Society

Elementary school students play on International Children's Day in Hai'an in China's eastern Jiangsu province on 1 June 2021, a day after China announced it would allow couples to have three children. (STR/AFP)

Faster, higher, stronger: China's kids pushed to breaking point

In China, the term involution (内卷, neijuan) has been used to refer to various forms of inward spiral, regression or stagnation. Applied to education, it is the vicious cycle of kids being primed and plumbed for their potential. Cram-style preschool education, intense competition for places in elite schools, crazy property prices in school districts... the list goes on. If no one steps off the wheel, is there no end in sight?
People walk near the Bund, in front of Lujiazui financial district in Pudong, Shanghai, China, 10 May 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

China's top infectious diseases expert Zhang Wenhong: Division stands in the way of defeating the pandemic

Zhang Wenhong, director of the infectious diseases department at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, delivered a commencement speech in English at New York University Shanghai on 26 May. He observed that in China's fight against Covid-19, a consideration for others in the community helped people follow mask-wearing and social distancing protocol in the early stages. Writ large, a globalised problem can only be solved through human solidarity. The world, especially the young of the future, need to a find a way to work together.
People at a subway station in Shanghai, China, 11 May 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Shanghai can learn from Tokyo’s train service excellence

Shanghai and Tokyo both have train systems, but there is a big difference between them in terms of scale, convenience, and commuter behaviour. Researcher Chen Hongbin observes that Shanghai has much to learn from Tokyo, and by extension other cities.
A worker operates a harvester machine at a tea plantation in Minamiyamashiro, Kyoto, Japan, on 14 May 2021. (Buddhika Weerasinghe/Bloomberg)

Lessons for China: The powerful position of the Japanese farming industry

Japan’s farming industry occupies a special position in the country’s political, economic and social development. Although farmers are few in number, they wield a strong influence. As a result, a protected farming ecosystem exists in Japan, which has enabled the country to make great strides in organic farming and reducing carbon emissions. The country has also been adept at leveraging its overseas industrial outposts to support its domestic farming sector. What can China learn from Japan’s experience?
A couple use their mobile phones while sharing a bench at a park in Beijing on 21 April 2021. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

A burning issue among Chinese youths: How to escape the rat race?

The terms “involution” (内卷) and “lying flat” (躺平) are trending these days among young people in China who are speaking out against the intense competition and pressures they face. But how many are actually doing something about it? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan digs deeper into the social phenomenon.
People walk along Qianmen street in Beijing on 19 May 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Americans should not oversimplify China into a few sensitive issues

US academic Wu Guo says that not only is the American media's reporting biased against China, college students often only have access to resources that present only one version of China. He feels it is important for Americans to realise that their understanding of China is often limited to a few sensitive issues. He suggests that with their feet anchored in two worlds, overseas Chinese or Asian academics can play a part in presenting a more balanced view of China.
Why must gifts be reciprocated? (iStock)

Chinese economics professor: Why we exchange gifts, from ancient China to the present

Have you ever received a gift that you did not like? Economics professor Li Jingkui notes that when there is a mismatch between the gift and its recipient, the giver and receiver suffer a "deadweight loss". But still, many of us continue to exchange gifts. After much thought and research, Li found the answer for such persistent human behaviour in a Maori myth — you give a part of yourself along with your gift, which is something more valuable than the gift itself. 
People flock to pay their last respects to Yuan Longping at his memorial service in Changsha, Hunan, China on 24 May 2021. (CNS)

China mourns scientist Yuan Longping, the ‘father of hybrid rice’

Following the recent passing of scientist Yuan Longping, “the father of hybrid rice”, citizens in China called for the flag to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect. Yu Zeyuan says that the authorities seem reluctant to do so for fear of setting a precedent. But for a man whose achievements speak for themselves, no pomp and pageantry is needed.
This photo taken on 24 April 2021 shows a farmer walking along terraced rice paddy fields in Congjiang, Guizhou province, China. (STR/AFP)

Chinese economics professor: My grandmother and the kind, gentle souls of rural China

Li Jingkui remembers his grandmother and her generation of kind, gentle souls who survived through wars, famines and heartache. The indomitable spirit of the rural folk is the secret of China’s meteoric progress. As new generations today overlook these unsung heroes and economists tinker with models and facts, never forget the kind, gentle souls of the countryside, he says, for their sacrifice is the country’s moral compass.