Politics

A woman walks past a Communist Party slogan urging people to "Follow the Party forever" outside a residential compound in Beijing on 6 July 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)

The return of Mao-era practices: New threat to China's political and economic modernisation

EAI academic Lance Gore says that the Communist Party of China is reenacting the “great leader model” and reviving many practices of the Mao era. These include tightening control over information flow and restricting freedom of speech, enhancing propaganda and ideological and political indoctrination, emphasising obedience and absolute loyalty, advancing the ideal of the party acting for the government, among others. He says these anti-modernisation tactics need to be addressed as China attempts to modernise its governance and build institutions with soul.
This handout photo received on 9 June 2020 from the Department of National Defense Philippines (DND), shows Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana (centre) along with military officials cutting a ribbon during the inauguration ceremony of the newly constructed beach-ramp at Philippine-held Pag-asa Island also known as Thitu Island in the Spratly archipelagos. (Handout/Department National Defense Philippines (DND)/AFP)

[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.
A boy sits on a bench on Batu Burok beach in Kuala Terengganu, in Malaysia by the South China Sea, on 26 June 2020. (Mohd Rasfan/AFP)

[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.
President Jokowi listens to explanation on Natuna Water map at Lampa Strait Integrated Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Center Natuna Regency, 8 January 2020. (Cabinet Secretariat of Indonesia website)

[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.
HMAS Parramatta (C) breaks away from USS America (R) and USS Bunker Hill (L) on completion of officer of the watch manoeuvres in the South China Sea, in this 18 April 2020 handout photo. (Australia Department Of Defence/Handout via REUTERS)

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.
A government supporter wearing a protective mask holds Chinese and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) flags to celebrate the passage of a national security law in Hong Kong, China, on 30 June 2020. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)

There will be no peaceful rise — China-US relations enters a new phase

In a recent report outlining its approach to China, the US indicated that it will be guided by “principled realism” in strategic competition with China. Chinese academic Yu Zhi believes that this is a sign of the two countries moving into a “curtailment and containment” phase in their relations. Whoever the next President is, the US line on China looks set to hold. This stance harks back to the beginning of US-China relations, albeit with some adjustments. In any event, both countries are bracing themselves for a rough ride ahead.
Anti-national security law protesters throw mock paper money during a march against national security law on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China from Britain, in Hong Kong, China, 1 July 2020. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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?
People wearing face masks walk in front of the entrance of the Forbidden City, while the closing of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference takes place in Beijing, 27 May 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Modernise China’s governance? Get rid of deities and emperors

China has put a lot of effort into modernising its governance system over the decades, but it still seems to miss the mark or to have even regressed in some areas. EAI academic Lance Gore puts this down to a muddled understanding of what true modernisation entails. Cult of personality, formalism, and conformity still permeate the system to a large degree, such that decision-makers live in a bubble thinking that all is well.
Demonstrators raise their fists as they gather on 2 June 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to protest the death of George Floyd while in police custody. (Chandan Khanna/AFP)

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?