared an endangered species under national environmental law in February 2022 after population decline due to land-clearing, drought and disease was exacerbated by the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.

A report published by the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia in December 2020 estimated that more than 61,000 koalas perished in the fires, which burned more than 240,000 square kilometers of land across the country.

John Llewelyn, co-author of the study from the Global Ecology Lab at Flinders University, said in Monday's media release that the increasing severity of bushfires, which has been attributed to climate change, is making recovery from those events more difficult.

"Koalas may still be able to survive in areas highly susceptible to bushfires if their food sources can also withstand the fire-prone conditions, and if koalas can re-populate previously burnt-out areas from neighboring habitat, but this task is becoming more difficult due to habitat fragmentation and the increasingly large areas being burnt," he said.

Experts have warned that most of Australia is facing a severe 2023/2024 summer bushfire threat.

In its spring outlook published earlier in September, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast that hot, dry conditions would continue across most of the country following a dry winter.

US, West urged to end neglect of Palestine issue as tension simmers

The Israel-Gaza conflict entered its fourth day with Israel declaring on Tuesday control regained over the Gaza border. Chinese analysts urged US and Western leaders to stop the long-term marginalization of the Palestine issue or fan the flames of the conflict, calling for more efforts to calm the situation in order to prevent a potential sixth war in the Middle East.

In retaliation for the Hamas militant attack on Saturday, Israeli airplanes bombarded Gaza City's downtown nonstop until early Tuesday, cutting off the Gaza Strip from food and other supplies. According to Reuters, the Israeli military activated an unprecedented 300,000 reserve soldiers and placed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, increasing concerns that it was preparing a ground invasion in response to the most daring and deadliest Hamas offensive in decades. 

As of press time on Tuesday, the cumulative death toll on both sides had risen to nearly 1,600. Gaza's Health Ministry on Monday said at least 687 Palestinians had been killed and 3,726 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave, Reuters reported. 

Early Tuesday, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US released a joint statement in which they expressed their "steadfast and united support" to Israel and condemned the Hamas attack. 

The Western leaders' acknowledgement of "the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people" was noted in the statement, but it has come under fire from netizens on social media for their double standards on the Palestine issue. Observers voiced concern that the US and certain Western leaders' biased support would worsen the conflict.

As long as Israel is seen as a member of their camp and Hamas as terrorists, the US and many European nations would want to offer Israel support in diplomacy and in rhetoric. However, if the conflict spreads, the scenario may get worse, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times. 

In an attempt to provide symbolic support to Israel and intimidate Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah group, US made the one-sided decision to send weapons and warships to Israel.

However, since the US has been reducing its commitments in the region, it will not readily get back into the conflict, but to demonstrate its role, it may provide Israel with weaponry and intelligence, Liu said.

Although several EU leaders expressed support for Israel, considering the widespread sympathy for the Palestinians in European nations, the bloc may not accept long-term one-sided support for Israel, according to the expert. 

For example, divisions among EU member states and a lack of convergence from EU institutions were on display on Monday over plans to halt aid to Palestine in response to Saturday's attack on Israel by Hamas. According to European media, several countries, including Ireland, Luxembourg and Denmark - had been pushing for the EU to call for de-escalation. 

Concern over escalation

The international community is concerned about how the conflict will evolve. According to Liu, in order to reassure its citizens, the Israeli government would undoubtedly exact retribution on Hamas and undertake the heaviest strike it has ever launched. But it also faces another problem - Hamas is hard to eradicate from Gaza due to its close links to the local community, and if its use of force results in significant civilian casualties and humanitarian catastrophes in Gaza, it will come under greater moral pressure. 

Liu noted that the risk of a sixth Middle East war still exists if Israel is engulfed by the desire for revenge and expands the war, or if Hamas finds itself fighting a last-ditch battle, or if more countries are dragged into the war. 

"It would be a more pitiful situation if the war escalates with relevant parties losing their minds," said Liu.

There was no sign of cease fire on Tuesday. Hamas is ready to fight a long war with Israel, a senior member of the militant group was cited by the Associated Press as saying on Tuesday. 

Moreover, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets into Israel after at least three of its members were killed during an Israeli bombardment of Southern Lebanon amid soaring tensions on Israel's northern border, according to media reports. 

The situation in Gaza is being closely watched by the international community. Sun Degang, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Fudan University said that the immediate priority is to stop additional parties from engaging in the Israel-Gaza conflict and from adding fuel to the fire. However, if Israel deploys significant ground forces into Gaza, the situation may become challenging with the possibility of an alarming humanitarian disaster.

As the situation worsened, the United Nations, foreign relief organizations, and public health professionals said they were increasingly worried about humanitarian needs in Palestinian regions. Approximately 6 percent of Gaza's population, or more than 137,000 individuals, are now taking refuge in facilities administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, according to a statement made by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to reporters in New York.

China has paid high attention to the continued escalation of the Palestine-Israel conflict and urged all relevant parties to enact a cease fire. China is willing to maintain communication with all parties and make efforts toward stabilizing the Middle East, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

The bloodshed and deaths in the Middle East once again bring to light the disastrous consequences of the US and Western countries' long-term marginalization of the Palestinian issue, analysts said. It also highlights that the US' strategy to promote normalization between Israel and the Arab states would be a castle in the air without resolving the Palestine issue.  

Although there has been no official information from any relevant parties, there have been growing reports that a US-brokered deal to formalize diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel may be victimized in the escalation of situation. 

The Palestinian issue has historically been viewed by the global community as the most important, sensitive and fundamental problem in the Middle East. But in order to achieve reconciliation between Israel and Saudi Arabia and persuade more of its friends and other moderate nations to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, the US strives to sidestep or even ignore the Palestinian issue. Its goal is to put together a unified front to attack Syria and suppress Iran, Sun said. 

The US should reflect its regional strategy and advocate for long-term solutions to Israel-Palestine conflict rather than stoking tensions, said Sun.

Palestine and Israel are neighbors that cannot be moved and the two-state solution is a concluding and right solution to solving the Palestinian issue. Without an independent country of the Palestinians, the security of Israel cannot be guaranteed, Sun said.

Indonesia: Cultural exchange activity in Beijing cements friendship between two countries

The highly anticipated Indonesian cultural festival kicked off in the opera hall of Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music recently to promote cultural exchanges between China and Indonesia and encourage people to learn more about the traditional Indonesian instrument the Kolintang.

Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun, delivered a speech saying that the Indonesian cultural performance held in Beijing is particularly important for the promotion of Indonesia's rich and colorful culture and enhancement of civil relations between Indonesia and China. 

Oratmangun also stated that through this event, he hopes that the Kolintang instrument will be recognized by UNESCO in 2024.

Accompanied by the Kolintang, Oratmangun and his wife sang the Chinese song The Moon Represents My Heart, which resonated with the audiences and received thunderous applause.

This event serves as a bridge for cultural exchange between the two countries, enhancing cultural exchange and mutual learning, and strengthening the friendship between the two peoples, while promoting the healthy development of bilateral relations.

ASEAN-China ties grow in open, inclusive and transparent way: Secretary-General of ASEAN

ASEAN-China relations are built on trust and confidence, and are developing in a "very open, inclusive, and transparent way," Secretary-General of ASEAN Kao Kim Hourn, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on the eve of the 56th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) in Jakarta. 

He emphasized an increased trust in all dimensions of ASEAN-China ties, namely political, economic, social and cultural trusts which are the pillars of such relations.

China's top diplomat Wang Yi will attend a series of ASEAN meetings in Jakarta on Thursday and Friday, as China reiterates its support for ASEAN unity and emphasizes its commitment to the properly handling of sensitive issues among regional countries. 

Wang, who is the director of the Office of the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, will attend the ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers' Meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Foreign Ministers' Meeting. 

Kao told the Global Times that the partnership between China and ASEAN has been elevated consistently over the last three decades, "certainly because ASEAN and China are very close in terms of geography, proximity, culturally, and historically." 

Kao described the ties as being "at the highest level now" that is also reflected in the "extensive mechanisms between the two parties at all levels, which is quite important for ASEAN."

"China was the first country to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), so it shows that China was working with us very closely early on," said Kao.

He highlighted the long-term economic and trade exchange exhibitions such as the China-ASEAN Expo. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Expo, and the 20th China-ASEAN Expo will be held in Nanning, Southwest China's Guangxi in September. 

This year, the Indonesian chairmanship is set to adopt the theme "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth," and how to play a more central role has also become one of the focuses of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and other related meetings.

Kao told the Global Times that the AMM and relevant meetings will review ASEAN's community building efforts and reaffirm ASEAN Centrality and unity amid the evolving regional architecture. Foreign ministers will discuss ASEAN's post-pandemic recovery and economic integration, and how to support Timor-Leste's full membership in ASEAN as early as possible, and to discuss what more can be done to assist Myanmar. 

Kao said it is also an important opportunity for ARF ministers to review the last three decades' achievements and challenges, and consider how they would agree to work together in the future.

The ARF has 27 members and has become one of the main official multilateral security dialogue and cooperation platforms in the Asia-Pacific region.

"The ASEAN-plus foreign ministers' meetings have provided a platform to enhance mutual trust and cooperation. China hopes to see more common understanding resulting from such meetings, which will prepare the ground for fruitful leadership meetings this September and contribute to regional peace, stability, and prosperity," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on July 11. 

China will work with regional countries to firmly support ASEAN's unity and community-building, advance the purposes and principles of the TAC, and uphold the rules and order of the region, said the spokesperson. 

Friendship between people of China and US always unchanging and inspirational: chronicler of a century-old friendship

Editor's Note:

"The Chinese people value friendship. We never forget our old friends, nor your historic contributions to promoting the growth of China-US relations and enhancing friendship between the two peoples," Chinese President Xi Jinping said during the meeting with former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in Beijing, on July 20, 2023, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

In the last few years, when China-US relations were at a low ebb, people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have never been interrupted.

How should the two civilizations of China and the US coexist to bring prosperity and stability to their people?

From serving at the grassroots to being the Chinese President, Xi has been a consistent builder of friendship with the American people.

This story is a part of the "Witness to history" series by the Global Times, comprising of comprehensive interviews with people who have witnessed Xi's high regard for and personal efforts in promoting people-to-people friendship between China and the US. They have also actively demonstrated to the world that the will of the Chinese and American people is to cooperate, and how such cooperation is beneficial to the people of the two countries and the world.
Liu Zhonghan, 76, never imagined that the emotion he expresses in "Ah! Kuliang," a 1,800-word essay he wrote 31 years ago, would spread the story of the Gardner couple far and wide, and created a profound connection between himself and this small hillside area in Fuzhou, East China's Fujian Province. 

"Just like the legendary story of the Gardner couple and Kuliang becoming more well-known, the development of the China-US people-to-people friendship is like a snowball rolling. Now, this snowball has grown big and fast," Liu told the Global Times.

At the end of June, when Liu came to Fuzhou for the third time to attend the "Bond with Kuliang: 2023 China-US People-to-People Friendship Forum," at which he met several good friends - the descendants of American families who once lived in Kuliang as early as a century ago, he felt surprised and gratified.

He was surprised by the tremendous changes in the cityscape of Fuzhou, and was gratified to witness the most genuine, enduring, and pure friendship between the people of China and the US, which is also part of the spiritual essence hidden in Kuliang's story.

A century of love for China

"When I met Elizabeth Gardner, her husband Milton Gardner, a university physics professor, had been deceased for two years, leaving behind a collection of Chinese memorabilia and the regret of never having been able to return to his second homeland," Liu recounted.

This is a story from 1985, just a few years after China's reform and opening-up began. Liu, an intellectual youth at that time from the countryside of Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, boarded a plane bound for San Francisco. He chose to pursue a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Davis.

Upon arriving in the US, in order to learn English and make new friends, Liu joined the local grassroots organization "International House," a nonprofit organization that matches new foreign arrivals with local elderly people. It was there that Liu met Elizabeth Gardner, who shared the story of her "Chinese" husband.

Milton Gardner traveled with his parents as an infant to China in 1901 and spent nearly a decade of his childhood in suburban Fuzhou's Kuliang. After returning to the US with his family in 1911, Gardner's greatest wish was to return to his childhood home in China.   

Unfortunately, he was never able to fulfill his wish.

"Kuliang, Kuliang..." Milton Gardner kept uttering the word in the final hours of his life. Elizabeth Gardner knew it was a place in China where her husband had spent his childhood, but she was unsure of the exact location. In order to fulfill her husband's last wish, Elizabeth Gardner visited China six times, but was unable to find her husband's hometown.

It wasn't until January 1992 that Liu found a clue in a stamp in Milton Gardner's China collection and confirmed that Kuliang was located in Fuzhou, based on the postmark. 

Subsequently, Liu wrote about this story in the People's Daily Overseas Chronicle, which attracted the attention of Xi Jinping, then secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Fuzhou Committee. Xi immediately instructed relevant authorities to invite Mrs. Gardner to visit Kuliang.

As Elizabeth Gardner's companion on her visit to Fuzhou, Liu still vividly remembers the warm reception they received in August 1992, when Elizabeth Gardner stayed at the Western-style stone villa in Kuliang and met local villagers, including her husband's childhood Chinese friends, with whom she shared joyful, tear-filled conversations.

Liu said the trip enabled more people to know about Kuliang and Fuzhou, enhancing and shining a light on the friendship between China and the US.

At that time, Milton Gardener's unfulfilled wish was finally realized. Elizabeth Gardner noted with sincerity that the beautiful, unique, kind, and great love of Kuliang let her understand why her husband was so deeply attached to this place, Liu told the Global Times.

At the end of the trip, Xi presented Elizabeth Gardner and Liu with beautiful Fuzhou lacquer craftworks and photo albums of their visit to Fuzhou. "The trip and photo albums became the most precious treasure for Elizabeth Gardner and me in our lives," he said.

Unending stories

Kuliang's story does not end there.

After graduation, Liu traveled frequently between China and the US for work, and he corresponded with Elizabeth Gardner until her death in 2002.

In 2012, when visiting the US as China's vice president, Xi shared the Kuliang story with the audience at a welcome luncheon held by US friendship groups, to a warm reception in both countries.

At the forum, Liu met Lee Gardner, Milton Gardner's grandnephew, who is in his 70s.

On June 26, 2023, a grand donation ceremony was held in Kuliang. Lee Gardner donated a complete family chronicle and related documents from several visits paid by him to Fuzhou, saying that his whole family is grateful to Xi for realizing the dream of a senior US citizen, and expressed his belief in the universality of words of love even in different languages.

Liu believed that while facing profound changes unseen in a century and increasing confrontations between countries, it is of great significance to explore and promote the story of Kuliang. 

"From the mid-19th century onward, a large number of foreigners came to Fuzhou to work and live. At its peak, Kuliang had over 300 Western-style villas. How could such a small hillside village attract people from different countries to live harmoniously? It is because the people living here have a welcoming mindset. The home of humanity should be like this: A peaceful and loving living environment that allows everyone to live with dignity and in harmony," Liu said.

From Elizabeth Gardner's description of her husband, as well as through extensive research, Liu learned that Milton Gardner wasn't just a brilliant academic who joined the MIT Radiation Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts during World War II, where he helped in the gargantuan task of developing and improving radar systems to overcome German and Japanese aggressors, but was also a staunch peace-loving anti-war campaigner.

It was through such virtues that, after returning to the US, Milton Gardener continued writing letters to his childhood friends in China, and collected the stamps on the letters he received, and preserved them through nearly a century of war and displacement.

"It shows that friendship between people transcends language, race, and ideology. However, some hegemonic countries ignore the most basic needs of their own people for small profits," Liu said.

Liu hopes that selfish politicians can listen to their conscience, and view opinion from the perspective of ordinary people, and especially in the context of interactions between the people of China and the US.

To Liu's relief, currently, Kuliang is no longer a mysterious place to peace-loving people in China and the US, and even around the world. There are still many beautiful and lovely stories like this to be told.