US reported maritime protection force in the Red Sea to have limited effect in curbing conflict spillover

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is reportedly set to announce an expanded maritime protection force involving Arab states in the Red Sea in response to the escalating attacks against Israel-bound cargo ships by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group. Chinese analysts said by doing so, Washington aims to force its regional allies to become more involved in curbing the spillover of current Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but predicted that the move would play only limited role in pacifying the situation.

Washington should do more to solve the Palestine-Israel conflict than to put in place superficial moves, Chinese experts said, noting that US hypocrisy of calling for cease-fire between Israel and Palestine but constant blocking of UN resolutions on demanding cease-fire in fact fueled Israel’s determination of continued military actions. 

Being the latest Biden administration official to visit Israel, Austin, who arrived in Israel on Monday, is to gain a clearer assessment from Israeli officials on their military operations, CNN reported.

AP said that Austin is also expected to press Israel to wind down major combat operations in Gaza.

Austin is also expected to announce an expanded maritime protection force, to be known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, involving Arab states combatting increasingly frequent Houthi attacks being mounted from Yemen’s ports on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, the Guardian reported. Yet the report revealed no details over which Arab states are expected to join. 

Protection of shipping routes in the Red Sea is probably the key agenda behind Austin’s visit, as the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict has exerted a huge impact on global economy, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday. He said the Houthi rebel group’s attacks have created a dilemma for the US. 

The attacks, targeting a route that allows East-West trade, especially of oil, to use the Suez Canal to save the time and expense of circumnavigating Africa, have pushed some shipping companies to re-route vessels to avoid the area. For example, French shipping group CMA CGM on Saturday said it was pausing all container shipments through the Red Sea after an attack on one of its container ships, MSC Palatium III, one day earlier, per Reuters. 

The US is hoping that regional allies become more involved in curbing the spillover effect of current conflict via the proposed protection force, which in reality will only have limited effect, Liu said. 

Experts noted that the fundamental solution is to continue to call for cease-fire between the conflicting sides, whilst responding violence with violence will only fuel the current conflict. 

France, the UK and Germany -some of Israel’s closest allies- joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend, and Israeli protesters have demanded the government relaunch talks with the militant group on releasing more hostages after three were mistakenly killed by Israeli troops while waving a white flag.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, crushes its military capabilities and returns the hostages, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

Liu noted that the increasing international and domestic pressure are not enough for Israel to change its military action in Gaza as those pressure are mostly at surface level. Moreover, the US is calling for cease-fire in public, yet it is giving Israel green light in the UN by opposing UN’s cease-fire resolutions.

Pandas returning from overseas in good condition at Chengdu research base

In 2023, a total of 15 giant pandas returned to China from overseas after expiry of loan agreements. Among these 15 pandas, four are currently residing at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province and are in good condition, the Global Times learned during a recent visit.

On February 22, giant panda Yong Ming arrived in Chengdu from Japan with his twin daughters, Ying Bang and Tao Bang. On July 26, giant panda cub Yuan Meng, who was born in France, arrived in Chengdu and also joined the base, a staff member surnamed Liu at the research base told the Global Times.

Among all the returning pandas, Yong Ming is the oldest at 31 years old, which is about 100 years old in human terms. He is also the second oldest captive male giant panda in the world.

After arriving at the base, the pandas undergo quarantine and a period of isolation, said Liu. Once their condition stabilizes, they will be moved to open enclosures to meet the public.

During the visit, the Global Times reporter saw these pandas eating bamboo and enjoying their time at the base. All of them appeared to be in good physical and mental health, which was confirmed by the base’s staff.

At the base, each panda has an outdoor activity area ranging from 500 to 800 square meters in size, which ensures that they have ample space to move around, Liu said. They also each have an “indoor apartment.”

Since the return of the panda cub Xiang Xiang in February, a total of 15 pandas have returned to China in 2023 from countries including the US, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and the UK. In 2024, several more pandas are expected to return to China after their loan agreements expire. 

These pandas, who have lived abroad for a long time, have also become favorites among Chinese tourists after returning to China. The Global Times has learned that many make special trips to the breeding base to visit these national treasures.

On the same visit, representatives from Pakistani media and think tanks expressed admiration for China’s panda conservation efforts and shared their expectations for cooperation between China and Pakistan in this field.

“In the past, pandas were a globally endangered species, but China has taken special measures to protect them. Here, all the pandas receive excellent care,” said Faiyan Zia Bangash, a senior reporter from Pakistan’s The News.

“I have always had a special love for pandas, but it wasn’t until today when I saw them with my own eyes that I truly experienced their cuteness,” said Fahd Gauhar Malik, editor of the Pakistan Observer. 

“I really hope that in the future, China and Pakistan can also have relevant cooperation so that the people of Pakistan can see pandas in their own zoos,” Malik said.

Hangzhou hosts delegations as preparations for Asian Para Games gather pace

Deputies from Asia’s 45 national and regional Paralympic committees are being brought up to speed with the policies and procedures for the Hangzhou Asian Para Games at the ongoing delegation meeting held in Hangzhou from Sunday to Thursday.

The five-day meeting, a milestone in preparation for the Asian Para Games, is dedicated to publicizing the policies of the games, including registration, competition sign-up and accommodation, and helping the delegations to gain first-hand experience at the competition venues, according to the Hangzhou Asian Para Games Organizing Committee.

The 4th Asian Para Games is scheduled to take place from October 22 to 28 in Hangzhou, East China’s Zhejiang Province. About 4,000 athletes will participate in 22 sports across 24 disciplines. The motto of the Asian Para Games is “Hearts Meet, Dreams Shine.” 

Deputies of 32 national and regional Paralympic committees have joined the meeting in Hangzhou with deputies of the other 13 committees attending online. 

The deputies will visit the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center and Para Games Village to gain a better understanding of the venues and facilities. They will also tour the West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Hangzhou, to experience the culture of the dynamic city.  

The Hangzhou Olympic Sports Center Stadium, one of three sports stadiums in China with a capacity of over 80,000 people, will host both the opening and closing ceremonies of the Hangzhou Asian Games and the Asian Para Games, as well as the athletics competitions.

Feedback from the deputies will help the organizing committee better meet the needs of the athletes, improve competition services and assist with logistics.

Hangzhou is committed to delivering a grand barrier-free sporting event, contributing to the athletic development of people with disabilities in Asia.

It is the second Chinese city to host the Asian Para Games after Guangzhou initiated the maiden Asian Para Games in 2010.

FISU Games conclude, yet friendship and solidarity continue among youth

The 31st FISU World University Games, after offering exciting competitions and diverse cultural exposure, concluded on Tuesday in Southwest China’s Chengdu with a splendid ceremony that wrapped up shining moments during the Games and delivered wishes for a happier and brighter future.

The Chengdu FISU Games were not only a gathering for sports, but also a gathering to enhance mutual understanding and make friends, and the friendship will pass on among youth from all over the world with their traits of openness, inclusiveness, solidarity and vitality, analysts said.

The appearance of delegations features the process of a dove tree’s growing from root to giant plant with lush branches and leaves. The dove-like flowers, a symbol of peace, then start to bloom.

The dove tree is a species indigenous to China which survived the ice age and its flower resembles a flying dove with two snow-white bracts. The ceremony incorporates the elements of the dove tree and its flowers to stress the resilience of life and the hope for everlasting peace.

Chinese State Councilor Shen Yiqin and FISU acting president Leonz Eder attended the ceremony.

The ceremony stage was designed based on a “cell phone” and captured the concept of livestreaming. Through the camera of a “livestreamer,” young people from all over the world were able to be part of the FISU Games.

The master display presented 3D visual effects with naked-eye 3D technology, offering novel, amazing, special and delicate spectating experience.

After lowering the FISU flag along the playing of the FISU anthem, the flag was handed over to Rhine-Ruhr, host city of next FISU Games in 2025.

The FISU Games ran from July 28 to August 8 and featured 269 events across 18 sports. The Chinese delegation participated in all 18 sports of the games and claimed 103 gold medals, 40 silvers and 35 bronzes in total, ranking on top of the medal tally.

Besides performance on the competition ground, China’s performance in terms of hosting this international event is also well recognized.

“The preparations and setup of the venues are just unbelievable. Everything has been running smoothly and the competitions are going very well. We can only praise the organizing committee for the great work it’s done,” Eder said in an earlier exclusive interview with the Global Times.

Making friends

For the participants, from athletes and coaches to staff and volunteers, the past weeks have made Chengdu, known for its tasty cuisines, adorable pandas and a leisure lifestyle, an unforgettable place where they’ve shed sweat and tears, challenged themselves and make breakthroughs, and more importantly, make friends beyond borders, analysts said.

One touching moment which can elucidate the sportsmanship of the youth event happened on Friday. When Uganda’s badminton player Amos Muyanja broke his racket without a replacement, his competitor from China Wang Zhengxing offered Muyanja a backup racket.

The FISU Games organizer wrote on Twitter that “we unite to push our limits and inspire each other… We wish all the participants not only to take home victories but also friendship and cherished memories!”

Azerbaijan badminton player Agil Gabilov told the Global Times on Tuesday that Chengdu has been a great experience for him. He made friends with athletes and volunteers and was impressed by the friendliness he received.

Brazilian swimmer Fernanda Gomes Celidonio said that volunteers at the Chengdu Games made her feel “at home.”

Athletes including German volleyball player Yann Bohme got a birthday surprise as after a match, the cheering squad and mascot Rongbao wished him happy birthday and the audience sang in chorus the birthday melody for him.

Athletes also received special gifts, including 3D-printed figurine and local artifacts such as palm fiber weavings and embroidery badges, according to media reports.

The Games also provide a great platform for cultural exchanges other than competition, which Zambian tennis player Esther Sakala appreciated a lot.

Sakala, as a lover of art and an artist herself, was excited to meet those crafty and talented people and see their skills. She had a chance to paint a cup which was later given as a gift and Sakala said she “Loved it so much.”A range of Chinese cultural elements, from handicrafts to musical instruments, have intrigued FISU Game participants at a culture fair held next to the Games Village.

Youth spirit

On and off the competition ground, youth across the world are demonstrating the spirit of openness, inclusiveness and solidarity, igniting a world of division and turbulence, analysts noted.

The Chengdu FISU Games were postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this successful holding marked the resumption of face-to-face communication and exchanges among youth via sports and can leverage more interactions in other fields, such as culture, they said.

Li Haidong, a professor with the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that sport can be an easy bridge to connect people from different countries and regions and help them build friendship.

The FISU World University Games in Chengdu are a precious opportunity for athletes and people from all around the world to deepen mutual understanding and trust, which will also lay the foundation for closer cooperation and solidarity, Li noted.

FISU Universiade was first held during the Cold War in 1959. It not only encourages young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but also seeks to promote young people communicating across cultural, political and religious barriers through sports, Ren Hai, a professor at the Olympic Research Center of Beijing Sports University, told the Global Times.

When the world is experiencing uncertainty and turbulence, China hopes to deliver a message of peace, communication and cooperation through this gathering of young people, who represent hope and the future, analysts said.

Eder, the acting president of the FISU, has visited China more than 20 times and observed the country’s fast economic development, as well as its increased confidence and openness. “I can feel the country’s readiness to cooperate with many countries whether they come from the East, West, North, or South,” Eder said.