ThinkChina — Gold award for Best News Website or Mobile Service WAN-IFRA Asian Digital Media Awards 2020.

Was Deng Xiaoping Hakka?

The Hakka people, or “guest people”, are Han Chinese who were mostly northerners that migrated to the south of China to provinces such as Fujian, Guangdong and Sichuan. Some say that a common heritage and language, more than a specific region ties them together. Deng Xiaoping from Guang’an, Sichuan was not known to be one of the Hakka people, but arguable bits of history point otherwise, and some continue to insist on his Hakka ancestry.  

[Comic] A Chinese youth's search for meaning in life

What would an idealistic young Chinese person say to those who prefer to live their life in the virtual world, or who are willing to give up their voices in exchange for little comforts? Or who choose to turn a blind eye to the plight of others, as long as one is well looked after? Is it possible to convince others to be idealistic? Or does one have to look for inspiration and support from the ancients? Young comic artist Bai Yi from China shares her thoughts. 

Indian academic: The Quad gains momentum and China feels threatened

Amrita Jash notes that the Quad has gained momentum since its inaugural virtual leader-level summit in March. China is worried, but she reasons that the Quad is taking a macro view by having a vision for a “free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law” in the Indo-Pacific, and this is a much larger endeavour than just simply targeting China. But whatever the suspicions or discomfort, the Quad mechanism looks set to stay.

Patriotic consumerism: Li-Ning sneakers for 50,000 RMB, anyone?

Analysts have their doubts on whether the latest wave of patriotism-inspired consumerism following a boycott of foreign brands that had spurned Xinjiang cotton will last. Going by the rise of "guochao", the use of traditional Chinese motifs in modern designs, a young generation of Chinese digital natives seem prepared to put their money where their mouths are. However, can the quality and range of China-made goods satisfy the desires of the Chinese while competing internationally?

Hong Kong commentator: Xinjiang’s cotton production figures debunk the myth of forced labour

Hong Kong commentator David Ng says that despite the accusations by the West against China of human rights violations in Xinjiang such as forced labour, the region’s economic trajectory and reliance on mechanisation seem to show a quite different truth.

Why the Chinese are not motivated to get vaccinated

China was among the fastest in vaccine development, but its progress in actual vaccinations has not been satisfactory. In this “second season” coronavirus fight to recover economically and reopen borders, vaccinations will be key. Will China resort to the crude measures it used in the early stages of the pandemic fight to increase its vaccination rates? Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu reports.

When 'new Hong Kongers' run the show, where do the old ones go?

It is clear that the Beijing government wants to have more say in the governance of Hong Kong, not least with the recent passing of the bill to change Hong Kong’s electoral system allowing more new migrants from mainland China to be part of the Election Committee. Zaobao journalist Tai Hing Shing charts the rise of these “new migrants” in Hong Kong and the political force they are becoming. How will their increasing assertiveness affect the dynamics between the new and old migrants, as well as the locals?

Taiwan is America's best asset against China, but for how long?

Despite concerns that Taiwan might lose US support under the Biden administration, so far it seems that the opposite is true — the US has in fact maintained or even stepped up its support for Taiwan. But as platforms and mechanisms evolve in relation to containing China, how valuable will Taiwan still be as a geostrategic asset?

BBC vs CCTV's Xinjiang: Which is the real Xinjiang?

BBC China correspondent John Sudworth's sudden move to Taiwan from Beijing has elicited opposing interpretations from China and the West; in fact, so has his reports on Xinjiang. Was Sudworth creating “false reports” of Uighur factory girls? Or were the Chinese officials coercing young Uighurs to leave their hometowns for work in the cities as asserted by the BBC? Han Yong Hong thinks the contradictory interpretations show a clash in ideological values and views between China and the West.

Anti-Asian hate crimes: Chinese Americans' weak and disparate voice in US society

Associate Professor Wu Guo analyses reactions from the Chinese American community to the recent spike in anti-Asian hate crime. He sees a clear distinction between those who see these acts as racially motivated, and those who feel that they should be taken as crimes against public safety and leave it to the police. Interestingly, the debates show that the Chinese themselves may hold certain prejudices against other ethnic groups in the US. Amid the increasing complexity of ethnic relations in the US, what steps can the Asian community take to protect their rights?

An American-Egyptian architect's poignant photographs of disappearing Shanghai neighbourhoods

After ten years of living in Shanghai and seeing the rapid changes to the city, American-Egyptian architect Hisham Youssef takes us on a nostalgic and personal photographic tour of the lanes and neighborhoods that, until very recently, stood in the city he now calls home.

The world may never know the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic

A Joint WHO-China Study Team report has said that it is "extremely unlikely" that a Wuhan laboratory leak was the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet the US and other countries have cast doubts on the report, citing delay and access issues. China hit back, labelling this as another smear campaign. With each side singing their own tune, are the report results of any consequence?

Taiwanese art historian: Why we no longer find beauty in contemporary art

Art colleges today may be missing the point by teaching students various forms of aesthetics without offering a true path to beauty. An affinity for beauty — to see, appreciate, and ultimately to create it — is best honed keeping close to nature, says art historian Chiang Hsun. Qing dynasty calligrapher and painter Zheng Banqiao would have approved. After all, didn't he ask, “If people really love birds, why not plant more trees?”

American researcher: China's upstream dams threaten economy and security of Mekong region

China’s 11 hydropower dams built on the upper Mekong River held back massive quantities of water over the last two years, causing crop failure and depleting fish catches, and threatening the livelihoods of the 60 million people living downstream. Besides, China has financed half of Laos’ 60 dams on Mekong tributaries and two more on the mainstream, pushing Laos' debt levels to about US$17 billion in 2019, nearly equivalent to the country’s annual GDP. Furthermore, other projects in Thailand have been cancelled out of concern that it would give Beijing too much strategic and economic influence deep into mainland Southeast Asia. American researcher Murray Hiebert explains the situation.

The US gets it wrong again

Rishi Gupta gives a critique of the strategy paper “The Longer Telegram: Toward a New American China Strategy”, by “Anonymous”, which was recently published by the Atlantic Council. He says that judging from the paper and several other important geostrategic content released by the US recently, the US has not read the situation in China and its leadership correctly, and hence has a skewed understanding of how it can draw strength globally to compete with its "most serious competitor".

Taiwan: Why China-US relations are a zero-sum game

Chinese academic Ni Lexiong says that so long as a country's territorial sovereignty is in conflict with the hegemonic system governing the world, the likelihood of escalation to war is there. That is why despite any of the posturing at the recent Alaska talks, the situation between China and the US remains deadlocked in a zero-sum game.

Russia in Southeast Asia: Falling influence despite being largest arms seller

Although Russia has been increasing its defence diplomacy activities in Southeast Asia, its military cooperation with the region remains overwhelmingly focused on arms sales. However, Russia is at risk of losing its position as the number one arms seller to Southeast Asia due to increased competition from American, European and Asian defence companies. Besides, Russian navy port calls to Southeast Asia and combined military exercises in the region are infrequent and small-scale compared to those of the US and China. ISEAS academic Ian Storey examines how Russia might expand its influence.