Society

Ke Huanzhang (left) and Liu Thai Ker are veteran urban planners in China and Singapore. (SPH)

Liu Thai Ker and Ke Huanzhang: Urban planners are servants of the city

How do urban planners go about their work and what contributions do they make to the building of liveable cities? Ke Huanzhang, former head of the Beijing Academy of Urban Planning and Design, is all for the seamless melding of a good ecological environment, living facilities, jobs and public services in a city. Liu Thai Ker, the former chief architect and CEO of Singapore’s Housing Development Board, says a good planner needs to have the heart of a humanist, the brain of a scientist, and the eye of an artist. Tan Ying Zhen speaks to the veteran urban planners as part of a series of fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.
Employees attend a pep rally in the yard of a Cainiao warehouse, the logistics subsidiary of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., ahead of the company's annual Singles' Day shopping extravaganza in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China, on 9 November 2020. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

You have to be as smart as the Chinese to survive Singles' Day shopping in China

Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu observes that this year’s head-spinning Singles’ Day sales deals are a tough nut to crack. It is almost as if the organisers want to prevent rather than promote these discounts. Then again, in Chinese life, everything seems to be just that little bit more difficult, whether it’s making a living, raising a child or even keeping a happy marriage going. What’s the moral of the story? Competition in China breeds the street-smart. But what happens to those who are just a tad slower on the uptake?
A supporter of US President Donald Trump carries a teddy bear and a semi-automatic rifle at a "Stop the Steal" protest after the 2020 US presidential election was called for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC), in Phoenix, Arizona, US, 9 November 2020. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

Globalisation and the American blue-collar workers who voted for Trump

US-based academic Wu Guo observes that white Americans without a university education are still the group in the country most vulnerable to the ill-effects of globalisation. With manufacturing moving overseas to countries such as China, many of these Americans doing “hands-on jobs” as blue-collar workers lost their jobs and had their middle-class dreams shattered. At the same time, they are not able to leapfrog to hi-tech manufacturing that calls for specialised skills. How can this serious issue be tackled? Would bringing back manufacturing jobs from China help?
Screenshot of video clip showing US President Donald Trump and Chinese President at the Forbidden City, November 2017. (Twitter/CGTN)

The ‘historyless’ Americans and their arrogance

Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao notes that the difference between China and the US is that while China is proud of its history, the US takes pride in leaving its history behind in its pursuit of the future. He says this is the reason why when dealing with China, the Americans lose out.
People walk along a pedestrian street in Shanghai on 28 October 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

China is now 'a moderately affluent society'?

The recent adjustment of China’s “Four Comprehensives” at the recent fifth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the CCP signals that China has gauged itself to have “achieved a moderately affluent society” and will be reaching for greater goals. Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan reads the signs.
A sign encouraging voter turnout is seen at a campaign yard sign distribution site in Madison, Wisconsin, US, 17 October 2020. (Bing Guan/File Photo/Reuters)

Intellectuals and accountability: Should scientists sway public opinion on politics?

Zhang Tiankan chastises renowned journals The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Science and Nature, for veering off their professional domains and making prescriptive statements about which US presidential candidate to vote for. Such behaviour is irresponsible and unbecoming, to say the least. He asks: Shouldn't intellectuals be accountable for their views and positions?
People walk along a street in Wuhan, Hubei, China on 29 September 2020. (STR/AFP)

Why modernising China is so difficult

Wei Da calls out China’s modus operandi of seeking modernisation yet fighting it at the same time. He says China’s road to modernisation faces the classic dilemmas of setting its priorities right and establishing new paradigms that will liberate it from the shackles of the past. Only then, can China imagine a future that will bring it on par with advanced civilisations. 
People climb the Great Wall, illuminated to mark the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 1 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: The high road to pluralist sinology

Professor Wang Gungwu, eminent historian and university professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, was awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology earlier this year. At the 2020 Tang Prize Masters’ Forums — Sinology held last month, Professor Wang traced the evolution of sinology in the West and East, observing that today, a “pluralist sinology” is emerging alongside a rising China. This allows for the term “sinologist” to be applied to a much larger group of scholars, and for the bringing together of various knowledge traditions and academic disciplines in the study of China. While there is much to be cheered by this, Professor Wang also urged his fellow scholars to be ready to “douse the fires that others had fanned”, as knowledge gathered by pluralist sinology could be used as a weapon amid intense rivalry between the US and China. This is the transcript of his speech. 
People walk in the tourist area surrounding Houhai Lake during Chinese National Day holidays in Beijing, China, 2 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

The China story is not just about politics, Confucius and mooncakes

For China to spread its culture abroad successfully, the China story needs to be modernised, says Wu Guo. Ancient Chinese history and literature may be too daunting, while mooncakes and fan dances may be too superficial. People want to know what the Chinese man on the street thinks about, and what his culture of today is. Contemporary cultural products such as idol dramas and pop groups may do the trick, but so would down-to-earth insight into the lives of Chinese people. Often, just a peek into the everyday is enough to know we’re all not so different after all.