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A man smokes at a stall selling frozen wonton near a hutong neighborhood in Beijing, 5 June 2020. (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

Persistent poverty and a weak middle class: China's fundamental challenge

Zheng Yongnian says China must not get ahead of itself. Recent statistics prove that 600 million people indeed earn a monthly income of just 1,000 RMB. China’s earlier reforms had led to equitable growth, but income disparity has increased with rapid economic development since it joined the WTO. As it stands, the bottom strata of Chinese society remain huge while China’s relatively small middle class continues to suffer in an inadequate social system. Rather than sweep these issues aside in a bid to glorify the country’s achievements but downplay its shortcomings, China must take a hard look at itself and focus on pursuing equitable growth.
People walk past a mural on 26 May 2020 in New York City. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

How to become a country with deity-like qualities? Learn from the US

Before walking under a cloud of strained relations, China had been an admirer of US innovation, creativity and enterprise. Recent troubles have shown that the US is no deity, but US-based researcher Wei Da reminds us that some of its deity-like qualities are worth emulating. What must China do to elevate itself and put on some deity-like armour of its own?
Salmon has been taken off the shelves at a supermarket in Fengtai District, Beijing, 13 June 2020. (Zhang Yu/CNS)

Beijing's wholesale market cluster sparks fear of a repeat of Wuhan's ordeal

After largely bringing the coronavirus under control, and keeping Beijing out of the fray, China is facing the possibility of a fresh outbreak, this time focused on a cluster involving the Xinfadi wholesale market in Beijing. That the coronavirus was found on a chopping board for cutting imported salmon has sparked much debate about transmission via salmon, and the prospect of a second wave of Covid-19. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu weighs up how Beijing will tackle the problem.
Passengers use their mobile phones on the subway in Beijing, 12 May 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Weibo punished: Should public opinion be controlled by money or the state?

It is no secret that China’s social media and public opinion is not what it seems: clicks, top searches, and hot topics can all be bought with money. But this points to a bigger problem of whether the Chinese authorities are prepared to allow money, rather than the power of the state, drive public opinion. Zaobao assistant editor Han Yong Hong lays out the implications.
Dr Li Yan, intensive care physician at the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Department of the Xuanwu Hospital affiliated to the Capital Medical University in Beijing.

Wuhan lockdown doctor and her story battling the Covid-19 pandemic

Dr Li Yan, one of 40,000 medical workers across the country who served in Wuhan, was one of the speakers at a webinar organised by the Beijing People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Beijing NGO Network for International Exchanges and the Beijing Medical Women's Association on 13 May. Moved by her testimony, former VRT (Flemish Radio and Television broadcaster) journalist Ng Sauw Tjhoi requested to do an interview with her. Prior to leaving her family behind for the first time to take part in such a volunteer mission, Dr Li has been an intensive care physician in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Department of the Xuanwu Hospital affiliated to the Capital Medical University in Beijing for 18 years. The below is the transcript of their video interview, conducted via Zoom.
A woman wearing a face mask walks in the Central Business District in Beijing on 14 April 2020. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

China's grassroots civil servant and her story battling the Covid-19 pandemic

China's grassroots civil servants have been sandwiched between their demanding supervisors and the people, while braving the elements standing guard outside different communities and organisations throughout winter and spring during the pandemic. Young Chinese academic Lorna Wei tells the story of one of these non-medical frontline workers amid the tough fight as she salutes the numerous nameless heroes among them.
Street vendors wait for customers at their vegetable stalls in Jingzhou, 27 March 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

Street stalls: Saviour of livelihoods for ordinary Chinese after Covid-19?

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei once ran a stall selling slimming pills, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma used to sell small items in Zhejiang. In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the street stall economy is making a comeback in China. These stalls were popular in the 1980s and 1990s but declined with efforts by authorities to clean up the streets. Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan weighs the pros and cons of reviving the street stall economy.
This aerial handout photo taken on March 18, 2020 and released by Thai volunteer group Jit Arsa shows a night time view of fires in Mae Rim district in northern Chiang Mai province, where the blazes have severely impacted air quality. (Handout/Jit Arsa/AFP)

Forest fires: Lancang-Mekong regional countries can work together to manage transboundary haze

With air quality in the Lancang-Mekong region entering the unhealthy range due to agricultural burning and causing air pollution in Chinese provinces, China academics Bi Shihong and Zhang Chengcen examine what countries in the Lancang-Mekong area can do to tackle transboundary haze.
A woman cycles past a screen showing a news conference by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang after the closing session of the National People's Congress, in Beijing, China, on 28 May 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

600 million Chinese earn 1,000 RMB a month — so are the Chinese rich or poor?

Zaobao's Beijing correspondent Yang Danxu often marvels at the spending power of Chinese white-collar workers around her, and she too was surprised when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang remarked that China has 600 million people with a monthly income of 1,000 RMB. That is more than 40% of the Chinese population, and the figures portray a reality that is starkly different from common perception. Are Chinese people moving up the income ladder and are their lives becoming better as is the common refrain? Yang examines the facts.