While China has soared ahead in other areas such as expressway construction and port development, it lags behind heavyweights like the US in railway development. A fundamental cause is relying on the government as its single investment channel. Plugging its railway gaps, literally and figuratively, would give China’s economic development a decided boost.
Cheng Pei-kai recalls the mellow, earthy appeal of aged pu-erh, where tea leaves are compressed into cakes and left to ferment for decades to develop a complex flavour. Recently, he also got the chance to taste a young pu-erh — made with tea leaves from a tree that Qing dynasty soldiers used to guard and which was sent to the emperor as “tribute tea”, no less.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, China registered 2.3% growth in 2020, the only major economy to do so. A combination of able pandemic containment efforts, expansion in industrial production and fixed asset investment, as well as prompt measures to help micro, small and medium enterprises brought them to this point. If this positive trajectory continues, China looks set to continue its remarkable rebound in 2021.
Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai celebrates the free-spirited explorer Xu Xiake, who roamed the depths of China in the late Ming dynasty. Xu's journeys were hardly glorious forays that forged new paths or alliances. But for the quiet reminder they give to embrace one’s passions and explore the world, Xu will be fondly remembered.
The little-known Qian Shan Shili had the opportunity to travel in the days of upheaval at the end of the Qing dynasty and at the dawn of a new republic. She was the first woman to record her thoughts in two travelogues and felt strongly that China’s new education system paled in comparison with that of other countries such as Japan. She concluded that education should have the aim of building critical-thinking men and women rather than just nurturing a crop of scholars with exceptional talent. After all, she notes, without citizens, how can there be talents? And without citizens, there can certainly be no society. These are wise words, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, that remain relevant even today.
Chinese financial commentator Tan Haojun looks at what China has done right to quickly recover after the pandemic, and what makes international financial institutions and analysts confident about its economy.
Entering his second term in 2012, Shinzō Abe immaculately repackaged his image in a bid to shed some of the baggage from his first 2006-2007 term, says academic Toh Lam Seng. But Abe was still the man he was before — a descendant of Nobusuke Kishi, the “Yokai (i.e., monster or goblin) of the Showa era”, and a hawkish politician focused on amending Japan’s peace constitution. There was never a pro-China Abe as portrayed by the media. Now with his younger brother Nobuo Kishi coming into the spotlight in the new Cabinet, it looks like the political bloodline of the “Yokai of the Showa era” will continue on and have an impact on Japan’s policies.
Art historian Chiang Hsun remembers a lone Chinese snowball flower from his many overseas trips. Its pristine beauty was its allure. In this world where fakes abound, this image, lodged deep in his memory, is proof that authenticity exists.
Food delivered to the door every day, temperature taking twice a day, and not a single sound from the outside world... Zaobao correspondent Chen Jing documents 14 days in a hotel room, quarantined behind a yellow line. Did she find peace in solitude?