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

Why were Chinese imperial families prone to fratricides and tragedies?

Throughout Chinese history, imperial families were some of the fiercest battlegrounds. Emperors stopped at nothing to hold on to power. At the instigation of wily courtiers, they might even have executed their kin without batting an eyelid. Li Jingkui says economically speaking, this has to do with the logic of contract theory — there was no neutral arbiter in leadership transitions. Without a third party to oversee the proceedings, family members were often subjected to the tyranny of the “lion king“. But under those circumstances, could anyone else other than the emperor have held court?

A former Singapore journalist remembers a very different China in the 1980s

Former journalist Teo Han Wue chuckles as he recalls his first assignment in China covering an international Confucianism conference in Qufu, Confucius’ hometown in Shandong. Telecommunications facilities then were a far cry from the advances in 5G or AI that China enjoys now. Even sending a facsimile was a comedy of errors.

Why Chinese local governments indulge in wasteful infrastructure projects

Even as China embarks on various infrastructure projects, how many of these projects are actually useful, or bring real benefits to the people they are supposed to serve? Are all of these projects truly worth the money and effort invested? Commentator David Ng takes a closer look at a "white elephant" tram system in the Greater Bay Area and considers the issues involved.

Post-70s generation CPC stars jockey for position ahead of 20th Party Congress in 2022

In the CPC’s leadership renewal plans, the post-70s generation plays a leading role, having by this time risen to middle and senior positions. Yang Danxu takes stock of political stars in this generation as they take up key positions at the provincial level in the lead-up to the Communist Party of China (CPC)’s 20th Party Congress in 2022.

Covid-19 pandemic and China's rising soft power in mainland Southeast Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic provides a window of opportunity for China to exert its international leadership and influence. It has managed to turn the crisis into a diplomatic and strategic opportunity in mainland Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Public health diplomacy has become one of the key sources of China’s soft power projection, enhancing China’s image and influence. Cambodia and Laos have been most receptive to China’s public health diplomacy, including its vaccine diplomacy, while Thailand and Myanmar also have welcomed Chinese assistance. But Vietnam has been reluctant to endorse China’s Covid-19 assistance, including receiving Chinese vaccines.

Japanese academic: Has Japan 'crossed the Rubicon' in Japan-China relations?

With China's increasingly strong rhetoric on its core interests and its criticism of Japan's recent diplomatic moves, Japanese academic Tomoki Kamo takes stock of China-Japan relations and moves that Japan might make in its overall strategy.

Japanese academic: Biden's emphasis on allies is impacting Japan-China relations

Relations between Japan and China have been on an uptrend in the past few years. Even after the new Suga administration came to power, the trend of improving relations has been maintained. However, with the Biden administration's emphasis on working with its allies, ostensibly against China, will Japan-China relations suffer?

China’s rising property prices have serious social consequences

Han Heyuan asserts that rising property prices in China are not just the “biggest grey rhino” in terms of financial risks as some policymakers have said, but also a catalyst for a slew of development and social issues such as the lack of entrepreneurs, negative attitudes to work, and falling birth rates.

Is China facing a demographic crisis?

China’s latest population census was completed late last year, but the results will only be announced on 11 May, pushed back from early April. Some speculate that the delay is due to sensitive findings such as the severity of the declining birth rate. Is China facing a demographic crisis and how will the government seek to balance population challenges and economic growth? Yu Zeyuan throws up some possibilities.

Feisty and delicate: Vietnam's approach to handling great power rivalry

Vietnam’s domestic and foreign policy structures held up well in 2020 in the face of significant challenges involving Covid-19, chairing ASEAN, and relations with China and the US. Vietnam continued to maintain a delicate balance between China and the US, while at the same time retaining a strategic option to pursue deeper defence and military relations with the US. Its ability to maintain and enhance agency, in particular in its relations with Beijing, offers lessons for other Southeast Asian countries facing the same dilemma.

Exploring Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea with a Dutchman

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai recalls his study tour in Dehua county sampling tea as he visited dragon kilns and pottery workshops. He was delighted to extend warm hospitality to a Chinese-speaking Dutchman who was there to learn about Dehua porcelain and Anxi tea.

Japan passes China in the sprint to win Cambodian hearts and minds

Since 2010, Japan’s foreign policy toward Cambodia includes a new geopolitical dimension of balancing China’s influence in Cambodia, including strategies such as non-interference in Cambodia’s domestic affairs and providing development assistance that aligns with the Cambodian government’s development plan, focusing on infrastructure, human capital development, and agriculture. Japan has been relatively successful given the Cambodian population’s mixed reactions to China’s engagement in Cambodia. And it seems that Cambodia will continue to benefit from Japan's balancing-China strategy, as long as China-Japan rivalry stays manageable.   

The ugly scenes behind China's talent shows

The voting mechanism for elimination variety shows in China nowadays demands fans to put their money where their mouth is — pushing their favourites up the ranks with “support” that can be bought in cash. Clever marketing tactics by sponsors or a slippery slope bordering on exploitation?

China's CPC deepens ties with Philippine political parties

Under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, party-to-party (P2P) relations have been forged and deepened between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and various Philippine political parties. Such P2P diplomacy offers China a new diplomatic channel to promote bilateral relations and complement confidence-building measures. It also enables Beijing to hedge at the sub-national level given the plurality of political bases in the Philippines. Philippine researcher Aaron Jed Rabena looks at the engagements thus far and examines how these may affect Philippine domestic politics.

India's coronavirus crisis is the world's crisis. Politics needs to take a back seat.

In hindsight, Zhu Zhiqun analyses some of India’s missteps that have left it ill-prepared to handle the second wave of Covid-19. China and other countries should learn from this: it is still not time to slacken one's vigilance against Covid-19, and a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Will Indonesia-China vaccine cooperation affect Jakarta's South China Sea stance?

Indonesia is among the Southeast Asian nations most heavily stricken by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ASEAN country that conducts the most comprehensive vaccine cooperation with China. Still, it has tried to diversify its vaccine supply to avoid being over-reliant on China's vaccine. Unsurprisingly, China’s vaccine diplomacy in Southeast Asia carries an expectation that recipient countries should be more accommodating on the South China Sea issue. Will Indonesia's resolve to stand firm on ASEAN’s position on the South China Sea waver?