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Hong Kong’s Northern Metropolis: Castle in the air or realistic goal?

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam recently gave her 2021 policy address, in which plans were laid out for a 20-year project to develop a Northern Metropolis. Commentator David Ng affirms the need to increase land and housing supply to resolve Hong Kong’s residential challenges such as subdivided units, while pointing out that the long timeline could mean challenges in following through on the project.

It may soon be illegal to discriminate against mainland Chinese in Hong Kong

With a strong push by the pro-establishment camp, the Hong Kong government has made a breakthrough in legislative efforts against discrimination against mainlanders. But negative feelings did not happen overnight. With increasing mainland arrivals over the years, Hong Kongers have been feeling that their space, rights and even property are being encroached upon. Without solving the underlying issues, will legislation improve the situation much?

China's mammoth task of upgrading its transport system

Chen Hongbin notes that roads, highways and expressways have mushroomed in China and the country’s overall road connectivity has improved tremendously. What were once far-flung villages now enjoy relatively easy accessibility. That said, more can be done to improve the road systems so that every citizen can have a convenient means of transport. What has China done to improve connectivity in its counties, villages and cities?

The real reason why Japan is following the US’s lead

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces Japan’s long-held foreign policy stance of “following the US’s lead”. Circumstances of history led to this default pattern, even though Japan did try to break out of this straitjacket. Domestic opposition aside, under the US's watchful eye, Japan has not been able to possess nuclear weaponry or have a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But with the changing situation of a rising China, might Japan move closer to getting what it has always wanted?

How Japan's political stance is becoming increasingly hawkish and conservative

Academic Toh Lam Seng traces the history of Japanese politics from its “1955 system” of clear policy difference between the conservatives and reformists to the more recent potato-potahto matches between conservative parties born out of LDP factionalism or splintering. Seen in this light, is the Japanese population really growing more conservative and politicians are merely tapping into this trend, or are the political parties themselves perpetuating an endless cycle of conservatism?

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 about 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.

AUKUS: A reflection of ASEAN's inability to cope with China's rising assertiveness?

Southeast Asian responses to the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) technology-sharing agreement, which aims to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, have varied considerably, from warnings that the agreement could trigger an arms race or undermine regional stability to implicit support. While concerns over arms racing and nuclear proliferation are seen by some as being overblown, AUKUS is a response to China’s rapid military modernisation and assertive behaviour in the maritime domain. Thus, AUKUS can be seen as a wake-up call to ASEAN that it needs to be more proactive on security issues and cannot take its centrality for granted.

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?