Torch relay for 19th Asian Games starts in Hangzhou

The torch relay for the 19th Asian Games kicked off near the iconic West Lake in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province on Friday.

Swimming great Luo Xuejuan, the women's 100 meters breaststroke winner at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, was the first of the 106 torchbearers during the opening-day relay. 

Back in 2008, Luo was also the first Chinese bearer to carry the Olympic torch for the Beijing Games during the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece.

"I was very excited," the Hangzhou local recalled about her feelings when Hangzhou won the bid for the Asian Games eight years ago. "We just wanted to invite guests from all over the world to come and see, and today it finally came true."

"Actually, I only found out a few days ago that I would be the first torchbearer for the Asian Games, and I was very pleasantly surprised," she told reporters on Friday.

"I just feel honored. In fact, when I stood on the starting point, I was not just representing myself, I was representing the athletes, and the more than 12 million Hangzhou people."

Other high-profile bearers on the first day included Olympic champion volleyball star Hui Ruoqi, Olympic champion shooter Yang Qian, etc.

According to organizers, a total of 2,022 torchbearers will participate in the 13-day relay, ranging in age from 14 to 84. Among them, there are 732 women, 1,219 grassroots front-line representatives, 1,069 advanced role model representatives, and 275 sports worker representatives. In addition, there are a certain number of representatives of ethnic minorities, representatives of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan compatriots, and representatives of the disabled.

The torch will journey through 11 cities across Zhejiang, including Huzhou, Jiaxing, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Zhoushan, Taizhou, Wenzhou, Lishui, Jinhua, and Quzhou, before returning to host city Hangzhou on September 20 to complete its final leg. The opening ceremony of the Asian Games will be held on September 23.

The torch relay also incorporates online and offline elements. The online relay activity of the "Digital Torchbearer" was launched after the Asian Games flame collection ceremony on June 15. So far, more than 84 million people have participated in the Asian Games online torch relay. 

The torch of the Hangzhou Asian Games is named "Eternal Flame," whose design was inspired by the Liangzhu Culture that is testament to the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization. The Hangzhou Asian Games flame was lit at the Liangzhu ancient city in Zhejiang on June 15 - 100 days before the opening of the Games. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019, the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu is a sacred place that has born witness to over 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.

Zhang Zhizhen puts Chinese men's tennis back on Asia’s top after 29 years

In a grueling battle on Saturday that lasted nearly two hours, China's Zhang Zhizhen,top seed of the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, emerged victorious with a score of 6-4, 7-6(7) against Japanese Yosuke Watanuki, capturing China's first men's singles gold medal in nearly three decades.

"My goal remains unchanged ̶ to get move my ranking and make it to the top 50... Nonetheless, with this gold, my mind-set is surely a little different now," Zhang said while answering a question from the Global Times during Saturday's post-match news conference.

Zhang also became the second Chinese player to win the men's singles event at the Asian Games, following in the footsteps of Pan Bing who won the men's title for China at the 1990 and 1994 Asian Games. And with his victory, Zhang also secured a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympics, marking the return of the Chinese men's tennis players to the Olympic stage after 16 years since China participated in the men's singles event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as the host nation.

Zhang said that he was very glad to win the final, noting that Saturday's competition was really intense, as his opponent created lots of challenges for him during the game.

"In the beginning, I felt a little bit anxious and I didn't adjust well, but I felt I could play better. I kept calm and then I adjusted to the situation," Zhang said.

In the final, Zhang took the lead in serving but had a difficult start, falling behind 1-4. However, Zhang quickly adjusted his state and won five consecutive games, reversing the situation to win the first set 6-4. In the second set, both players engaged in a fierce battle, with the score tightly contested. In the subsequent seventh game, both sides were locked in a long-drawn-out struggle. And in the tiebreaker, Zhang, despite initially falling behind, tenaciously fought back and ultimately clinched the championship on the third match point.

On Saturday, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre witnessed the highest attendance since the start of the tennis at the Games. With China's National Day approaching on October 1, multiple Five-Star Red Flags were hang throughout the venue by willing fans.

After winning the title, Zhang wore the national flag to celebrate.

After Zheng Qinwen won the gold medal in women's singles on Friday, Zhang's win also means that Chinese players have bagged two gold medals in singles tennis at the Hangzhou Asian Games, claiming a ticket to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics men's and women's singles events.

"I think we can only strive for better. There are many excellent players in Asia who haven't played at the Games this time. I hope China can become better and better and the next generation [of Chinese male tennis players] will outperform us," Zhang said when asked by the media about the recent rise of Chinese tennis.

On his future plans, Zhang said he will continue to fight on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour. After Shanghai, Zhang will play Tokyo, Basel and Paris and then end his season.

Currently, they are more young Chinese male players making it onto the ATP circuit. For example, Wu Yibing, another rising tennis star, became the first Chinese mainland player to lift an ATP Tour trophy in Dallas, the US,in February 2023.

"I think it's good to have so many young players joining us, but I don't know how many of them will make it to the top of the game," Zhang said. "I hope more children and teenagers embark on this road. It's difficult but worth a shot."

Chinese ice dancer Liu Xinyu pulls out of 2023 Cup of China due to Mycoplasma pneumoniae

Chinese figure skater Liu Xinyu decides to withdraw from the Cup of China ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating due to a Mycoplasma pneumonia (MP) infection. 

He posted a statement Saturday on Chinese media platform Sina Weibo, saying "I'm so sorry for pulling out of the 2023 Cup of China. I haven't fully recovered from the infection and I will come back to China next week for further examination and treatment. I hope to see you guys soon at the race."

Liu alleged that while he was infected by the MP for two weeks at the Skate Canada International, he continued to train while he took his medication. "But I didn't recover physically from the competition, it was probably more intense for my heart, and after the competition I had symptoms of heart pain, and I was struggling to breathe, and my morning pulse was around 120," he said.

"Although I don't want to pull out of the competition and I have been trying to train every day, my heart can't take the intensity of the practice. So, I decided to withdraw from until my health had improved," said the statement. 

After hearing his statement, numerous netizens expressed their concern and wished him a quick recovery.  

"The body is the most important thing. We'll wait for you to recover. See you at the next one and rest well," one user said on Weibo. 

"No worries. Take care," read one comment on Weibo. 

His skating partner, Wang Shiyue, also took to Weibo "It is a pity to have to pull out of this competition. I hope Liu will be on the mend soon and I hope to see you all very soon."

Liu Xinyu with his partner Wang Shiyue, is the 2017 Asian Winter Games champion, 2018 CS Asian Open champion, 2015 Toruń Cup champion, and four-time Chinese national champions (2015, 2018, 2019, 2020). They competed in the final segment at four World Championships. 

The official account of 2023 Cup of China ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating published the statement later on Weibo about the ice dancing pair Liu Xinyu and Wang Shiyue pulled out of the competition due to health reasons. They will be replaced by another Chinese pair, Shi Shang and Wu Nan.

The Cup of China ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating will be held at the Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, which runs from November 10 to 12. It will captivate more than 60 athletes from 10 countries and regions and they will participate in four disciplines: men's singles, women's singles, pairs, and ice dance, the organizing committee said.

People's enthusiasm of purchasing tickets ran high. The pairs package for free skating is the most popular. This year tickets cost from 120 yuan ($16.44) to 880 yuan ($129), pre-sale tickets went on sale on August 28, an organizer at the press conference for the 2023 Cup of China said. 

Preservation of Mogao Caves murals enthralls visiting Syrian delegation

Hidar Yousef is thrilled to see the famed Mogao Caves and learn about how cutting-edge technologies are used to help preserve the UNESCO World Heritage site.

"It is a great experience to visit the Caves and see the wall paintings in person, and learn about the technologies used in repairing and monitoring the situation inside the Caves," Yousef told the Global Times.

Yousef, who works at the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), a Syrian government-owned agency responsible for protection and excavation activities in Syria's national heritage sites, is among a 24-person Syrian cultural delegation visiting China to explore cultural cooperation opportunities.

Located in the northwestern outskirts of Northwest China's Gansu Province, the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, once a border city during the Han Dynasty (206BC - AD220), serve as evidence of trans-civilization communications since its inception in 366 AD, as the wall paintings at the site show distinct foreign cultural influence.

Ancient connections

A biblical Psalms written in Syriac was discovered during an archeological excavation expedition at the Cave B53 of Mogao in 1986. Though the original date of publication is not identified on the manuscript, it is believed the handwritten piece dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368).

Su Bomin, chief of the Dunhuang Academy, which was established in 1944 and now oversees the preservation and management of the Mogao Caves, said that the spread of Dunhuang culture, which itself underlines mutual respect of different civilizations in China's past, also promotes mutual respect among civilizations.

"The dissemination of Dunhuang culture could make people from all over the world understand the prominence of mutual respect, so as to further realize that China, past to present, emphasizes multicultural exchanges and promotes the spirit of learning from each other," Su told the Global Times.

Syrian archeologist Jihad Abu Kahla, director of the Damascus Countryside Antiquities Department, noted that the ancient Silk Road and the expansion of the Mongolian empire also brought Chinese culture to Syria.

"China is a world-leading country in cultural relic protection. There are many rich experiences we can learn thanks to the long-lasting friendship between China and Syria," he told the Global Times through an interpreter.

"In ancient times, the two sides were closely linked through the Silk Road. Now we can rely on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to continue our friendship," Kahla said.

Syria, once a culture and tourism destination, has seen its historical treasures devastated by war.

Hala Emad, a senior official with the Planning and International Cooperation Commission of Syria, said cooperation between China and Syria on culture existed before the war but was halted as cooperation between China and Syria was once limited to humanitarian aid only.

The war has forced cultural practitioners to prioritize the preservation of excavated relics rather than continued exploration to discover new ones, according to Ahmad Dali, director of Damascus at the DGAM.
Why preservation matters

Yu Jiannan, Party secretary of the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration, underlined China and Syria's shared issues in terms of cultural relic preservation.

"China and Syria are both countries with a long history and rich cultural heritage, and the problems in the preservation of cultural heritage, such as human and natural damage, are particularly prominent in both countries," Yu said.

"The exchange and cooperation between cultural relic practitioners in the two countries is very necessary, with a broad prospect for exchanges and cooperation in cultural relic protection."

Echoing this sentiment, Emad said the Syrian international cooperation authority will work out a roadmap of how future cooperation between China and Syria could be implemented.

Yousef has also expressed his strong wishes to see the two countries agree on cooperation programs to help Syria restore the treasures scarred by war.

Syria faces a string of sanctions imposed by the West, which have hindered efforts to alleviate the pains of war.

The country joined the China-proposed BRI in 2022, which is believed to have helped Syria open up broad horizons of cooperation with China and other countries.

Though Syria has also already started the digitalization of its antiquities, techniques used are not as up to date, said Yousef, who works in the digitalization department at the DGAM.

The digitalization of Mogao Caves has massively boosted the dissemination of information about the Mogao Caves worldwide, as the free-access portal "E-Dunhuang" was launched online in 2017, attracting over 20 million visitors worldwide.

The technology has made it possible for the non-movable heritages in the Mogao Caves to be displayed digitally or via replicas, giving visitors a closer look without damaging the fragile murals.

"The role of digitalization will become more and more significant because we are managing an immovable site," Su, the dean of the Dunhuang Academy, told the Global Times.

"With the digitization of the resources, we can create high-resolution replicas of the caves and the murals to show them to audiences around the world."

Preserving cultural relics, whether digitally or physically, could strengthen national identity as well as social cohesion, according to Kahla.

He believes the war has changed the mind-set of the Syrian people, as the preservation of culture has ceased to be a top priority in the face of war-induced crises.

"Heritage protection is identity construction. It refers to the construction of the nation," he added, emphasizing that "the protection of cultural relics also means advocating the importance of inheritance from generation to generation."

Georgia: Ambassador attends the 5th China-CEEC SME Cooperation Forum

Georgian Ambassador to China Archil Kalandia participated in the 5th China-CEEC SME Cooperation Forum held in Cangzhou, North China's Hebei Province on Monday, with a total of more than 600 Chinese and Central and Eastern European enterprises participating in the forum. During the meeting, Ambassador Kalandia met with China's Vice Foreign Minister Deng Li. 

Ambassador Kalandia reiterated his desire for the Georgian side to be granted the status of observer state in the mechanism of cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC). Deng expressed his support for the ambassador's cause. The two sides will continue to hold consultations with the countries of Eastern and Central Europe on the above-mentioned issues.

Deng said that the strengthening of cooperation between small and medium-size enterprises (SME) in China and Central and Eastern European countries is of great practical significance. We should further buttress our development strategies, expand cooperation in areas such as green development and digital transformation, and create new growth points through innovative ways of cooperation, he said at the forum. 

Launched in 2012, the China-CEEC Cooperation Mechanism is a platform for cross-regional cooperation between China and European countries to promote the deepening of economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe.

Release of new Hollywood movies in China set to benefit world’s two largest film markets: expert

As November kicks in, Hollywood is gearing up for an intensive release period with four major films set to hit Chinese theaters, which film critics said could bring strong support for the home stretch of the annual box office both in China and North America. 

Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday that November and early December is usually the "Hollywood month" in the Chinese film market as a lot of Hollywood films tend to be released during the period, aiming to set the stage for the New Year film period.

"After the global pandemic crisis, it is good to see the return of Hollywood movies. Their release would undoubtedly help to improve the annual box office of the world's two largest film markets - China and the US," he said, adding that The Marvels might get the most attention among Chinese moviegoers due to its well-known characters. 

The superhero movie is set to premiere in the Chinese mainland on Friday, the same day as in North America.

Brie Larson, an Oscar-winning actress, reprises her role as Captain Marvel, showcasing her formidable powers in a universe-spanning adventure. The film introduces new characters for a thrilling cosmic escapade. Early reviews for the film are mixed, with a 58 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 50-point composite score on Metacritic.

Then on November 17, Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Songbird and The Snake will have its global premiere. Adapted from the immensely popular book series, the film is directed by Francis Lawrence, who also directed The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Disney's new film, Wish, will debut on November 22 in North America and November 24 in the Chinese mainland. Dubbed by Chinese actress Liu Yifei and actor Yu Shi, the animated feature follows the story of Asha, a determined and resilient girl. 

December 8 will see the release of Wonka, the prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Focusing on Willy Wonka's youth, the film narrates his adventures leading up to becoming the head of the chocolate factory. Hollywood heartthrob Timothee Chalamet takes on the lead role, adding a fresh allure to Wonka's character. Behind the scenes, the film boasts a stellar team, with producer David Heyman, known for the Harry Potter series, and Paul King, director of the Paddington series, at the helm.

So far this year, the Chinese box office has grossed 49.68 billion yuan ($6.82 billion), and has surpassed the level from 2020 to 2022, when the global pandemic hit cinemas hard. 

"It would be ideal if the annual box office in China could achieve 50 billion yuan," Shi said. 

HK documentary shows full face of Xinjiang and Xizang

Documentary No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse, which shows the full face of Northwest China's Xin-jiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, recently premiered on Hong Kong Television Broadcasting Company's (TVB) Jade Channel, bringing in impressive viewership numbers.

The production team embarked on a groundbreaking journey, spending two months driving 14,000 kilometers to focus their lenses on Xinjiang and Xizang. They interacted with various minority ethnic groups, gaining insight into their current situation in education, healthcare, housing, population and employment.

Janis Chan, the TVB host who acts as a guide for audiences in the documentary, shared her unforgettable experience with the Global Times.

Recalling her excitement upon learning about the destinations, she revealed her eagerness to explore these two places in depth.

Chan used one word, "beautiful," to describe Xinjiang, and highlighted not only the region's scenic beauty but also the positive mind-set of the local people. She described local people's carefree dances and joyful songs after dinner, creating a natural and uplifting atmosphere. These moments were captured in the program, showcasing the beauty of their smiles against the backdrop of breathtaking landscapes.

Chan expressed pleasant surprise at Xinjiang's development. Starting the journey by flying from Hong Kong to Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, she initially worried about forgetting essential items, only to discover that the city had everything one could need.
Venturing into the Kashgar Prefecture, near the Afghanistan border in China's westernmost region, the shooting team interviewed local minority groups and observed school activities. Chan said she was pleased to see the students' proficiency in English and listen to their dreams of continuing their education in big cities.

In contrast to Xinjiang's liveliness, Xizang had a more mysterious aura for Chan, as she hadn't visited there before. The development and material sufficiency were evident, and locals exhibited spiritual richness and fulfillment.

Reminiscing about the journey in Xizang, Chan described a sense of tranquility and depth, which was challenging to put into words. Sitting quietly on the grasslands or strolling amid Xizang friends herding cattle, she felt like she was in a beautiful painting.

The team visited Medog, the last county to be connected by a road to the rest of China. While there, residents shared stories from the past when essential supplies arrived by a five-day mountainous journey and talked about how the road has greatly helped improve their standard of living. Chan sensed a deep appreciation for life and gratitude in their smiles, which made a profound impact on her.

"Driving down the roads, including the G318 National Highway from Southwest China's Sichuan Province to Xizang and Xinjiang's Duku Highway, namely Dushanzi to Kuqa section of G217 National Highway, was very unforgettable. None of them were easy to build. Driving all the way, in addition to enjoying the unique geographical environment, I could also feel the great effort of the crew who built the road," Chan recalled.

As a media person who has personally visited Xinjiang and Xizang, Chan said that "experiencing these places firsthand" is the best response to some of the biased views presented by certain overseas media outlets. The documentary aims to be the eyes of the audience, taking them on a journey to experience different cultures. Through dialogue, the team aims to provide a deep understanding of the authentic lives of the people in Xinjiang and Xizang.

"As documentary makers, we feel a sense of mission - to do justice to our interviewees and the era. This has been our goal all along," Chan said.

No Poverty Land: A Vast Expanse premiered on November 8 on TVB Jade, with subsequent updates every Thursday and Friday at 10:30 pm.

As the third season of TVB's hit documentary No Poverty Land series, the documentary so far has garnered a viewership rating of 15.9 points in its first week, with approximately 1.02 million viewers, a significant achievement in Hong Kong.

"There are more than 7 million people in Hong Kong, which is equivalent to 1 out of 7 people having watched our program, so I am still very happy with this result," Chan said, adding that she also got a lot of positive feedback on social media. As few people from Hong Kong had visited these places, they hoped the documentary would provide insight into these regions.

The satisfaction Chan derives from this journey scores a perfect 100. After the immense success and positive reviews of the first two seasons, many wondered if host Chan felt pressure for the third installment. She responded that the current challenge is to authentically present her 100 percent experience in the program, a task that requires daily brainstorming from the team.

Oil prices surge triggers new worries over US inflation

As global oil prices increased for a third straight week on the back of production cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia, concerns over the inflationary pressure in the US are on the rise, with analysts saying this may lead to new resistance for the Fed when it comes to adjusting the pace of monetary policy tightening.

Both West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil futures are extending multi-month highs on concerns over tight supply. WTI settled near $90.4 a barrel on Friday, the highest since November 2022, while Brent hit $94.31 per barrel, also the highest in 10 months.

The past two months saw global oil prices rise by about 20 percent. The International Energy Agency and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries both warned this week that the market would be in deficit through year-end due to the production cuts from Saudi Arabia and Russia.

As a result, gasoline prices in the US have surged to a seasonal record, with average regular gasoline now costing $3.866 a gallon, up 7.8 percent in just eight weeks, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

"Continuous increase in US gasoline prices may jeopardize the Fed's fight against inflation. At a time when the Fed has sent signals toward adjusting its tightening monetary policy, the renewed inflationary pressure is not a good omen," Chen Chao, a commodity analyst, told the Global Times on Saturday.

The worries over new inflation pressure have come at a time when the US consumer price index in August increased by 3.7 percent from a year ago, accelerating from 3.2 percent in July and higher than market expectation, according to the US Department of Labor.

Inflation continues to be a major problem for the US economy and society. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is on strike against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, the first time in its history that it has struck all three of America's unionized automakers at the same time. UAW says auto workers have only seen 6 percent annual wage gains since 2019, and inflation offset much of those gains.

If the Fed does not keep its monetary policy tight, inflationary pressures are likely to intensify, but a continuously tight monetary policy increases the likelihood that the US economy will fall into recession, Chen explained. "So the question is whether the US can release additional barrels from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but the release of strategic reserve is not that easy."

Pakistan health workers launch anti-dengue fumigation campaign

A special campaign to control the dengue virus was launched in Pakistan as health workers in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have been engaged in fumigating to remove mosquitoes from public spaces. 

At least 155 new cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever have been reported from the South Asian country's eastern Punjab province during the last 24 hours, officials said on Wednesday.

Russia's Spektr-UV Space Telescope to Be Fully Equipped With Domestic Gear - Scientist

All issues related to replacing foreign instruments for Russia's Spektr-UV space telescope, which is similar to NASA's Hubble, have been successfully resolved, and it will be launched into orbit in 2029, the director of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Mikhail Sachkov, said on Tuesday.

"There are no technological or organizational problems in the scientific equipment package of Spektr-UV. All issues related to import substitution and independence have been resolved," Sachkov said during a conference at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

The Russian space telescope will be launched into orbit by the end of 2029, the scientist added.

The launch was previously expected to be carried out by the end of 2028. Japanese and Spanish scientific equipment was also expected to be used. However, in December 2022, the project's chief designer, Sergey Shostak, said that the participation of Japan and Spain in developing Spektr-UV remained an open question. Therefore, the Russian scientists had to work out how to replace these instruments with domestic ones.

In terms of its characteristics, Spektr-UV is similar to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and could be deorbited in the mid-2030s.

Spektr-UV will study galaxies, new stars and extrasolar planets, as well as processes in the atmospheres of planets, comets and other bodies in the solar system. It will also search for signs of life on already discovered extrasolar planets.