International cooperation boosts China's competitiveness in controlled nuclear fusion: political advisor

China is playing an increasingly important role in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project and it is due to the long-term attention and support of the country's industry and government to controlled nuclear fusion research, Duan Xuru, a senior expert on fusion who is also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times.
Especially through participation in the ITER project, the world's largest "artificial sun," the level of China's research in controlled nuclear fusion has been greatly improved, and the technological level has caught up and even surpassed those of other countries in some areas, said Duan, chief expert on fusion of the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).

The ITER is a tokamak that can generate large-scale nuclear fusion reactions, aiming to simulate the nuclear fusion process that generates light and heat like the sun. The experiment is jointly implemented by China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. China officially joined the plan in 2006. Since the implementation of the plan, China has always adhered to international commitments and contributed Chinese wisdom and strength to the smooth progress of the plan.

On February 29, the ITER organization signed a contract for assembling the vacuum chamber module with China Nuclear Power Engineering Co, Ltd of CNNC. This is the second time that China has undertaken the installation task of the ITER's core equipment, contributing wisdom and strength to the progress of this project, according to the CNNC.

The assembly of the vacuum chamber module is to integrate and assemble the main large components such as the toroidal field coils, vacuum chamber, and vacuum chamber thermal shield in the assembly hall, and then lift the whole assembly into the tokamak pit. Among them, the toroidal field coils provide a toroidal strong magnetic field for confining the plasma at temperatures of over a hundred million degrees, according to Duan.

Located in the central area of the device, the vacuum chamber supports the plasma confined by the magnetic field, providing the required high-purity environment for plasma formation and maintenance. The vacuum chamber thermal shield mainly provides thermal shielding for the superconducting magnets to ensure the stable operation of the low-temperature superconducting magnets. "The assembly of the vacuum chamber module is an important milestone for the ITER project, marking that the installation of the ITER main machine has entered the final sprint stage," Duan said.

China has undertaken the manufacturing tasks of 18 procurement packages of the ITER since 2008, involving core key components such as the magnet support system, magnet feeder system, power system, glow discharge cleaning system, gas injection system, and the first wall of the reactor core that can withstand extremely high temperatures.

"China's tokamak engineering construction and related physical experiments have entered the international forefront. The engineering technology and manufacturing processes of key components of fusion reactors have made key breakthroughs, and some technological levels are leading internationally. A group of enterprises, research institutions, and universities have cultivated talents in tokamak engineering construction, fusion reactor component manufacturing, and large-scale scientific project management, accumulating experience. China's international discourse power in the field of nuclear fusion research is increasing. In the fields of material production and large equipment manufacturing, China has gradually formed advantages in foreign countries, and these advantages will provide strong technical support for the high-level development of China's controlled fusion engineering technology," Duan said.

While participating in the development of ITER, China's independently constructed and operated new generation artificial sun China Circulation-3 has also continued to improve. In 2023, the device successfully achieved high-constraint operation mode under a plasma current of 1 million amperes and was opened to global scientists.

Asking about different roles of ITER and China Circulation-3, Duan explained that ITER is an experimental reactor, and its goal is to verify the scientific and engineering feasibility of fusion reactors under conditions where the fusion gain Q is greater than 10 within 400 seconds and greater than 5 within 3,000 seconds.

Meanwhile, China Circulation III is the largest and most powerful magnetic confinement nuclear fusion large scientific experimental device in China, aiming to provide preliminary verification and solutions for key scientific and technical issues of the experimental reactor, including core plasma operation, nuclear diagnostics, tritium engineering technology, divertor high heat load control, etc, serving as an important support for China's leapfrog development in fusion energy research and development, he said.

In the future, China Circulation III will strive for higher plasma operating parameters, gradually raise the comprehensive parameters of the fusion plasma core to the level of the core, create an internationally leading combustion plasma large scientific experimental platform, support China's deep participation in ITER experiments, better digest and absorb ITER research results, and lay the foundation for China's independent design, construction, and operation of fusion pilot engineering experimental reactors, Duan noted.

In Duan's view, climate change and energy security issues have become common challenges faced by the world. Considering this, nuclear fusion energy, as a future clean, safe, and efficient energy source, is of great significance for the sustainable development of human society.

Mastering the technology of controlled nuclear fusion means that people may have access to almost unlimited clean energy in the future, and the energy crisis may be completely resolved, Duan said.

But to realize the application of nuclear fusion energy, there are still some major scientific and technological challenges, mainly including the steady-state self-sustaining burning of deuterium-tritium fusion plasma, fusion reactor materials, and tritium self-sustaining, Duan said, stressing the importance of international cooperation to promote the innovation of nuclear fusion technology.

'We have each other in future plans,’ Chinese Gen Zers see bright prospect in China-US relations through bridged divide, enhanced trust

Editor's Note:

The youth are the vanguards of our time, showcasing boundless energy and vibrant personalities.

Gen-Zers not only represent the makers of the future but also serve as agents of change in the present. With an open mindset and an international outlook, they actively integrate into the currents of globalization, engaging in deep exchanges, and collaborating with youth from around the world to explore pathways and strategies to address global challenges.

The Global Times has launched the "Voice from Gen Z" series, which focuses on the proactive actions and innovative achievements of young people in areas such as global governance, cultural exchange, environmental protection, and technological innovation. Through this column, we aim to showcase the unique charm and future leadership of global Gen-Zers.
Wang Jiaqi, a senior at the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School in North China's Hebei Province, will never forget the moment when she and her American partner Christina said goodbye.

"We had already waved goodbye, but she ran up to me and hugged me before I got on the bus," Wang recalled.

The embrace before parting deeply touched Wang. "When saying goodbye, Christina firmly told me that our friendship can continue," Wang told the Global Times, noting that she and her American friend are staying in touch and sharing their daily lives frequently.

In late April, Wang and Christina, a student from Muscatine High School in the US state of Iowa, met in Beijing. Invited by the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School, 32 students and eight teachers from Muscatine High School visited the school as part of their weeklong study tour to Beijing, Hebei, and Shanghai.

As the host of the study tour, the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School recruited many student volunteers on campus to make the US youth feel at home. They paired up with the US students as partners, studying and living together during the tour.

After the school issued the call, many members of China's Generation Z eagerly signed up. They saw it as a great opportunity to challenge themselves and showcase their abilities, while also hoping to further develop and maintain friendships with the US youth.

True feeling in details

Wang and her classmate Zhang Xinyi regard these US youths as part of the group of Gen Z "friendly ambassadors." The delegation is a part of the program, which was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2023, aiming to invite 50,000 young Americans to China over a period of five years for exchanges and study.

From January 24 to 30 this year, under the care of President Xi, over 20 students from the school came to Beijing, Hebei, and Shanghai as the first group of US high school students in the program for exchange visits. This was Wang and Zhang's first close contact with US youths.

"That unforgettable interaction further strengthened my determination to participate in this activity," Zhang told the Global Times.?

What excited Zhang and Wang was that during the recent study tour, they spent six days with their new American friends, the second batch from Muscatine High School. They visited famous sites in Beijing and Hebei such as the Forbidden City and Longxing Temple, and took classes of Chinese martial arts together.?

They even had the opportunity to invite their partners to their homes.?

"After a thorough cleaning, we studied authentic Hebei cuisine together," Wang said.

To her delight, her partner Christina loved the food and enjoyed the warm familial atmosphere. "China is great, and your home is so warm," Wang was told.?

At the dinner table, Wang found that contrary to the stereotype that Americans do not eat seafood or spicy food, she discovered that Christina was willing to try all types of dishes. "She was even particularly excited to see the Chinese toon, a common edible plant in China with a unique fragrance, and insisted on trying it." In Wang's eyes, her peers from the American Gen Z era are very enthusiastic and open, showing great curiosity about everything Chinese and are eager to explore different cultures.
Zhang had a similar experience. On the evening of April 21, Zhang welcomed her partner Brynn Ann Castle, an American girl about to start her collegiate life, into her home. In Zhang's bedroom, Minions and Woody dolls quickly helped the two young girls find more common topics.

After a brief ice breaker, Castle eagerly tried playing Zhang's Pipa, a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Later, they looked through Zhang's family photo album together and shared funny stories about their families, with endless topics to talk about.

During their conversation, Zhang mentioned that she could feel that Chinese teenagers are generally influenced by family and collective concepts, placing more emphasis on family and social responsibilities. US teens, on the other hand, tend to prioritize individual pursuits, and are better at expressing themselves and pursuing personal independence and freedom.

However, Zhang also believes that with the development of globalization, the differences between the two countries' teenagers are gradually narrowing. "We have a lot in common, such as both enjoying listening to music and eating desserts to relieve stress. I love Marvel movies, and my US friends also enjoy playing the game Honor of Kings," she said.

Facing these similarities and differences, Zhang believes that exchanges between young people from both countries and sharing their cultures, values, and lifestyles, they can turn misunderstandings into understanding, amplify common interests, and enhance friendship and trust.

In an interview with the Global Times, when asked about their views on current China-US relations, Wang and Zhang both expressed that what gives them clear hope for the future of bilateral relations is that they and their US friends have each other in their future plans.

Wang plans to meet up with Christina at Universal Studios in the US this summer. Zhang shared beautiful scenery photos from her trip to Sanya, South China's Hainan Province, on WeChat. They eagerly made plans to travel together next time.

"This is just a small step for now, but we have taken it together steadily. In the future, we will see more beautiful scenery together," Zhang told the Global Times.

State Grid Changzhou Power Supply Company advances 'gas-to-electricity' transformation for catering industry

On May 17, on Jianban Road in Lijia town, Wujin district, Changzhou city, Jiangsu Province, the State Grid Changzhou Power Supply Company is working to support the "gas-to-electricity" transformation for the catering businesses along Old Street. The plan involves installing two distribution transformers to increase the power capacity by 800 kVA, meeting the electricity demands of 20 catering businesses.

Many street-side catering businesses in Changzhou rely on bottled liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The aging and frequent malfunctions of these steel cylinders pose significant safety issues. "Particularly for many small establishments, their kitchens lack natural ventilation, presenting fire safety risks. Replacing gas with electricity can reduce safety risks at the source," said Bian Mingcheng, Assistant Engineer of the Jintan District Fire and Rescue Brigade in Changzhou City.

The State Grid Changzhou Power Supply Company has introduced several measures to benefit the public, including streamlining the application process, funding the construction of external power line facilities, providing technical support for internal equipment upgrades, and offering new catering businesses assistance and agency services for safe electricity use. Additionally, efforts have been made to advocate for government policies and subsidies to expedite the replacement of bottled LPG and gas with pipeline natural gas and electricity in non-residential areas across the city, in line with local conditions.
"We are constructing supporting grid projects at a faster pace to meet the demand for the 'gas-to-electricity' transformation, while ensuring that low-voltage customers with power needs of 200 kW or less incur no costs for external connections. During on-site inspections, technicians can help catering businesses identify the power supply entity, calculate the necessary power capacity, and guide them through the relevant application processes," said Zhuang Yufeng, Deputy Director of the Marketing Service Center of the State Grid Changzhou Power Supply Company. To date, the company has assisted approximately 1,300 businesses in replacing gas with electricity, including 623 low-voltage capacity expansion requests, with each power capacity increasing on average threefold.

Upcoming industry investment event highlights new momentum for Central China's rise

Chinese officials announced on Tuesday that the six provinces in Central China will each host a targeted industry supply chain investment promotion event during the 13th Expo Central China, which will be held in Changsha, the capital of Central China's Hunan Province, from May 31 to June 2. Experts anticipate the event will inject new momentum for the region's rise.

The move marks the first innovative endeavor since the critical investment event's inception in 2006, adding to China's robust drive to build the region into favorable destinations for industrial transfers from coastal areas amid economic restructuring.

Vice Minister of Commerce Ling Ji introduced the key highlights of the upcoming event during a press conference on Tuesday, which include industrial chain investment promotion sessions led by central provinces, focusing on advanced manufacturing sectors such as modern petrochemicals, new materials, electronic information and new-energy vehicles, aiming to attract foreign investment.

The six localities are Hunan, Hubei and Henan in Central China, Anhui and Jiangxi in East China, and Shanxi in North China.

Experts believe that the innovative sessions will highlight collaborative endeavors across regions aimed at fostering integrated economic development and attracting external investors to strengthen ties with the global economy amid the country's pursuit of high-quality development and high-level opening-up.

The six central provinces so far have hosted a total of 55 state-level economic and technological development zones, serving as vital platforms for industrial transfer. In 2023, these zones achieved a regional GDP of nearly 3 trillion yuan ($414.65 billion), with total trade exceeding 1 trillion yuan and actual foreign investment reaching $2.4 billion, according to official data that Ling cited.

Ling also unveiled the ministry's forthcoming measures to accelerate the rise of Central China. Focus areas include strengthening foreign investment and trade, enhancing domestic trade circulation, and expediting the establishment of trade cooperation pilot zones and free trade zones, in a bid to elevate regional integration that is in line with the plan of high-quality development.

The plan aligns with China's ongoing push for the rise of the central region. China's leadership at a top-level symposium in March called for solid efforts to further energize the central region at a higher starting point, due to its pivotal role as important bases for grain production, energy and raw materials, modern equipment manufacturing and high-tech industries, and as a comprehensive transportation hub.

The central region holds strategic importance and is an ideal destination for industrial relocation from coastal areas due to its geographical, labor and infrastructure advantages. The phased industrial transfer plan will aid the country's high-quality development and help avoid industrial relocation to other countries, Tian Yun, a veteran economist based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Central provinces such as Hunan and Hubei have unveiled plans to transition toward middle-to-high-end industries, positioning themselves as leaders in industrial upgrades," Tian added, noting that with the ramping-up of policy support from the central government, the region's economy will gain new development momentum.

During an investigation and research tour in Anhui on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang called for greater efforts to foster emerging industries and future industries, make breakthroughs in core technologies in key areas, and create new engines for sustained economic growth, which experts said showed the central government's firm stance in promoting the rise of the region.

The region's industrial relocation and growth are pivotal for China's industrial chain security. The central provinces, with their solid manufacturing base and research capabilities, can serve as key nodes in China's industrial chain development, further promoting the country's industrial chain security and long-term sustainable development, Bian Yongzu, a senior industry research fellow and visiting scholar at Yale University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Bian stressed that amid the global green economy trend, China has made remarkable accomplishments in a series of high-tech sectors by cultivating leading enterprises and industrial zones, which "offer favorable conditions and set models for the central region's development in related fields."

The region is vigorously advancing its high-quality development driven by the new quality productive forces - a key focus of this year's expo. 

In 2023, the central region's combined GDP reached nearly 27 trillion yuan, more than one-fifth of the national total, highlighting its crucial role in the economy, according to official data.

Hunan's high-tech industry investment rose by 7.9 percent, with high-tech manufacturing's value added up by 14.7 percent and information services up 13.1 percent.

The initiative to promote the rise of the central region was initially introduced two decades ago. Over the past decades, the momentum of the central region's advance has been robust. Official data indicates that during China's 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), the economy of the region grew at an average annual rate of 8.6 percent.

Chinese provinces show stepped-up economic recovery in Q1; 8 out of 31 record GDP expansion above 6%

The Chinese economy has started off in an upbeat note, with most provinces across the country showing a stepped-up recovery trajectory in the first quarter of the year — fueled by robust industrial growth, a warm-up in external demand and new drives from the creation of new quality productive forces, relevant data showed.

As the first-quarter data are often deemed as a bellwether gauging the fundamentals of the economy, the solid opening bodes well for the country's whole-year economic development, observers said, while expecting economic heavyweight provinces to continue playing a leading role in buttressing the rebound.

Among the 31 Chinese provinces that have released their GDP growth in the first three months to date, eight provinces and municipalities of East China's Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces, Southwest China's Sichuan Province and Chongqing Municipality, Central China's Hubei Province, Northeast China's Jilin Province as well as Beijing recorded a GDP expansion above 6 percent. Jilin led the provincial GDP growth in the first quarter, with a growth rate of 6.5 percent year-on-year, followed by Jiangsu, at a rate of 6.2 percent.

China's eastern and southern regions, or economic heavyweight provinces, continue to play a pivotal role in driving the economy. The economic outputs of South China's Guangdong and East China's Jiangsu, dubbed as the country's manufacturing hubs, have hit over 3 trillion yuan ($414 billion) in the first quarter, while that of Shandong and Zhejiang exceeded 2 trillion yuan.

All these major economic provinces have shown a good momentum in the growth of high-tech manufacturing and new quality productive forces. For example, investment in advanced manufacturing and high-tech manufacturing in Guangdong rose by 22.4 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively. In Jiangsu, the value of high-tech industries output accounted for 50.2 percent of the industrial output, reaching 50 percent for the first time.

Observers said major economic provinces usually have a solid economic foundation, well-developed industrial chains, and strong economic power, thus they are playing significant roles in economic growth. As there are still many uncertainties that could weigh on the GDP growth for the whole year, these provinces, with greater economic resilience, should further give full play to their "pillar" and "stabilizer" roles looking ahead.

Analysts also suggested that major economic provinces can strengthen cooperation with surrounding areas to achieve resource sharing and complement each other's advantages, so as to jointly promote regional economic development.

A total of 17 provinces have reported a GDP gain either in line or surpass the national average of 5.3 percent, news website guancha.cn reported on Friday.

It is worth noting that most of China's central and western provinces have been in a catch-up to close development gaps with the eastern regions. In Chongqing, the manufacturing industries for electronic specialty materials and intelligent unmanned aerial vehicles both saw an added-value increase of over 80 percent, relevant data showed.

However, data from different provinces also underscored an imbalance in economic recovery, in particular a lag in consumption rebound, observers pointed out. They expect the sector to pick up expansion in the second quarter, especially with the launch of more supportive measures such as trade-in plans.

China, France to strengthen agricultural cooperation, pledging to open doors wider to each other

The Chinese and French heads of state have reaffirmed the vital role of the agricultural sector in the bilateral relationship, vowing that both countries will strengthen cooperation in various areas, including boosting certain French agricultural exports to China.

On Monday, the two countries issued a joint statement on agricultural exchanges and cooperation, covering a wide range of areas from agricultural education and scientific and technological innovation to exports. 

Notably, the two countries pledged to continue to actively explore ways to completely lift the export ban on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-free beef products on the basis of ensuring safety, according to the joint statement. 

BSE is a transmissible and fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects cattle.

The joint statement also said that the two countries will work to expand French pork exports to China, and provide guarantees for market access and safety of poultry products. They will also work to expand cooperation in the wine industry, including jointly improving the development level of grapes and wine-making.

The agriculture and food industry has become an increasingly important highlight of China-France cooperation in recent years, which also focuses on aviation, aerospace, nuclear energy and green development. 

China has gradually expanded market access for a growing number of French agricultural produce. 

As of mid-2023, more than 200 types of French agricultural and food products, including aquatic products, dairy products, meat products, breeding livestock, breeding poultry, and fruits, were allowed to be exported to China, according to the Xinhua News Agency. In total, nearly 7,000 agricultural and food product production companies from France are currently registered in China.

Within the EU, France is the biggest source of agricultural imports for China, and is China's second largest partner in agricultural trading, according to China's General Administration of Customs.

China signs AEO mutual recognition deals with Burundi, Iceland to boost trade

China has signed Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) mutual recognition agreements with Burundi and Iceland in Shenzhen city, South China's Guangdong Province, on Thursday to boost trade with the two countries.

The General Administration of Customs of China (GAC) has respectively signed arrangements for mutual recognition of AEO with Burundi and Iceland at the ongoing sixth World Customs Organization (WCO) Global AEO Conference in Shenzhen that kicked off on Wednesday, the state broadcaster  CCTV reported.

Afterward, AEO-certified companies from both countries will enjoy lower inspection rates, priority inspections, designated customs liaison officer services, and other favorable arrangements. 

China's AEO mutual recognition pact with Burundi is the third in Africa after Uganda and South Africa, bringing the total of BRI partner countries with signed AEO agreements to 36.

The AEO mutual recognition pact between China and Iceland also marks a significant advancement in customs collaboration between the two countries. With China standing as Iceland's largest trading partner in Asia, the deal will greatly bolster bilateral trade security, according to GAC. 

As of Thursday, the GAC has signed AEO mutual recognition agreements with 28 economies, covering 54 countries and regions.

Since the implementation of the AEO system from 2008, China has kept on promoting international mutual recognition of AEO, aimed at reducing clearance costs for enterprises and expediting bilateral commerce.

According to GAC, in April, China's imports and exports reached 3.64 trillion yuan ($566.9 billion), an increase of 8 percent year on year. The exports stood at 2.08 trillion yuan with a year-on-year growth of 5.1 percent, and imports surged 12.2 percent year-on-year to reach 1.56 trillion yuan.

AEO mutual recognition allows customs to recognize certified AEO enterprises for streamlined customs clearance, aiming to enhance cooperation between customs, businesses, and other government departments, with AEO certification acting as a global trade "green pass".

HK’s weightlifting and powerlifting association makes another ‘verbal slip’ by referring HK and Taiwan as countries

Hong Kong's Weightlifting and Powerlifting Association issued an apology statement on Saturday as its chairwoman made another "verbal slip" by referring the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and China's Taiwan island as countries, and it submitted a report to the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) on Saturday.

This was not the first time that the association made a "slip of the tongue', as its chairwoman called Hong Kong as a "small country" during an open event in March.

At the opening ceremony of the Asian Equipped Powerlifting Championship and the Asian University Cup on Monday, the association's chairwoman Josephine Ip Wing-yuk mentioned that the event, which featured competitors from the SAR and Chinese Taipei, had "lifters and officials from 13 countries," according to local media reports.

While a total of 16 countries and regions had registered to participate before the competition, in the end, only 13 countries and two regions attended.

During her speech, Ip noticed that the script did not match the actual number of participating teams and felt that the sentence was too long. She simplified the sentence to refer only to the 13 countries and mistakenly omitted the two regions, leading to a misunderstanding, which was a serious oversight.

"The association mentioned that it had submitted a report to the SF&OC, on Saturday to clarify the incident. It emphasized that Ip's speech did not imply that Hong Kong, China, and Chinese Taipei were one country and had no intention of promoting "Hong Kong independence."

The association deeply apologized to society and the public for the misunderstandings caused by the opening speech.

The HKSAR government said on Friday that the statement is grossly inconsistent with the fact that delegations from Hong Kong, China and Chinese Taipei participated as regional teams and was a suspected violation of the one-China principle.

The HKSAR government said it attaches great importance to the series of mistakes in various gravity made by the association and has requested the SF&OC to conduct an in-depth investigation and submit an effective plan of improvement, according to a statement published by the government.

In March, Ip described Hong Kong, in Cantonese, as a "relatively small country" when addressing the development of weightlifting and powerlifting sports during an open event. She also categorized the city as "small countries" like Australia, according to the media report.

And the association later issued a statement to apologize.

Political extremism or separatism should not hijack sportsmanship, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator and deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Association for Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Such speech disgraces the HKSAR whether or not the message is conveyed with another purpose. Mixing up and labelling HKSAR and the island of Taiwan as countries or nations is a serious mistake and falls outside universal knowledge, Chu noted.

"If her actual motivation is proven, it is a malicious offence under Safeguarding National Security Ordinance and is punishable," the expert said, noting that making such so-called confusions twice in two months may not be a coincidence.

Investigations should be conducted by the police and the concerned parties should not deliver public speeches again until the case is concluded, Chu suggested.

Blinken faces difficult task ‘to stop bloodshed in Gaza’ with visit to Middle East

US State Secretary Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first stop in a broader trip to the Middle East that aims to mediate between Israel and Hamas and stop the bloodshed in Gaza. The conflict has already brought huge domestic and external pressures to Washington, as pro-Palestine protests across major universities in Western countries are making Washington's policy of tolerating Israel's operations look increasingly unjustified and embarrassing.

Analysts said that the UN Security Council resolution for a ceasefire is being challenged, as Israel is still bombing Rafah, and if Blinken fails to make breakthrough, a brutal ground attack planned by Israel is very likely to happen and cause huge civilian casualties.

In Riyadh, Blinken is expected to meet senior Saudi leaders and also hold a wider meeting with counterparts from five Arab states - Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan - to discuss what governance of the Gaza Strip might look like after the Israel-Hamas war ends, according to a senior US State Department official, Reuters reported.

Blinken will also discuss with Saudi authorities efforts for a normalization accord between the kingdom and Israel, a deal that includes Washington giving Riyadh agreements on bilateral defense and security commitments as well as nuclear cooperation. In return for normalization, Arab states and Washington are pushing for Israel to agree to a pathway for Palestinian statehood, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected, Reuters reported.

Israel has regularly carried out airstrikes on Rafah since the start of the war and has threatened to send in ground troops, saying the city is "the last major Hamas stronghold" in the coastal enclave. Over a million Palestinians have sought refuge in the city on the Egyptian border. Members of the international community have urged Israel not to invade, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe, AP reported.

According to AP on Monday, Israeli airstrikes on the southern Gazan city of Rafah killed at least 22 people, including six women and five children, Palestinian health officials said. One of the children killed in the strikes overnight into Monday was just 5 days old.

Hundreds of bodies were found days ago buried deep in the ground at Nasser Hospital and Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said reports continued to emerge about the discovery of mass graves in Gaza, media reported. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said on Monday that "We are deeply shocked and strongly condemn the perpetrators of the atrocity. Vast swaths of Gaza are now left in rubble and over a million civilians are struggling in despair on the brink of death."

While answering a question about what role China has played in "the meeting between Hamas and Fatah in Beijing this day" reported by foreign media, Lin Jian that "China and Palestine share a traditional friendship. We support Palestinian factions in achieving reconciliation and increasing solidarity through dialogue and consultation. We will continue to work actively towards that end."

Wang Jin, an associate professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at Northwest University, told the Global Times on Monday that now the problem between Israel and Hamas is that they cannot reach agreement on an exchange of Israeli personnel detained by Hamas with an Israeli ceasefire, but if Blinken fails to make a breakthrough, the ground attack against Rafah is very likely.

Mei Hualong, an assistant professor at Peking University specializing in Middle East studies, told the Global Times on Monday that there is almost no mutual trust between Hamas and Israel, as Hamas believes that if they release all the detained Israeli personnel, Israel might break the ceasefire agreement and take military actions to try to eliminate Hamas in Rafah, despite the possibility of huge civilian casualties. 

The US agrees with Israel's objective that Hamas needs to be eradicated and cannot play a role in Gaza's future, Reuters reported, but Washington does not want Israel to re-occupy the Gaza Strip. Instead, it has been looking at a structure that will include a reformed Palestinian Authority with support from Arab states.

Chinese experts said this is why Hamas cannot trust the US as a mediator, and hopes for an effective mediation remain low, because the idea of "eradicating Hamas" and a "sustainable ceasefire" cannot coexist. The bloodshed in Gaza will continue as long as the US and Israel believe that they can eradicate