Central vs local government

A news report on Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech in the city of Shenzhen is shown on a public screen in Hong Kong, 14 October 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Xi's five-year plan for Shenzhen: A hard road ahead?

Shenzhen has grown rapidly over the past 40 years, such that its GDP reached a massive 2.7 trillion RMB in 2019. Just this month, the Chinese government released a five-year plan to make Shenzhen a “pilot demonstration area for socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Amid plans for reforms and new initiatives, EAI academic Yu Hong asks: How much autonomy will Shenzhen have, and what challenges will it face?
Yi women dressed in their traditional costumes are seen busying their hands with embroidery at the communal square of the Chengbei Thanksgiving Community. The government-built flats they have relocated to are seen in the background.

Lifting 'the poorest of the poor' out of poverty in Sichuan: Does poverty alleviation mean uprooting people from their homes?

As China’s poverty alleviation efforts continue apace, Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong visits a community deep in Sichuan’s Daliang mountains. He finds out more about how the Yi people, once mountain dwellers, are taking to their new lives after relocating to government-built flats. Here, residents need only pay a one-time security deposit of 10,000 RMB to stay in their apartments for a lifetime. They have access to modern facilities, jobs and even dividends from shares. Is this truly utopia on earth?
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 man under a bridge of the Yangtze river in Wuhan, 15 April 2020. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

When the only option is fraud: How institutional faults led to the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan

Chen Kang attributes the blindspots in China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak to the tendency of officials to withhold information and put up appearances for their own interests. As such, decision-making could be impaired by the asymmetry of information and misaligned interests between superiors and subordinates, especially at the local level. Results then vary based on how well one navigates the minefields of groupthink, collusion and that seemingly innocuous aim of not rocking the boat. Using the prism of formalism, or what is prizing form over substance, Chen points out the weakness of a centralised system.
A man wears a protective face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as he walks past the Jingshan park overlooking the Forbidden City in Beijing on 25 January 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Will Covid-19 be the catastrophe that ends China's good fortune?

China has faced reversals of fortune numerous times in history, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. After enjoying decades of upward ascent since its economic reform and opening up, some says China’s fate is about to be reversed again with the coronavirus pandemic, a mammoth disruption that kicked off the 2020s. Lance Gore argues that such massive shock to its political and economic system exposes chinks in its armour but does not necessarily unravel a big country with the world’s most comprehensive industrial structure.
Barrier tape cordons off parts of benches to enforce safe distancing measures along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong, on 21 April 2020. (Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

Beijing tightens control over Hong Kong amid political reshuffle and arrests

Seeing that stalwarts have kept their positions while new blood comes in the form of those who have law enforcement or political experience, pundits wager that Beijing may take a more hardline approach in the days to come.
Erroneous assumptions of others’ pursuits and exaggeration of the good they have accomplished are common phenomena in international relations. (iStock)

Thermostats, Christmas cards, and the trade war

What do thermostats and Christmas cards have in common with the ongoing China-US trade war?