GT exclusive: Filipino fishermen show no interest in govt-initiated 'militia' plan, call for peace and friendship

Editor's Note:

The Philippines has escalated its battle against Beijing on the South China Sea issue by pushing fishermen to the frontline, collaborating with Western journalists to spread biased narratives, and conspiring with the US and Japan to contain China.

Global Times reporters recently visited the Philippines to investigate the truth behind these provocations, engaging in conversations with local fishermen, ordinary citizens, politicians, and scholars.

This is the first installment of the series, which sheds light on how Filipino fishermen have refused to be used as pawns by the current administration in the conflict.
The Philippine government seeks to encourage its fisherfolk to be the vanguard of the South China Sea dispute through government-organized group fishing and its premeditated "militia" plan. However, the Global Times' recent in-person visit to the Philippines and conversations with local fishermen revealed that Filipino fishermen show no intention of participating in any "militia" plan or being drawn into the current administration's strategy against China.

In fact, fishermen in the Philippines are seeking more peace and cooperation, as the current tensions have disrupted their fishing activities and diminished their income. Their practical mindset contrasts sharply with the sensational narratives created by local media outlets and some politicians with ulterior motives.

Unlike the image of Filipino fishermen that the Philippine government intends to portray - a group with a strong desire for combat or aggression in territorial disputes - the fishermen in Masinloc, a Philippine town closest in proximity to China's Huangyan Dao (also known as Huangyan Island, or Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines) in the South China Sea, showed no signs of fear, distrust, confrontation, or hostility when they learned that they were talking to reporters from China.

Instead, the fishermen warmly expressed a clear desire for friendship and peace. Some curious and friendly fishermen approached to the reporters and actively shared their fishing experiences in the waters of Huangyan Dao in front of the camera. In conversations with Global Times reporters, many fishermen repeatedly stressed, "We are not enemies."

Since 2023, the Philippines has been sending government vessels and fishing ships to provoke disputes in the South China Sea, particularly near China's Huangyan Dao, under the guise of "ensuring the security of Filipino fishermen." Interestingly, fishing activities have not been disrupted since 2016 when China offered a temporary dispensation for Philippine fishermen, a situation that has become problematic due to the current administration' decision to "protect them."

So, who benefits from turning fishermen into pawns in the South China Sea battlefield? This investigative report provides the answer.
Refused to be 'kidnapped'

The small town of Masinloc in the northern Philippines, about 125 nautical miles from China's Huangyan Dao, is a peaceful seaside fishing port. Local fishermen have been fishing here for generations. The raging storm in the sea has typically been the only thing for them to confront, but now they have been presented with a new "opponent" - China. Searching the term Masinloc on YouTube and social media reveals videos of confrontations between local fishermen and the China Coast Guard, as opposed to the island's picturesque beauty previously.

In the narratives of some Western and Philippine media outlets, the fishermen of Masinloc seem to have become one of the most radical groups in the Philippines in confronting China. But the Global Times' field visit reveals a different reality.

Local fishermen who spoke with the Global Times said that a large amount of seafood on their shelves is caught in the South China Sea and their normal fishing activities in the area are still ongoing as normal. Jessie Caasi, a fisherwoman, told the Global Times that many fisherfolk like her typically make regular trips - about three days a week - to Huangyan Dao to fish. In recent months, they have mainly used two government-provided fishing boats, with each boat carrying around 15 people, making a total of about 30 people per trip.

Jorin Egana, a 29-year-old fish vendor, also confirmed the offer. He told the Global Times that these two government-provided boats have been made available since January, equipped with basic supplies such as water, food, and medicine. Prior to this, most fishermen used to rent boats for individual fishing trips.

The official assistance is seen as a sign of the government's deeper involvement in the increasingly intense situation, they believed.

Caasi said she regrets that they are currently unable to enter the main fishing areas of Huangyan Dao due to the escalating conflict between the two governments. She stressed that there were no restrictions at all before the current administration took office.

"At that time, the China Coast Guard was friendly, and Chinese and Filipino fishermen could fish together there. We greeted each other as friends and got along well. But in recent days, our news reports kept saying that China wanted to occupy the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Dao), and the government began warning us to be careful when fishing there," she said.

A previous piece by the Philippine media outlet the Inquirer cited Wilson Almadin, a 41-year-old Philippine fisherman who encountered the China Coast Guard at Huangyan Dao in November 2016, saying that "China Coast Guard vessels approached the boats of our fellow fishermen but only to share their food, liquor, and cigarettes."

However, that is a bygone era for fishermen like Caasi today.

Although China neither accepts nor recognizes the so-called South China Sea Arbitration, in 2016, the country gave a special dispensation to Philippine fishermen to maintain their small-scale artisanal fishing activities around Huangyan Dao under humanitarian considerations.

From 2016 to 2023, China has stuck to its commitment. Despite the territorial and maritime disputes between the two sides, the livelihood of the fisherfolk has never been affected, which, as experts have noted, represents China's goodwill in maintaining the peace and stability of the region.

However, the status quo changed since the Philippines began to send government vessels to the territorial sea of Huangyan Dao in the second half of 2023. In this case, China had to respond and repel the government vessels in accordance with the law.

In 2024, the Philippines started initiating more provocations. The Philippine fishery vessel group was reportedly accompanied by the Ship 3002 which belongs to the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources when they trespassed into the waters off Huangyan Dao.

A source close to the matter told the Global Times that the Philippine official ship typically acts as a mother ship while at sea, not only providing fuel, fresh water, and food supplies to Philippine fishing boats, but also serving as a commander to direct different batches of fishing boats to illegally enter disputed waters.

Additionally, the Philippines has openly planned to deploy its own maritime militia to "defend its sovereignty" amid a raging territorial row with China.

"We want our fisherfolk to become reservists and teach them how to help in defending the country," Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr, the Filipino armed forces chief, said in a statement in August 2023.

On February 23, the Philippines' Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) publicly acknowledged that "it would also continue to carry out its duty of distributing fuel subsidies to the Filipino fishing boats that are present in the area to support their prolonged fishing activities."

However, the fishermen interviewed by the Global Times said that they have not received any subsidies from the government specifically to support them in fishing around Huangyan Dao.

They emphasized that they will not participate in the government's plan to turn fishermen into militia, noting that it is "too dangerous."

"The Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Dao) is too far away. I would rather stay in nearby waters to fish and earn less money. I don't know why the Philippine military is doing this [militia plan]. I feel like very few people would be willing to cooperate with this plan," the 29-year-old fisherman Jorin Egana told the Global Times.

"I don't consider those kinds of unilateral actions from our government to be beneficial to the peaceful settlement of disputes. If you increase maritime militias in the South China Sea, you are in fact increasing the chances of violence. Let the fisherman be fishermen," Rommel Banlaoi, Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research, told the Global Times in Manila.

Opposing voices are already growing in the Philippine fishery circle. In August 2023, a Philippine fisher group on the Philippines' illegally occupied Zhongye Dao (also known as Zhongye Island) turned down the militia plan by the government, local media source Philstar reported.

The group's president Larry Hugo said that it would be "difficult" for them to undergo military training and that he would prefer not to carry firearms.
True voices repressed for political interests

The antagonism fomented by the Philippine government has also spread on the battlefield of public opinion.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter) by Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard's spokesperson, pinned at the top of his timeline for a long time asserts "If you are a Filipino, whether in government or private sector, regardless of your politics, defending and making excuses for China's aggressive behavior should deem you unpatriotic, and a traitor to the Philippines and to our people."

Moreover, the Philippine government has organized for Western media reporters to board the vessels to deliberately hype up and mislead the international community.

Contrary to what was imagined and portrayed by the Filipino media, Global Times reporters did not feel any animosity during their visits to several Philippine cities. They do not see China as an enemy in territorial disputes, but rather as a partner that can bring economic benefits. They also expressed doubts about the authenticity of media's sensationalized reports.

For example, Ana Liza Felix, the owner of a coffee shop near the tourist destination the Church of Saint Augustine in Manila, said that she has heard some news reports about the disputes between the two countries and some negative descriptions of China, but believed them to be "one-sided stories," or politically motivated, and she is not sure whether any of the reports hold any truth.

Felix told the Global Times that she believes that China and the Philippines have deep roots, and most of the tourists who visit her shop are Chinese. "We have always interacted with each other in a friendly manner. If the disputes between the two countries lead to fewer tourists, I would be very sad. I do not want these disputes to affect my income. Only a friendly environment can create good economic benefits for us."

This pragmatic mindset is also reflected by Filipino fishermen. Economic benefit is the most common reason driving them to fish near Huangyan Dao, as the profits can be three times higher than in other areas, they said, noting that a peaceful and friendly environment in the South China Sea can sustain their livelihoods.

Dodong Mola, an elderly fisherman who just went to Huangyan Dao in March, told the Global Times that he has been going to the island since 2000. He goes there once a year, staying for about three months each time, as the island has the most variety of fish, which are not often found elsewhere. The conditions for fishing at Huangyan Dao are tough, but they just hope to earn more money and do not want to be involved in frontline conflicts.

Another fisherman, Noli Balaga, who has seen his brothers often going to Huangyan Dao to fish told the Global Times that they, more than anyone, hope to see peaceful cooperation between the two countries so they can resume fishing. They also hope that the Philippine government can provide more practical assistance to their fishing activities, such as improving their wooden boats.

Global Times reporters noticed that that the boats they use for fishing are less than one-meter wide, can only accommodate a few people, and can hardly withstand slight winds or waves.
"The issue in the South China Sea is only found in papers in the Philippines that are dominated by Western narratives. But if you go around the country, you'll see that the ordinary people care more about peace. They don't want war. They care more about fighting inflation and economic hardship. They care more about making commodities more affordable to them. They care more about having jobs. They care more about having good transportation. We need trains, we need roads, we need bridges that China can provide, and we need more trade with China. It's a pity that many of the narratives in the media are controlled by this Western narrative of anti-China sentiment," said Banlaoi.

When then Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte visited China in 2016, the two sides discussed fishery cooperation in the South China Sea, including bilateral cooperation in the fishing industry, and it was then that China agreed to make proper, specific arrangements given its friendly relations with the Philippines.

Chinese officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs' Bureau of Fisheries also visited Masinloc town in November 2016 to learn about what assistance they could provide to local fishermen. The following year saw a delegation of 17 Filipino fisheries representatives, some from Masinloc, who were invited to South China's Shenzhen, to participate in training organized by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, bringing back China's most advanced aquaculture technology to Manila. Experts said at the session that if China's deep-sea net cage aquaculture technology could be promoted in the Philippines, the income of local fishermen could increase several times or even tens of times over.

However, it is regrettable that today, when Global Times reporters set foot in Masinloc again, what is reported in the media is overwhelming about the territorial dispute, and the well intentioned and mutually beneficial fisheries cooperation seems to have disappeared from sight.
"The Filipino people have high expectations for peace and cooperation between the two countries, but their voices are marginalized, as part of the result of Philippines' cognitive war against China," Ding Duo, deputy director at the Research Center for Ocean Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

"The current government is trying to divert public attention from various domestic contradictions caused by its ineffective governance through creating an external enemy, China. The government misleads the public domestically and plays the victim externally, which is not conducive to the resolution of the South China Sea issue," the expert warned.

"We should not make the South China Sea issue deeply entangle China-Philippines relations," said Ding.

During the short visit to the Philippines, Global Times reporters often saw headlines in the local newspapers reading "We will not be cowed into silence - Marcos," and vendors in the fish markets reading newspaper claiming "China wants to occupy Huangyan Dao." However, the most common phrase the reporters heard wherever they went was "we are not enemies" - from officials and ordinary people on the streets, to fishermen.

Who benefits from changing the status quo by fanning the flame in the South China Sea? Perhaps the Philippine government should find some answers from the voices of their people.

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.

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.

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.

Pakistan eyes green energy, technology cooperation with China in CPEC 2nd phase

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal said on Wednesday that China and Pakistan are deepening collaboration on the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with a focus on green energy and technology cooperation, among others.

Iqbal arrived in Beijing on Wednesday for a visit, in the first high-level visit by a Pakistani official to China since Pakistan’s new government came to power. During the visit, Iqbal also held meetings with various Chinese officials. 

“China is a historical friend of Pakistan, and has supported us in difficult times,” Iqbal said as he arrived in Beijing, according to a press release sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.

Iqbal said that in the first phase of the CPEC, Pakistan’s energy and infrastructure sectors were upgraded, and in the second phase, the agriculture, industry, green energy and technology sectors will be promoted.

In terms of green energy cooperation, Iqbal said in a meeting with China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong in Islamabad on Tuesday that Pakistan’s aim is to establish industrial zones for the manufacturing of electric cars in collaboration with China, leveraging Pakistan's competitive advantages to reduce overall production costs and create employment opportunities for Pakistani workers, according to a separate press release. 

During meetings in Beijing, Iqbal also reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to the high-quality development of the CPEC, outlining future cooperation in such priority sectors as information technology, agriculture modernization, textiles, minerals and renewable energy.

Iqbal also revealed details about enhanced security measures taken by Pakistan to ensure the security of Chinese personnel, according to the press release. 

Xi leaves for state visits to France, Serbia, Hungary

Chinese President Xi Jinping left Beijing on Sunday morning for state visits to France, Serbia and Hungary at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of the Republic of France, President Aleksandar Vučić of the Republic of Serbia, and President Tamás Sulyok and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary.

Xi's entourage includes his wife Peng Liyuan, Cai Qi, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee, and Wang Yi, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and foreign minister.

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

Giant panda pair Yunchuan and Xinbao bound for San Diego Zoo on 10-year cooperation project

China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration announced on Saturday that the China Wildlife Conservation Association has signed a giant panda conservation cooperation agreement with the San Diego Zoo in the US and will select a pair of giant pandas to be relocated to the San Diego Zoo to initiate a 10-year international cooperation project for giant panda conservation.

The Chinese side has selected giant pandas "Yunchuan" (male) and "Xinbao" (female), from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, and has arranged experienced keepers and veterinarians to accompany the two pandas to the US, according to a release from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The zoo is currently renovating and upgrading the giant panda facility to create a larger and more comfortable living environment for the pandas and has assembled a professional team with experience in giant panda care and management, daily care, and related research technologies, who have previously studied and exchanged experiences in China, to take care of the two pandas.

To ensure the health of the two giant pandas in the US, in March of this year, the China Wildlife Conservation Association organized experts to travel to the US and conduct in-depth discussions with the San Diego Zoo, providing technical guidance and exchanging experiences to clarify standards and requirements for giant panda care, living environments, and health care, said the release.

The San Diego Zoo is one of the top five zoos in the world. According to the agreement, both sides are actively advancing preparations related to the giant pandas' journey to the US.

China urges US to stop arming Taiwan after aid bill passed

China has condemned the US for its passing of a $95 billion aid package containing military assistance for the island of Taiwan, urging Washington to honor its commitment of not supporting "Taiwan independence" and to stop arming the island.

Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Taiwan question is purely an internal matter for China, and no outside interference will be tolerated.

The Taiwan-related content in the US congressional bill seriously violates the one-China principle and the three China-US joint communiques, and sends a wrong signal to the "Taiwan independence" separatist forces, Zhu said.

"We are firmly opposed to it. We urge the US side to honor its commitment of not supporting 'Taiwan independence' and to stop arming Taiwan in any way," Zhu stated.

The remarks came after the US Senate on Tuesday passed a package to provide billions in aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, sending the legislation to President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law after six months of political battles over it, CNBC reported.

The final vote tally was 79-18, a rousing show of bipartisanship in an era of deep political divisions, according to the US media outlet.

The funding includes roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, $26 billion for Israel and $8 billion for Taiwan and Indo-Pacific security.

Chinese analysts said that in recent years, the US has been doing more than just providing weapons and equipment to the island.

The US has also been providing military training, intelligence sharing and technology, said Xin Qiang, a deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University.

Given that the US' assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and the Taiwan region has left the super power stretched thin, it is possible that in the next step, the US may assist Taiwan in producing its own weapons, Xin said.

That would definitely escalate tensions in the Taiwan Straits, analysts warned.

Xin predicted that the elected Taiwan regional leader Lai Ching-te is almost certain to continue the policy of the current regional leader Tsai Ing-wen by seeking secessionism with US support and adopting a strategy of using force to resist reunification.

The more intense the military security cooperation between the US and Taiwan island becomes, the more emboldened the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities will be, leading to more provocative pro-secessionist rhetoric and actions, further escalating tensions in cross-Straits relations, Xin warned.

Zhu said that most people in Taiwan want peace rather than war, development rather than decline, exchange rather than separation, and cooperation rather than confrontation. The DPP authorities in the island disregard public opinion, willingly acting as a pawn for external forces to use Taiwan to control the mainland, and are taking Taiwan toward a dangerous situation.

The DPP authorities have been warned that any attempts to "seek independence with arms" and "seek independence by relying on outsiders" are doomed to failure, according to the spokesperson.

She also expressed that she hopes that the majority of Taiwan compatriots fully understand the danger of the DPP authorities hooking up with external forces to seek "Taiwan independence," and called for joint work to promote peaceful development and integrated development of cross-Straits relations for compatriots on both sides.

Commenting on whether the Chinese mainland would launch countermeasures in response to the US bill, Xin said the mainland will definitely increase pressure on the US and the DPP authorities in various areas such as military, politics and the economy.