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New governors for Hebei and Liaoning revealed; China’s senior leadership rapidly promoting political newcomers

Recent changes to the governor posts in Hebei and Liaoning follows on the heels of the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s new party secretary appointments in seven provinces in China. This suggests that China’s top leadership is preparing to bring in fresh faces to the next CPC Central Committee following the 20th Party Congress in autumn next year. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu traces the careers of several prominent names to watch for in the coming months.

Prelude to CPC’s 20th Party Congress in 2022: Seven new provincial party secretaries appointed

A year ahead of the Communist Party of China’s 20th Party Congress in autumn 2022, a round of promotions and game of musical chairs is at play again among provincial party secretaries. Which are the stars to look out for?

How China’s housing market landed in the deep freeze

Policymakers have imposed a series of measures to limit rampant borrowing by developers and tighten standards for mortgage lending since Chinese President Xi Jinping declared in 2017 that “houses are for living in, not for speculation”. Following this, developers are experiencing a sharp drop in home sales, which adds to their financial burdens. In spite of this, industry experts opine that Beijing’s determination to reduce dependence on real estate investment will not change easily.

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai: Life and death are predestined, and wealth and poverty are heaven’s arrangement

Like many of us experiencing pandemic days, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai spent the last two years living quietly. Early last year as the pandemic started getting widespread in the US, he mused at the irony of the situation: the ancients were led by the nose by plagues and could only lift their prayers to the gods. Today, medical technology may be more advanced but a cunning coronavirus has once again brought populations into a tailspin. But even as fate plays tricks, politicians still spend their energy mulling over battling the pandemic without bringing down Wall Street. Are humans just cogs in the economy, and even a plague won’t change that?

Questions concerning mortality in early China [1 of 3]: The idea of the netherworld

What did the ancient Chinese think of the netherworld? Why did they take it for granted that there was an afterlife? In this three-part series, academic Poo Mu-chou takes a closer look at the myths and beliefs of death and after-death in Chinese culture. First, he explores the traditional conception of the netherworld. Was it a physical place, shaped in the earthly world’s image and likeness?

Chic and trendy wet markets are the in-thing in China

Below-the-line marketing tactics of high-end brand Prada sees a wet market in Shanghai wrapping its walls, stalls and vegetables — yes, even the edibles — in Prada packaging. Lucky shoppers also get to receive limited edition Prada paper bags. And it's not just in Shanghai; trendy markets that have cafes, reading areas, exhibition spaces and bars are popping up in first-tier cities all around China.

Mainland and HK officials step up visits to the grassroots: Hope for lower-income Hong Kongers?

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or LOCPG has been busy engaging with Hong Kongers at the grassroots level, in order to connect with the ground. Officials of the Hong Kong government and the pro-Beijing camp have followed suit. Zaobao journalist Tai Hing Shing speaks to ordinary Hong Kongers and academics to get a sense of whether this strategy will help to further the Chinese Communist Party’s people-centred governance ideal in Hong Kong society.

Strong civilian presence needed to protect Indonesia's sovereignty in the North Natuna Sea

Indonesian academic Aristyo Rizka Darmawan notes the intrusions of Chinese vessels into Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone. He says to deter Chinese activities in the North Natuna Sea, Indonesia needs to complement its military assets in the area with a strong civilian presence.

The truth behind the US’s huge trade deficit

Economics professor Zhang Rui notes that the US’s huge trade deficit cannot be looked upon in isolation from the dominance of the US dollar; when exporting countries hold more US dollars, they are more able to purchase US debt and support the US in issuing national debt and get US dollars to flow back to the US. This suggests that looking beyond the surface of its large trade deficit, the US's fundamentals remain strong and with the advantages it has in the capital account and services trade, there is little chance that its leading position in global trade can be usurped.

No concrete vision for future Japan-China relations despite telephone talks between Xi Jinping and Fumio Kishida

University of Tokyo's Shin Kawashima notes the significance of the phone conversation between Japan's newly installed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Chinese President Xi Jinping. He says that while there are solid reasons why China wants to maintain a good relationship with Japan, many aspects of future Japan-China relations remain unclear. This is especially interesting to watch as the Chinese Communist Party's 20th Party Congress will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of relations between the two countries next year.

Could China-US trade relations be thawing?

High-level trade and foreign policy officials from the US and China have articulated their views recently on implementing the phase one trade deal and hopes for cooperation amid a state of strategic competition. Will more of such sessions help to chip away at the great wall of mistrust that has been built between the US and China?

Technology and innovation race: US losing edge to China?

Observers of China-US competition have commented that a tech war is rapidly becoming the decisive battleground in the big power rivalry for global dominance. While there have been reports saying that the US may lose this war, visiting senior fellow at the RSIS Dr Cung Vu thinks that given the US's recognition of the importance of technology, and China's recent acts of reining in its tech companies, the US should continue to lead.

Why China will continue to experience power cuts

Erik Baark takes a bird’s eye view of the structure of energy supply and demand in China, analysing how macro issues led to the September 2021 rash of power cuts across China. He notes that China's continued development needs energy, and a shift from heavy industries to services or high-tech fields does not mean that the country's energy needs will decrease. The Chinese government is looking to new and renewable energy resources to take the place of the old, but transitioning to new energy sources is not an easy process, especially when different actors are trying to protect their own terrain and a mindset change is necessary. It will be a tall order for the Chinese government to get local governments, old power grid corporations and the public to align with new policies and thinking. All this means that power cuts will not be going away anytime soon.

Can there be a China-style democracy?

In a speech last week, Xi Jinping painted the broad strokes of China’s views on democracy, including criteria for assessing democratic systems and what such systems ought to do for the people. However, with the West convinced that China lacks democracy and is not in a position to preach about it, how far can the country advance its brand of ‘whole-process people’s democracy’? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan explores the topic.

Tsai Ing-wen's comments on cross-strait relations: Brash or brilliant?

Leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait made declaratory statements over the last weekend, the anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution and what the Taiwanese celebrate as Double Tenth Day or their national day. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s comments were provocative, yet managed to stay within the bounds of ambiguity. But the Taiwanese military did forecast that mainland China will be able to launch an attack on Taiwan by 2025 to 2027. Will brazen remarks stoke the flames?

[Comic] We were all frogs in the well

"Studying abroad for many years, for a long time I never came into contact with 'real' young Chinese, so I was shocked and stunned when I did. Education and the system can really change a person. We have gradually drifted apart. Recently, a friend who was originally from China and now has Singaporean citizenship confided in me that she was always bothered by the issue of national identity. To Singaporeans, it seemed she was still that good student from China, but to the Chinese, she was no longer a Chinese. My friend asked: 'So who are we?' I teased her: 'We might be products of a mixed culture.' A traditional Chinese upbringing, an elite Singaporean education, plus the influence of other cultures thrown in. We can no longer define ourselves by nationality. A Western education would tell us to be ourselves, but the contradiction is that we need national identity to give us a sense of belonging and identity. Sadly, we often identify with other cultures, and when I meet young Chinese of today, that sense of unfamiliarity proves that we are no longer the same type of people. I don't have to pity you, nor you me. And we come back to the question: what are we?" - Bai Yi

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai: The power of the individual during a pandemic

Like many of us experiencing pandemic days, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai spent the last two years living quietly. When the virus was just starting to spread in Wuhan last year, he was in Shenzhen but managed to cross back to Hong Kong before the lockdowns. As he left the material life behind and got into the rhythm of staying at home, he sought solace in books, calligraphy and his beloved Kunqu opera. For all the things that are out of our hands, at least we have gained time for introspection, self-reflection and growth. That much is within our control.