It is no secret that China’s social media and public opinion is not what it seems: clicks, top searches, and hot topics can all be bought with money. But this points to a bigger problem of whether the Chinese authorities are prepared to allow money, rather than the power of the state, drive public opinion. Zaobao assistant editor Han Yong Hong lays out the implications.
Lang Youxing observes that while the pandemic brought the Chinese people together to overcome an unprecedented crisis, it has also unearthed a serious state of polarisation within Chinese society. Conflicting views rule, and netizens in WeChat chat groups mourn the loss of friends with the phrase “Goodbye, my classmates!” after vociferous arguments about Covid-19 and China's position. Bidding farewell to classmates is one thing, but can one say goodbye to society?
Technology specialist Yin Ruizhi points out that helped along by work-from-home orders and enterprises rushing to take their businesses online, e-commerce is growing faster than ever before, but this is leading to an unequal distribution of earnings and job opportunities, which governments have to look out for.
The publication of an offensive poem suggesting American origins of Covid-19 while lavishing praise on the Chinese government has ratcheted China-US tensions up a notch. Although the paper claims that the poem was not their idea but a prank played by cheeky hackers, the incident highlights a serious raising of the stakes simply through careless hatred.
The pandemic has exposed the flaws of a globalised world characterised by interconnectedness. Dr Yu Hong asks: "If there are no safeguards in place for risk control and management, would it still be in the interest of each country to pursue globalisation? Do the economic and trade benefits of globalisation outweigh the impact of its potential systemic risks? How should each country safeguard domestic public health while driving economic globalisation forward?"
China is finding out that overzealous nationalist internet warriors can do its foreign relations more harm than good. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu learns that China's neighbouring countries are taking these internet voices seriously because of China's unique political system.
The case of a former high-calibre law consultant who allegedly sexually abused a teenage girl has been making the rounds among China’s internet community. While the man argued that theirs was a consensual relationship, netizens are not buying it. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu asks: "What does it mean when justice has to be upheld by public opinion?"
Kwek So Cheer warns that Singapore faces the risk of being irrelevant in a new world going through a fourth industrial revolution. In that respect, it has much to learn from China, who plays a leading role when it comes to advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things.