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People cross a street during sunset in Shanghai, China, 15 November 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

George Yeo: Charm and China in a multipolar world

George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, gave a talk titled “China in a Multipolar World” to students of the Master in Public Administration and Management (MPAM) programme taught in Chinese at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 3 November. He spoke about time and patience needed for a multipolar superstructure to emerge, and for earlier dominant players such as the US to adjust to the new order. In the meantime, it is in China’s interest to master the art of charm, knowing when to go hard or soft in its relations with the US and Europe, its neighbours India and Japan, and issues such as the South China Sea and Taiwan. This is an edited transcript of his speech and excerpts from the Q&A session.
This file photo taken on 30 January 2018 shows Taiwanese soldiers staging an attack during an annual drill at a military base in Hualien, Taiwan. (Mandy Cheng/AFP)

Both sides of the Taiwan Strait fear imminent war

Both sides of the Taiwan Strait have experienced anxiety and fear lately, out of escalating US-China tensions and growing speculations on the prospect of war. But how much of this so-called anxiety and fear is being manipulated for political gain by Taiwan’s ruling DPP and the US? For all the bravado seen on internet chatter, when it comes down to it, the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will suffer most in an actual war. Shouldn’t mainland provocateurs think twice before falling into the trap of beating the war drums?
(Left to right) Premier Su Tseng-chang, Parliament Speaker You Si-kun and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu have been named by the Taiwan Affairs Office as being “stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence”. (Internet/SPH)

Are Taiwan's DPP politicians fighting to be blacklisted by Beijing?

In Beijing’s latest effort to discourage notions of independence for Taiwan, it has released a list of Taiwan leaders it considers to be “stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence”, seemingly targeted at Green camp members. However, those on the list are wearing it as a badge of honour, as recognition that they love Taiwan, while those not on the list are clamouring to be blacklisted. Will this move backfire on Beijing instead?
On 1 October 1949, from atop the Tiananmen city wall in Beijing, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong led the ceremony establishing the People’s Republic of China. And at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), he declared: “The Chinese people, comprising one quarter of humanity, have now stood up.”

[Photo story] The establishment of the People’s Republic of China

“The Chinese people have stood up.” These famous words uttered by Mao Zedong were a declaration to the world. But the establishment of the People’s Republic of China was by no means straightforward. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao takes us through the twists and turns of a civil war between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party, with their very different ideas of what China should be.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the Double Tenth Day celebration in Taipei, Taiwan, on 10 October 2021. (I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg)

Tsai Ing-wen's comments on cross-strait relations: Brash or brilliant?

Leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait made declaratory statements over the last weekend, the anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution and what the Taiwanese celebrate as Double Tenth Day or their national day. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s comments were provocative, yet managed to stay within the bounds of ambiguity. But the Taiwanese military did forecast that mainland China will be able to launch an attack on Taiwan by 2025 to 2027. Will brazen remarks stoke the flames?
A general view shows light projections at Taiwan's Presidential Office in Taipei, on 5 October 2021, during a ceremony to celebrate Double Tenth Day on 10 October. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Chinese legal expert: ‘Legal reunification’ with Taiwan the best solution

Zong Haichao explains why “legal reunification” — peaceful reunification through legal means — is a possible alternative to military reunification or political reunification. It will serve the common interests of the CCP in mainland China and Taiwan’s ruling party DPP and opposition KMT, even if it may not be the optimal route in the eyes of each party. However, to make this option workable, the CCP needs to first achieve rule of law, democratisation and modernisation transformation. A possible scenario in the future?
Eric Chu, Taiwan’s newly-elected main opposition Kuomintang (KMT) chairman, gestures on the podium following his election victory for the party's leadership at the KMT headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan, on 25 September 2021. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

A mountain to climb: New KMT leader Eric Chu and his hope for peaceful cross-strait relations

Although a new Kuomintang (KMT) chairman, former New Taipei City mayor Eric Chu, has been installed, the KMT’s stance on cross-strait relations and its aspirations for Taiwan’s future is hazy to many. While Chu pledged commitment to the 1992 Consensus and non-support of Taiwan independence, he did not give a clear response to the mainland’s call for “reunification”. Pledging to stick to the “status quo” would be a no-go either, given the ambiguous term. How then should the KMT position itself on the path to the 2024 presidential elections?
On 10 October 1945, the chairman of the Kuomintang (KMT) government Chiang Kai-shek met with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong in Chongqing for peace negotiations. Both sides signed an agreement that brought a glimmer of peace, but it was short-lived, as armed conflicts kept breaking out between the KMT and CCP.

[Photo story] Failure of the Double Tenth Agreement and the beginning of the Chinese civil war

Just when China thought it would see peace after World War II, a civil war between the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party soon broke out. While the Double Tenth Agreement led to an peaceful interregnum of sorts, this was short-lived, and not even US intervention resulted in a lasting peace.
People walk along a street in Beijing on 18 May 2021 past military propaganda which reads: "Courageous —  raise a new generation of spirited, capable, courageous and morally upright revolutionary soldiers." (Noel Celis/AFP)

What if China and Russia join forces?

The US would not like to see China and Russia getting too close, knowing that their combined strengths would be formidable. But history shows that full cooperation between China and Russia is not a straightforward matter at all. US academic Han Dongping discusses the forces pushing these two giants closer together and the possible scenarios that could unfold if they join forces.