China eyes Paris Olympics berth at FIBA Basketball World Cup

China's men's basketball team looks to secure a berth at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games at the basketball World Cup. Tipping off on Friday in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia, this is the first time the global showpiece will be hosted by multiple nations.

A total of 32 teams, divided into eight groups of four, will fight for the coveted Naismith Trophy. The top two teams of each group will qualify for the second round, while the bottom two teams will play in the classification round for 17-32 places.

Teams also set their sights on securing a spot at the Paris Olympic Games, with seven tickets at stake in this World Cup and distributed to the best teams per continent.

China eyes to finish the tournament with the best result among Asian teams, so as to book the only ticket allocated to Asia for the Paris Games. 

China will open their campaign against hot favorites Serbia on Saturday before squaring up against debutants South Sudan on Monday. In the last group game on Wednesday, China will meet world No.20 Puerto Rico.

It's exciting to see how naturalized forward Li Kai'er makes a difference in the rebuilt Chinese team. 

Zhou He, a Beijing-based basketball commentator, told the Global Times that it will be difficult for China to secure a spot for the Paris Games via this World Cup.

"There is a big gap in strength between China and the European teams. This is a good opportunity for the young players to gain experience and grow, such as the promising forwards Cui Yongxi and Zhang Zhenlin," Zhou said.

Despite the absence of ace center Nikola Jokic, Serbia has been one of the most formidable forces in Europe and is clear favorites to win the group. The real intrigue lies over which team can progress along with them.

Regular presence Puerto Rico is a tall order for China to handle, while South Sudan has been enjoying a purple patch after earning their maiden World Cup appearance by winning 11 of 12 qualifying games.

Zhou said China cannot pin all its hopes on a single player - the 29-year-old Li, who averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while with the NBA franchise Minnesota Timberwolves. 

"We can see from the role he plays in the NBA that he does a bit of everything like three pointers, rebounds and playmaking. But we can't expect him to take over playmaking duties the whole game and he's not a big-time scorer," Zhou noted. 

"In difficult moments, other players are required to step up and help the team."

In the warm-up games prior to the world cup, Li has been trying to integrate into the team. China's head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic from Serbia said Li is still working hard to get to his maximum.

Among the top 30 stars to watch in this tournament, as listed by the world's basketball governing body FIBA, Li is ranked No.27. 

"It will be intriguing to see how the wiry forward steps into a bigger role for China. Li's strengths as a somewhat position-less forward who plays at his own pace and brings the best out of his teammates will make up an interesting duo with Zhou Qi at center," said FIBA.

‘Absolutely phenomenal’ opening ceremony, seamless coordination with Chinese organizers, brilliant contactless ID cards impress me: OCA Acting President Raja Randhir Singh

Raja Randhir Singh, Acting President of the Olympic Committee of Asia, told the Global Times during a news conference on Sunday that he is extremely impressed by the Hangzhou Asian Games, especially with the opening ceremony, the coordination between the OCA and the organizers, and in a clever gadget - contactless ID cards.

When talking about Saturday night's opening ceremony, Acting President Singh used the words "absolutely phenomenal."

Singh said that he would like to congratulate the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (HAGOC) and the Chinese government on the spectacular ceremony.

He expressed a special thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping on his support during the ceremony. 

"It is the finest and most beautiful ceremony I have ever seen," said the OCA Acting President. "I look forward to the great Games following it."

Singh spoke highly of the coordination between the OCA and the Chinese organizers, while answering a question from the Global Times during Sunday's news conference. 

"As I have mentioned many times, we have a very good coordination with the organizers, so there is no problem," he said.

Singh said the teamwork has been prominent all the time. "We have a working group and a coordination committee. We are in touch all the time."

"From my side, we have never had a problem," he noted. "And the HAGOC has been in support for all the national committees and the members of the OCA who are looking for any kind of support."

Speaking of what impressed him the most in Hangzhou, the OCA Acting President, who is also the first Indian shooter to win a gold medal in the Asian Games in 1978, surprisingly mentioned a clever gadget. 

"What I would like to mention particularly is something that is very new this time," he said. "Normally, you would have to walk around with your participant card and scan and wait for it. But not in Hangzhou."

With Hangzhou's contactless participant ID card, all participants can just walk through any entrance with it hanging around the neck, he said. 

"When you walk in the hotel, you just walk in. It saved so much time, especially for the athletes," said Singh. "When they are competing and need to go to another venue, they can just walk in and walk out, and the card is instantly recorded. It is such a brilliant manner that you don't have to waste time. It saves the lines that are useless."

Tennis ace Zhang continues charge at home in Shanghai Masters

China's tennis ace Zhang Zhizhen looks like he will make more history in his hometown Shanghai as he eyes to progress to the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters. If he succeeds, he will become the first Chinese player to reach the stage in the history of the ATP Masters event.

Currently in the last 16 at the hard-court tournament, the 26-year-old will aim to continue his historic run when he plays 16th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

"This is the second time I've been in the second week of the Masters. I'm quite happy," Zhang told media. 

"I always wanted to play tennis well in my hometown and in front of my family, and finally this time I did. Hopefully, I can keep going."

Zhang played against Hurkacz at the 2019 event, but was seen off by the Polish player 2-0.

"I still remember that match. I had the opportunity to win the first set, but I didn't grasp it," Zhang said. 

"Four years have passed; we are both improving. It's going to be a tough match," he said of his upcoming match against Hurkacz.

To prepare for the match, Zhang skipped his doubles match with his pair Jannik Sinner of Italy against Rajeev Ram of the US and Joe Salisbury of the UK on Monday.

"Our doubles match has been canceled, but of course we both will focus more on the singles, because singles are more important," Zhang said. 

"Sinner had a very good performance in China. For me, I've also played a lot of matches in China so far, so both of us think that we need to focus more on singles." 

Zhang was referring to the Asian Games matches he played. Ahead of the Shanghai Masters, he won the men's singles gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, bagging China's first gold medal in 29 years in the discipline. 

He said the victory at the Asian Games has boosted his confidence. 

"I am more confident after winning, though the Asian Games were not that intense. But it's still a gold medal, so that definitely boosted myself confidence. It also gives me more confidence in facing difficulties that I might encounter this week."

Zhang became the first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist from China in May at the Madrid Masters and rose to No.52 in the ATP rankings in July after making it into the last 32 in the French Open, the highest position ever held by anyone from the East Asian country. 

He beat Casper Ruud of Norway at the US Open to become the first Chinese man to beat a top-five opponent.

Zhang also unveiled his little habits when competing. 

"I go to the same place to eat, and then I drink coconut water every day. I think many people have small things that we are obsessed with, especially when we are winning," he said.

In Shanghai, Chinese youth recreate Halloween with a distinctive Chinese style

In Shanghai, Halloween this year has fewer pumpkins and Jack-o'-Lanterns, but a little bit more cosplay competitions featuring characters from hit TV dramas and ancient novels and Chinese celebrities. In the eyes of Chinese youths, celebrating this “imported festival” via a unique Chinese demonstrates to the world the Chinese public’s cultural confidence and openness. 

The topic of Halloween in Shanghai has dominated Chinese social media recently. In pictures trickling out on the internet, Shanghai’s youngsters can be seen donning Beijing opera costumes, while others go as topless Batman… others put pictures of top China beauty influencer Li Jiaqi on their faces while wearing T-shirts that say, “Why do you think this is expensive?” to mock Li’s previous controversy in which he said during a livestream that viewers only have themselves to blame for not earning enough, after the chat complained about the price of an eyebrow pencil he was promoting. 

Characters from Empresses in the Palace, a popular TV drama about the intrigue between the emperor's concubines in the imperial palace during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), were top cosplay targets for young people in Shanghai. 

“Halloween has already become a Chinese-style carnival. Dressing as people we like is a good way of venting pressure and relaxing,” a Shanghai resident who dressed as one character in the show told the Global Times.

Some people did not go for complicated outfits – just putting dark circles under their eyes, squinting and carrying a sign that said “Party B” was enough to create a vivid imitation of an exhausted employee. 

The celebrations were organized by the participants themselves, but the scale was so big that Shanghai police added additional manpower on Tuesday night on Jululu Road, where the celebrations were held, and asked citizens to spread the news that the bars along the road were no longer serving customers, and people could only exit the venue instead of entering, media reported.

Shanghai police redirected traffic around Jululu Road on Tuesday, to cope with the large crowds expected to come that night. 

Ai Ai (pseudonym), a 28-year-old Shanghai resident who joined the city’s celebration, told the Global Times on Wednesday that she joined for “pure fun.” “There are few occasions you can see cosplayers wearing all styles. It is so interesting to see young people dress in such creative ways.”

Ku (pseudonym), another Shanghai resident who works as a “costume maker” brought her self-made wheelchair to the celebration. 
“It is an opportunity to bring to everyone the cool things I have made… I feel so happy to be a ‘cyberpunk worker.’”

“I have to say, New York pales in comparison with Shanghai in terms of Halloween celebration this year,” a Shanghai resident who is currently studying in New York said on his WeChat account.

However, there are people who went too far. Some people dressed as medical workers doing COVID-19 tests for residents, which sparked outrage online with many calling the cosplay “low quality and disrespectful of medical workers.” 

As usual, the celebration of Halloween has drawn a torrent of discussion online, as many question whether it is appropriate, some also called the celebration of imported festivals “worship of everything that’s foreign.”

“The festival represents a certain kind of culture. However, there’s no right or wrong in a certain culture, it just depends on whether one likes it or not. Some Chinese people have injected Halloween with Chinese style and use this festival to have fun, what’s wrong about that?” said Ai. 

Ku also believe such a statement is “absolute.” 
“As a Gene-Z youngster, I grew up in the era of China’s rapid development, and I believe we are the generation with the biggest national pride. It is such pride that gives us an inclusive attitude toward other cultures.”

Jiefang Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China, defends young people’s celebration of Halloween. It published an article on Tuesday that said the Shanghai streets on Halloween turned young people’s crazy fantasies into reality. 

The article said that it is a celebration of Chinese youths, and there’s no need to be nervous about the little pumpkins and Jack-o'-Lanterns. “The Halloween party, rather than being an opportunity for Chinese to celebrate a Western festival, is a big global party that involves young people from both China and other countries. People from different countries toast each other, forming a lively symbol of Shanghai’s openness and cosmopolitan nature.” 

Ku was amazed by how creative Chinese have “remolded” the Western festival. “I think it is so cool that we can use our own culture, our own jokes to turn this festival into one that has Chinese style. I hope Shanghai can witness more outstanding celebrations of other festivals, so we can have more time to relax, entertain ourselves, as well as let our creative juices fly.”

Preservation and restoration efforts transform ancient town into a thriving tourist destination

Nestled along the banks of the Yellow River, a picturesque ancient village Qikou, which was one of the most prosperous settlements in North China's Shanxi Province, offers breathtaking beauty to visitors. The village, with its traditional architecture nestled amidst rolling hills, exudes an aura of tranquility and timelessness. Travelers from all over the world pass through the ancient town, coming to experience the unique culture of the Yellow River Basin and the picturesque beauty of the ancient villages with distinctive northern characteristics.

In the past, the Yellow River played a crucial role as a transportation route for goods between northern and southern China. To ensure the efficient operation of this transportation system, Qikou emerged as a significant trading port. Merchants would anchor their ships at Qikou and then transfer their goods onto camel or horse-drawn caravans for further transportation over land. Qikou gained prominence during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties, earning a reputation as one of the Yellow River's most significant ports.

Booming tourism

In recent years, with the enhanced efforts in cultural preservation, governments at all levels have continuously increased investment in the restoration and protection of historical buildings and ancient residences in Qikou, promoting the integrated development of culture and tourism, making it reborn as a "living ancient town." Ancient buildings such as escort agencies, pawnshops, and warehouses tell the story of the town's past prosperity.

Tourists from all over the country flock to the town, allowing the local people to benefit from the booming tourism relying on the unique culture and ecology of the Yellow River.

The locals, with their warm hospitality, proudly share stories of their ancestors who relied on the Yellow River, known as the "Mother River" of China, for their livelihoods. The name "Qikou," roughly translates to mean "moraine" or "a rock in shallow water." The stone walls, weathered by time, stand as a testament to the resilience of the people who called this place home.

In order to protect them from flooding, many of local houses, known as "yaodongs" or "loess cave houses," have been physically carved into the steep hillside along the banks of the Yellow River.

On a slope that stretches for hundreds of meters and is inclined at about 40 degrees, there are rows of cave dwellings arranged in layers, which are both scattered and unique in their own ways. Rock erosion over the years has created a form of beautiful "modern art."

Located about 10 kilometers south of Qikou, the small village of Lijiashan is renowned for its myriad of over 400 yaodongs carved into the cliff-face of Lijia Mountain.

The Global Times has learned that during this year's Golden Week holidays in October, Qikou was a hot destination for domestic travelers, with a daily flow of people exceeding 10,000. The scenic area has also launched traditional folk agricultural cultural performances with hundreds of participants, showcasing scenes of threshing, winnowing, and transplanting, vividly showing the hardworking and agricultural spirit of their ancestors.

"The ancient village here truly showcases the local folk customs, all of which originate from agricultural culture and the most primitive farming life. This is very attractive and novel for visitors from the south, allowing us to experience the charm of the Yellow River," a tourist surnamed Liang from East China's Jiangsu Province who came to Qikou on November 2 for sightseeing told the Global Times.

Caves turned to studios

Nowadays, the authentic Lijiashan village is attracting more visitors as villagers have transformed their idle cave dwellings into art bases, art studios, and art exhibition halls, creating a renowned art creation base both domestically and internationally, forming the brand of the village. They have also utilized vacant houses to develop rural tourism and accommodation industries, seizing the opportunity of rural tourism and expanding their income channels.

The 62-year-old villager Yang Yanmei often uses her spare time as a tour guide to walk on the paths of Lijiashan and telling stories of past generations. As a fan of traditional opera, she and her husband enjoy spontaneously singing Shanxi opera or local traditional melody adapted from local stories. She always wears a sincere and sanguine smile, impressing tourists with her simplicity and humor.

Chen Yuxiang, 58, who lives in the east of village, wears a white headscarf and a green floral jacket, basking in the warm sun while sitting under the eaves and picking coriander, perfectly harmonizing with the yellow earth behind her.

In 2022, the cheerful Chen started using her mobile phone to record her rural life with her husband - farming, cooking, and showcasing various authentic and unique Shanxi cuisine. She has over 200,000 followers on short video platforms.

Chen showcases her joyful life to tourists with a humorous tone and rich expressions, which earns her a lot applause. People are amazed by the resilience and optimism that have been passed down through generations on the lady living on the Loess Plateau.

71-year-old villager Li Yuecheng leads his donkey through Qikou's ancient town while singing local folk songs. He decorates his donkey and offers it to tourists for rides during the low season for agricultural production.

His powerful and vivid performance while singing folk songs always attracts a crowd. Village officials jokingly say that Li has earned a lot of money in the tourism industry with these skills over the years.

Tour guides, guesthouse owners, restaurant owners, performers... more and more villagers have gained "new identities" by relying on the mountains and rivers. Some like Yang have even moved back to their ancestral homes on the mountains from the town, hoping to live a better and bustling life through tourism.

The recovery of the tourism industry benefits largely from the local government's significant investment in protection of the area. In recent years, local authorities have carried out protection and restoration of historical buildings and ancient dwellings in the Qikou ancient town.

Today the ancient town has become a popular tourist attraction. More than 5,000 people out of a population of about 30,000 in the town are engaged in the tourism industry.

Over 1,000 millennia-old stone artifacts found in North China

Over 1,000 ancient stone artifacts dating back to the Paleolithic era, also known as the Old Stone Age, spanning from 2.6 million years ago to 10,000 years ago, have been unearthed at the Xiacun archaeological site in North China’s Shanxi Province, according to a report by China News Agency on Tuesday.

The Shanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology unveiled their latest findings on Tuesday, the report said, presenting a rich collection of stone tools and artifacts found at the Ganliang site within the Xiacun ruins, which has undergone several large-scale surveys and excavations since its discovery in 1970.

A total of 1,036 stone artifacts were unearthed at the Ganliang site, with 853 belonging to the lower cultural layer and 183 to the upper cultural layer.

The stone artifacts document two developmental stages within the site’s Paleolithic culture: the lower cultural layer represents the earlier phase characterized by stone technology from lithic to microlithic, while the upper cultural layer showcases advanced microlith technology.

The archaeological findings revealed that raw materials for crafting these stone tools primarily included flint and quartzite. Quartzite and black flint were the main materials in use across the upper and lower cultural layers, with quartzite obtained locally near the Ganliang site and black flint sourced from a more distant location. 

Notably, in the lower cultural layer, local quartzite was the predominant raw material.

In terms of the lithic technology, the lower cultural layer featured a direct hard-hammer percussion technique without evidence of pre-formed lithic cores, resulting in diverse and less standardized tool shapes. Some specimens bore a resemblance to microlithic blades.

The upper cultural layer employed both direct hard-hammer percussion to detach stone flakes and a pressure technique to extract microlithic blades, suggesting a more refined approach in the late Paleolithic era. 

Furthermore, the tool assemblages in the lower and upper cultural layers differ significantly. Heavy tools like stone axes were absent in the upper cultural layer, indicating functional distinctions between the two layers around 30,000 years ago. 

Round-edged stone scrapers in the lower cultural layer were primarily manufactured through direct hard-hammer percussion, while in the upper cultural layer, a pressure technique was predominantly used.

These discoveries have enriched the understanding of China’s late Paleolithic cultures and provided valuable insights into the cultural transition and the origins of the microlithic blade technology of the late Paleolithic era, the report said. 

2023 ‘world expo’ in Chengdu shows diverse Chinese cultural heritages, promotes global communication

Aiming at sharing China's experiences in cultural heritage conservation with the world, the 2023 World Expo on Cultural Heritage Conservation and Rehabilitation, a gala that highlights numerous A-list Chinese museums, will be held in Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, starting from November 23. 

The three-day expo includes five exhibiting areas with specified themes like "digital cultural relics," "intangible cultural heritage (ICH)" and "museums." 

The star of the event is the "museum" section. It hosts top-notch cultural institutions like the Palace Museum in Beijing, the Sanxingdui Museum in Sichuan Province and also the Dunhuang Academy, a research-and-exhibition in one institution that has nearly 80 years of history in Northwest China's Gansu Province. 

Xiang Xinshuang, a cultural heritage researcher in Shanghai, told the Global Times that these museums, with their vast collections, can reflect the "diversity and wide spectrum of Chinese cultural heritages."

"A cultural institution, the Dunhuang Academy, for example, doesn't just show relics, but also embodies the path and mindset that Chinese culturalists use to safeguard the country's cultural treasures," Li Liyang, a museum expert, told the Global Times. 

More than 80 exhibitors worldwide will join the upcoming Chengdu cultural fair, Yu Houli, a staff member of one of the expo's organizers, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Sichuan Research Institute (SJTUSRI), told the Global Times. 

The fair will see the participation of cultural experts from countries such as France, Poland and Nepal. Yu revealed that Germany and Italy will be the two biggest overseas delegations at the expo, with participants such as the University of Florence and the German-Chinese Association of Artificial Intelligence (GCAAI). 

 Xiang told the Global Times that compared with the "liberal art" nature of many cultural exhibitors at the event, the natural science-oriented participants like the Polytechnic University of Turin may bring "a new multi-discipline twist to China's cultural heritage conservation." 

"It also reflects the trending approach to integrate technology, engineering and digital means into the cultural heritage conservation field. Such an international expo provides abundant opportunities for cross-subject collaboration between China and overseas," Xiang remarked. 

The "diversity" of participants does not only reflect their mixed cultural backgrounds, but also participants' professions. Other than scholars, the event also embraces intangible cultural inheritors, architectural studios, and cultural tourism professionals and veterans in the cultural creative industry. 

Besides the exhibition section, the Chengdu expo will host over 16 events, including forum discussions stressing subjects like the "Central Axis of Beijing" and "new technologies and materials for conserving ancient buildings," as well as a forum that invites ICH inheritors to share their experiences with each other. 

Instead of choosing Chinese mega cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the event has landed in Chengdu, one of Southwest China's most cultural enriched cities. Yu described Chengdu as a "rising star" that contributes to the Chinese cultural economy, especially cultural tourism. 

"Because of Chengdu's potential, the event will also be held in 2024 and 2025 in the city," the SJTUSRI staff member told the Global Times. 

Including SJTUSRI, the 2023 World Expo on Cultural Heritage Conservation and Rehabilitation is hosted by several organizers like the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Heritage Administration, China Association for Conservation Technology of Cultural Heritage and the China Foundation For Cultural Heritage Conservation. 

The event will be held at Chengdu's Western China International Expo City and is scheduled to end on November 25. 

AlNeyadi's space mission will continue to benefit from his scientific experiments: MBRSC

Emirati Astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi's mission will continue after his return to Earth to benefit from the scientific experiments he participated in during his six-month mission on board the International Space Station (ISS), according to Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

During a virtual news conference today, coinciding with the undocking of the Dragon Spacecraft from the ISS, Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director-General of MBRSC, stated that Sultan AlNeyadi, along with his Crew-6 crewmates, began their journey back to Earth, adding that their spacecraft is projected to touchdown off the coast of Tampa, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning,

AlMarri explained that one of the MBRSC's teams will focus on the safety of the astronauts and their medical rehabilitation to return to normality, which will take a few weeks. He noted that another team will focus on the scientific experiments, while the administrative team will focus on the nature of the mission, administrative and organisational matters, as well as handling discussions with various parties.

Following the undocking, if necessary, a series of orbit-lowering manoeuvres, known as phasing burns, will be executed on the spacecraft to align its ground track with the targeted landing location. Before initiating the deorbit burn, the flight computer will jettison the spacecraft's trunk, a step crucial for reducing its mass and conserving propellant. This will pave the way for the spacecraft's deorbit burn, scheduled to last for 12 minutes.

Upon completion, as the spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it will encounter significant heating and drag, effectively reducing its velocity to a safe point suitable for parachute deployment. At an altitude of 18,000 feet, two drogue parachutes will be deployed, quickly followed by the release of four main parachutes at approximately 6,500 feet. Under the steady guidance of these four main parachutes, the spacecraft is projected to make a gentle splashdown at a speed of 25 feet per second off the coast of Tampa, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico on September 4.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.

Nepalese PM's visit to China set to further enhance relations

Nepal adheres to the one-China policy and will never allow any activities that are detrimental to China's interests, said Nepalese Foreign Minister Narayan Prasad Saud in Beijing on Sunday.

Saud noted that Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda's visit to China will further strengthen the Nepal-China relationship.

"Nepal is firmly committed to China's interests, and we appreciate China's continued support for Nepal's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national freedom," he said.

Saud made the remarks during a speech at a welcome ceremony for Prime Minister Prachanda at the Embassy of Nepal in Beijing on Sunday.

At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Prachanda is paying an official visit to China from September 23 to 30. Prachanda has visited China many times and made important contributions to promoting the development of China-Nepal relations.

Prachanda attended the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, on Saturday. During his visit, he will meet with Chinese leaders and discuss many important issues.

Saud said that Nepal and China have a long history of friendship and cultural exchanges dating back centuries. "We are committed to further strengthening and consolidating our relationship based on mutual respect, trust and understanding."

He also commended the remarkable progress that China's economy has made, while noting that there are great opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in various fields, such as trade, investment, hydropower, tourism, mining, poverty alleviation and connectivity.

China is Nepal's second-largest trading partner and an important source of foreign investment and tourism.

"Connectivity is crucial for the economic partnership between China and Nepal. The Nepalese government is committed to maintaining the normal operation of all border ports between China and Nepal, constructing border infrastructure, establishing well-equipped testing and certification laboratories at the China-Nepal border, accelerating the construction of border customs facilities, and considering it a top priority," Saud said.

"We see numerous opportunities to further strengthen economic cooperation and promote the entry of Nepalese products into the Chinese market."

According to Saud, the Nepalese government is fully committed to providing all possible support for foreign companies investing in Nepal.

Nepalese Ambassador to China Bishnu Pukar Shrestha said at Sunday's ceremony that Nepal-China relations hold more significance as the country is aiming to move out of the category of Least Developed Countries in 2026.

"The incredible leap that China has made on the economic front and its eradication of absolute poverty will serve as a best practice example for the development endeavours of Nepal," said Shrestha.

Broadening the horizons of cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, trade, digital economy, green energy, agriculture, tourism, investment, education and culture will benefit the people of the two countries, which will pave the way forward for bilateral relations, he said.

Humanitarian crisis looms as Israel poised for ground operation

As the casualties keep climbing in the Gaza Strip, Chinese observers warned a humanitarian crisis in the region is unavoidable if the fighting between Hamas and Israel doesn't stop. The observers also said such a crisis, if caused by atrocities, could trigger a public opinion explosion and reverse the political situation at certain tipping point. At this juncture, the US, which can exert real influence on Israel, is urged to pressure Israel to cool down its offensive in Gaza, instead of further stoking tension in the Middle East.

Western media has been piling pressure on China to condemn Hamas. Chinese observers said that it is illogical to ask China to pick sides in a conflict that's partly caused by Western colonization and exacerbated by US biased Middle East policies. China's impartiality in responding to this crisis remains consistent, said the experts, noting China is also willing to provide convenience for the negotiation between Palestine and Israel if necessary.

The Israeli military said on Thursday it is preparing for a possible ground operation in Gaza but that the political leadership has not yet decided on one. Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht said on Thursday that forces "are preparing for a ground maneuver if decided."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday that Israel would "crush and destroy" the Hamas militant group.

According to the AP, the conflict has already claimed at least 2,300 lives on both sides, following an increase in Israeli bombardments on the sixth day since Hamas' surprise attack. More than 338,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Gaza, the UN said, as food, fuel and medical supplies dwindle.

Three Chinese nationals were killed and two are missing in the conflict, the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday, noting that several others are injured. The relevant Chinese diplomatic missions abroad are fully coordinating the treatment of the injured and handling the aftermath for the deceased, said the ministry.

The risk of a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip is mounting and will become even more likely if the Israeli army launches a ground operation, as Gaza is densely populated and Hamas can easily mingle with civilians, which makes army forces difficult to identify, Tian Wenlin, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

Soaring death toll and exacerbated dilemma in Gaza will probably lead to overwhelming sympathy toward people in Palestine, whose military power pales in comparison with Israel's. That scenario (public opinion sympathetic to Palestinians) is also what Hamas wants, said Zhu Weilie, the director of the Middle East Studies Institute of the Shanghai International Studies University.

Netanyahu and centrist opposition leader Benny Gantz, a former defence minister and military chief of staff, have agreed to form an emergency unity government, Gantz's National Unity party said on Wednesday. Chinese observers see this union as a signal that Israel is going to take tougher actions against Hamas.

Palestinian medical sources said recently that Israel on Wednesday targeted the western port area of Gaza with several white phosphorus bombs, resulting in hundreds of cases of suffocation. In response, a spokesperson from the UN said on Wednesday that the UN hasn't seen any report of this regard.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday voiced grave concern over the escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza. "I appeal to all parties - and those who have an influence over those parties - to avoid any further escalation and spillover," he told reporters at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Tian noted that the US can exert influence on Israel to cool down its continuous offense in the Gaza Strip. However, what Washington is doing is to fuel the already tensed situation by sending warships and unilaterally condemning Hamas, rather than ask Israel to stop bombardment in the Gaza Strip, according to Tian.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel on Thursday in a show of support for Israel after Hamas surprise attack. The US could soon have two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean, US media Politico cited Defense Department officials as saying.

If Washington really wants to mediate the crisis, it should sit both sides down for negotiations, instead of sending warships to the Middle East to boost Israel's morale, Zhu told the Global Times. He said the way the US is stoking tension will prolong the conflict, thus lead to the death of more civilians, as well as bigger humanitarian crisis.

In an interview with Phoenix published on Thursday, Palestinian Ambassador to China Fariz Mehdawi said China has been asking for a collective effort to solve the conflicts in the Middle East, "but has never been accepted by the US unfortunately, because they kept it within the Quartet as if China doesn't exist. They [the Americans] think the Middle East is their own garden, they have to keep control of everything for them … And we are paying the price of this monopoly. In short, it's a selfish foreign policy which is irresponsible in my opinion."

West shifts blame

China remains deeply concerned over the escalating situation which has resulted in numerous innocent civilian casualties and over the serious deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Palestine, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a Thursday briefing, noting that China will maintain communication with relevant parties to promote ceasefire and help alleviate an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Zhai Jun, special envoy of the Chinese government on the Middle East issue, on Thursday had a phone conversation with Rafi Harpaz, the Deputy Director General in charge of Asia-Pacific affairs of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Zhai noted that China is deeply concerned over the escalating tension and violence and is saddened by the civilian casualties. China condemns the acts that harm innocent civilians and calls for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of violence.

China has no self-interest in the Palestinian question and has always stood on the side of peace and justice. China sincerely hopes for peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine and is willing to work with the international community to promote peace and create conditions for its realization, said Zhai.

Zhai also had phone calls with Amal Jadou, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Palestine, and Osama Khedr, assistant minister of the Palestine department in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry separately in recent days.

However, some Western media outlets started to hype China's response to the conflict, and said China stopped short of condemning Hamas. An article published in The Diplomat on Wednesday said that "China's Response to the Israel-Hamas Conflict Reflects Its Longstanding Support for Palestine." US media Politico ran another article calling China's response to Hamas' attack "soft message."

Tian said the Western media is shifting groundless blame to China. "The root of the conflicts is partly the result of the British colonization, and US' long-term disregard of Palestine requests. Now that the bomb Western countries planted a long time ago has exploded, they are blaming China for not condemning Hamas. Where is the logic?" said Tian.

As a matter of fact, the burst of the current Palestine-Israel conflicts is a proof that China's proposal of a two-state solution is the right way, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

China's impartiality in Palestine-Israel conflicts remain consistent, said Zhu. China has offered many times to provide convenience for the negotiation between Palestine and Israel, and China will continue to do this if necessary.