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President-elect Joe Biden waves to supporters as he leaves the Queen theater after receiving a briefing from the transition COVID-19 advisory board on 9 November 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP)

The US is getting old but China is still too green

Zhou Nongjian observes that there was a large slate of older candidates in this year’s US elections including incumbent President Trump who is 74 and President-elect Joe Biden who is 78. It is not an exact science of course, but he notes that this large crop of “oldies” is a metaphor for a greying America, or put bluntly, a country that is fast deteriorating and way past its prime. Notwithstanding, will China be fooled by such a veneer of weakness or stay watchful and humble?
US President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota on 30 September 2020. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Chinese socialism against American capitalism: The final showdown?

The Soviet Union and China have both previously tried and failed to overtake the US in various aspects. However, China's rise in the past few decades and the new Cold War has given China renewed impetus to duel the US for supremacy. Have they got enough firepower now with a government-led economic model that has a fair component of a market economy? Economics professor Zhu Ying looks at who might win.
A demonstrator wearing a protective mask holds a “Follow The Money” sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, 9 July 2020. The court cleared a New York grand jury to get President Donald Trump's financial records while blocking for now House subpoenas that might have led to their public release before the election. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

Chinese academic: The US is where money rules behind the facade of democracy

Chinese academic Qiao Xinsheng notes that despite its image of being democratic, the US is driven by capitalism and an individualism enjoyed only by a small number of elites. Such pre-existing conditions lead to a fragmented society made worse by the actions of President Donald Trump.
Paramilitary police officers stand guard in front of a poster of late communist leader Mao Zedong on a street south of the Great Hall of the People during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on May 22, 2020.  (Greg Baker/AFP)

Tackling ills of bureaucracy? China can pick up a few tips from Singapore

From Mao to Deng to Xi, generations of Chinese leaders have made great and consistent efforts to tackle bureaucracy in the Chinese system. The ills of functional bureaucratisation include rigidness, imprudence and over-staffing, among others, while the ills of structural bureaucratisation lead to unchecked power and its abuse. It is important that one recognises the type of bureaucratisation that one is dealing with and provide the right remedy, says Chen Kang, but the real solution lies in building a system that is predicated on empowerment by the people. In that regard, China can pick up a few tips from observing how the Singapore system works. 
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.
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.
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.
A health worker takes the temperature of a woman amid concerns over the Covid-19 coronavirus, at an entrance of the Pyongchon District People's Hospital in Pyongyang, 1 April 2020. (Kim Won Jin/AFP)

Chinese academic: Can North Korea’s healthcare system survive the pandemic?

For a long time, North Korea has maintained that it has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, despite some reports suggesting otherwise. Whatever the truth of the matter, a closer look at how North Korea’s medical system is structured and run will give us an idea of its capacity to withstand crises such as epidemic outbreaks. Chinese academic Shang Yongmei delves into the details.
A man holds up a sign reading "democracy instead of virology" as he attends a protest against the government's restrictions following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Cannstatter Wasen area in Stuttgart, Germany, May 16, 2020. (Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS)

Western democracy's worst enemy is itself, not China

Zheng Yongnian reminds political watchers of today that fascist regimes of the past grew out of once-democratic systems. What is to say that cannot happen in today’s world, even in mature democracies such as the US? Is the coronavirus crisis putting democratic systems to their greatest test yet? And despite what some think, China, where the pandemic first spread to the world, may not be Western democracy's biggest enemy after all.