Social media

A pedestrian walks past a mural from the "Heart of Cyberpunk" exhibition in Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong on 24 October 2020. (Photo by May JAMES / May James / AFP)

'Transnational Chinese-language cyber intellectual enclaves': An emerging phenomenon

Wu Guo observes that with the prevalence of WeChat and other online platforms, “transnational Chinese-language cyber intellectual enclaves” are emerging. Such an avenue is freeing for some, as ethnic Chinese academics around the world who mainly use the Chinese language now have an avenue to share their views with other ethnic Chinese in or outside China. But for those keeping track of where the centre of gravity of China discourse is moving towards and who fear being left out of the conversation — should they be worried?   
A supporter of President-elect Joe Biden celebrate his victory in Wilmington, Delaware on 7 November 2020. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Chinese liberal intellectuals divided over Trump and the US elections

Liberal intellectuals in China are not a monolithic group. While the elites within the community once served to moderate divergent views, disagreements laid bare by the recent US elections shows that deeper schisms run deep, especially between those espousing conservative and liberal views.
This photo taken on 21 October 2020 shows tourists passing a wall with a slogan that says "Grand Alliance for China's Reunification under the Three Principles of the People", on Taiwan's Kinmen islands. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Are Cold War-era slogans making a return in the internet age?

Having lived through the Cold War era when people were misled by empty slogans and labels, Taiwanese writer Chiang Hsun cautions that we may once again find ourselves under the influence of such meaningless words in the noisy internet age. Have we lost our basic cognitive skills to observe and contemplate in solitude? 
People gather near the US Consulate General in Chengdu, 27 July 2020, as the final group of U.S. personnel from the consulate is expected to leave after China ordered its closure in response to a US order for China to shut its consulate in Houston. (Thomas Peter/REUTERS)

‘Melon-munching crowd’ in China enjoying the show amid US consulate closure

The recent diplomatic row between China and the US sparked off by the US ordering the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston has ended for now, with the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu notes that the spectator “melon-munching crowd” has responded with nationalist sentiments, and the media in China is fanning the flames. Can China-US relations be salvaged?
Passengers use their mobile phones on the subway in Beijing, 12 May 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Weibo punished: Should public opinion be controlled by money or the state?

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.
A man wearing a face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic drives his motorbike along a street in Wuhan, China, on 24 April 2020. (STR/AFP)

A fragmented Chinese society after the pandemic?

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?
The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been caught up in controversy since the outbreak of Covid-19. (WIV website)

Embroiled in controversies: Did Covid-19 come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

Amid uncertainty, netizens are indulging in speculation about the origin of the Covid-19 virus. Their conjectures lead to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Where is the world headed? George Yeo explores the issues. (iStock)

George Yeo: Human solidarity in a fragmenting world

From a look at the recent street protests and happenings in Hong Kong, Singapore's former Foreign Minister George Yeo explores issues of social media, societal fragmentation, wealth inequality, and big data that have implications for the wider world. Will big data and AI lead to an ever-growing concentration of power? Is the future destined for the dystopia envisioned in George Orwell’s 1984? Or will clever computer minds succeed in creating decentralised internet webs and decentralised AI? While human relationships and institutions adapt to the revolution in technology, we can expect a long transition marked by disruption and confusion. What is needed to overcome the present phase? This is George Yeo's speech at the Induction Comitia 2020 of the Academy of Medicine Singapore on 17 January 2020.
People chant slogans and hold the words "release (the protesters)" near a police-cordoned area to show support for a small group of protesters barricaded for over a week inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hung Hom district in Hong Kong on November 25, 2019. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Social protests in the era of affluence

Social movements of today are no longer campaigns by the downtrodden poor but avenues for the well-educated middle class to air their anti-establishment discontent. Aided by social media, these groups appropriate concepts without understanding their true meanings, and look set to stay due to structural imbalance in the world caused by globalisation, technological progress and social divide. Zheng Yongnian opines that states badly need institutional reforms if they are to engage the social movements of today.