[South China Sea] Should the Philippines avoid playing the lead role amid rising tensions in SCS?

Chinese academic Lin Qi says following the arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016, which, inter alia, said that “there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’”, the Philippines has gone on to stake a firmer claim in the South China Sea such as by undertaking upgrading works on certain islands it inhabits and proposing draft amendments to the “national territory” article of its constitution. However, in many of its endeavours, it relies on the US and will continue to work closely with them amid rising tensions in the region.

[South China Sea] Is Malaysia adopting a more confrontational SCS policy? 

In recent years, Malaysia seems to have moved away from its role as a “low-profile pragmatist” in the South China Sea dispute as it seeks to assert its rights over oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters, and as its threat perceptions of China increase. It looks set to continue butting heads with China amid the ongoing global pandemic and increasing US-China competition in the region.

[South China Sea] Pandemic and US-Japan support reasons for Indonesia’s strong stance on SCS

In late May, Indonesia wrote to the UN to register its objection to China’s nine-dash line in the South China Sea (SCS), saying that there is no legal basis for China’s claim. China academic Long Yan notes that this is quite an unexpected move from the relatively quiet Indonesia, who is not a main player in the SCS dispute. It remains to be seen if external support from countries such as Japan and the US will boost Indonesia’s confidence in protecting its rights and interests in the SCS, despite its strong economic ties with China.

Floods in China: Can the Three Gorges Dam weather ‘once-in-a-century massive floods in the Yangtze River’?

Close to 20 million people across 26 provinces and cities in the areas spanning China’s southwestern region to the midstream and downstream areas of the Yangtze River have been displaced due to severe flooding over the past few weeks. The Three Gorges Dam has long been held up as a bulwark against such massive floods in the area, but recent signs that it is literally buckling under the pressure cast doubts on its ability to be an effective flood control mechanism.

What I Ching and the mangrove tree flowers tell us about life

Chiang Hsun contemplates the transience of life as he observes the fleeting lifespan of mangrove tree flowers found along the riverbanks of Southeast Asia, southern China and elsewhere. Every flower has its own place and purpose, but like life, its brilliance is extinguished all too fast. How can one discern the meaning of life then? Perhaps the three-thousand-year-old book of I Ching offers us some clues.

Purple underwear and qipao — tips to ace China’s gaokao

China’s gaokao began yesterday, with millions of students taking this national university entrance exam (gaokao). One phenomenon that got Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu curious was students wearing purple underwear to the exams. She examines this and other superstitions that give students a mental boost in the exam, and says that the gaokao needs to remain fair.

Australia boosting security relations with Southeast Asia and the US in the face of heightened threats

Australia’s recently-released defence update may be the most consequential document yet in terms of Canberra’s defence relations with Southeast Asia. Australia is asking its Southeast Asia partners to do more, while offering them more in return. It is also boosting its military self-reliance and its alliance relationship with the US.

Is Hong Kong the ‘ground zero of a China-US Cold War’?

Hong Kong and its uncertain future has become a political metaphor for China-US relations and the future of the world order, says Zheng Weibin. If the passage of the national security law portends that “one country, two systems” is not viable in practice, what else is there left except for an all-out duel between socialism and capitalism?

The psychology of facial aesthetics: A cultural perspective

Hayson Wang, who specialises in plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery, shares some insights into the way facial beauty is defined by science and in different cultures.

A 'left-wing cultural revolution' has come to America?

There is little doubt that the US is in disarray at the moment. Hong Kong political commentator Chip Tsao does not hold back in giving his views on the current situation in the US, claiming that America’s move to the left after eight years under the Democratic Party have worsened the culture of political correctness and left little room for policies that motivate disadvantaged groups to keep their feet on the ground and contribute to society. The middle class is also made to shoulder growing societal and financial burdens. In that light, would the prospect of a change in the US government in five months time be a boon or bane?

The fight over Hong Kong: Does it belong to China or the world?

From the speed and single-mindedness with which Beijing has passed the national security law for Hong Kong, it is evident that it is highly suspicious of foreign intervention and threats to national sovereignty. With the enactment of this law, it may have reaffirmed its authority and returned Hong Kong firmly under its wings, but has it achieved the return of the hearts and minds of the Hong Kong people? And while Beijing believes that it owns Hong Kong, some Hong Kongers and the Western world think otherwise.

A great America is in China's interest

Japan-based academic Zhang Yun says America's global strategy to create a unipolar order during the post-Cold War period is a mistake. But it does not mean that it has lost its window of “strategically opportune time” to be a great country. In asking "Who lost the US?" and "How America can truly be great again?", he comes to the conclusion that a great America will not only benefit itself and the world, but be in the interest of China.

Beyond ASEAN: More 'no-superpower coalitions' needed as US-China rivalry upsets global interests

With China more aggressive and the US more unpredictable, and both more unilateralist, the US-China rivalry has ended the post-Cold War order that benefited Southeast Asia and ASEAN. ISEAS academics Malcolm Cook and Hoang Thi Ha note that Southeast Asian states should consider joining more or establishing minilateral informal coalitions that do not include China and the US.

Could fallout from China-India standoff hurt China's global ambitions?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has deleted his account on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo as tensions between India and China continue to simmer over a border conflict. While the skirmish could be seen as the latest chapter in a long-running bilateral tussle, political commentator Zheng Hao suggests that the fallout from China-India conflict is enmeshed in a web of implications in the multilateral arena of global relations and cooperation. He examines the issue and concludes that the damage to China will be greater in this case.

[Photo story] Hong Kong national security law: A different birthday for Hong Kong

Hong Kong returned to China 23 years ago today. Little would it have known then that as it marks this milestone today, a contentious national security law that punishes crimes of terrorism, secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces with sentences as long as life imprisonment has just been passed. With the law in effect, the city has already made its first arrests. ThinkChina brings you on a photo journey through a Hong Kong that will never quite be the same again.

Every man for himself as Hong Kong’s opposition caves under weight of national security law

The new national security law for Hong Kong covering crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion, with possible punishments as harsh as life imprisonment, was passed yesterday. Since then and even before that, opposition camp leaders past and present have been announcing their departure from politics. Does this mean the national security law is having the deterrent effect it was designed to have? And what lies ahead for Hong Kong in such a changed landscape? Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu examines the issues.

National security law for Hong Kong: Will America's ‘smart sanctions’ work against China?

Following China’s passing of the new national security law for Hong Kong, the US has removed Hong Kong’s special privileges. However, previous evidence shows that economic sanctions seldom work. Zaobao correspondent Tai Hing Shing asks if this time will be any different.