From the 19th century to the 1920s and 1930s, ships transporting hundreds of Chinese coolies ready to work hard and make their "fortune" in Nanyang often docked at Kallang River. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao recently obtained an album with rare photographs of such a ship bringing coolies from Xiamen in Fujian, China, to Singapore in the early 20th century. They are an authentic visual record of Chinese coolies in Singapore a century ago and a powerful throwback to that period.
China academic Zhang Jie notes that the fates and fortunes of China and the US are intertwined. Being in the same boat, the two should pull in the same direction and row well together. Anything else may catapult China and the US on the road to decoupling and further conflict, creating risks not only for themselves, but the world. In that regard, China managing relations with a constellation of key players such as Japan, South Korea and the EU will prove pivotal in guarding against accidental slippages into hot war.
Nonagenarian Mochtar Riady, founder of Lippo Group in Indonesia, shared his views on “New Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Covid-19 World” at a webinar yesterday. He believes that with its combined strength, ASEAN can weather any potential headwinds of deglobalisation. And contrary to what others predict, China’s place in global supply chains is firmly anchored and the country looks set to play a leading role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Economics professor Yu Zhi points out that the ball is in China’s court as to whether it will continue being plugged in to the international economic system and whether globalisation itself will continue on its path. In the medium- to long-term, he sees that it is in China’s interest to stay the course and scenarios of decoupling between China and the West are much exaggerated. However, how China sees its strategic role in the world in the future is something its leaders and people have to give great thought to, not in the future, but right now.
In a wide-ranging email interview with ThinkChina editor Chow Yian Ping, sinologist Wang Gungwu shares his thoughts on how China and the world have changed because of the pandemic. He keenly observes that Chinese leaders have sought greater control over the population in recent years, and the situation will worsen as the pandemic deepens their insecurities. On the international stage, an intense clash of interests among the major powers looks set to keep nations divided. On the micro-level however, he takes heart that a “globalisation from below” is taking place; the fact that the virus knows no borders has brought people closer together, with opportunities for reset.
As the world races to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, politics has made it a strategic contest. But while everybody wants to be the first to develop a vaccine that works and put it out on the market, experts say that vaccines cannot be forced, and it is possible that one may not be found at all. Even if found, the vaccine has to be made available to everyone to ensure that the pandemic ends across the globe. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu speaks to scientists and experts to find out more.
Chinese academic Deng Xize is mostly pessimistic as he traces lessons from history to conclude that international cooperation is only tenable with the combination of well-functioning international institutions and concert among the major powers. In light of further tensions between China and the US arising from the pandemic, he sees little room for cooperation on a global scale, and instead, only greater signs of animosity of the sort seen during the Cold War.
No one would deny that the US and China are not the best of friends at the moment. But there was a time — and not so long ago at that — when these two countries came together in goodwill and support. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao brings us back to the WWII period, when this seemingly improbable state of affairs was a reality.
While it appears that China is going all out to shape the global narrative in a vacuum left by the West, Zheng Yongnian says this is a non-starter as China is often reactive to Western narratives, resorting to tit-for-tat tactics, rather than projecting its own clear narratives. The arduous task of establishing a voice and a narrative remains the biggest international challenge that confronts China.