Freedom of speech

Pro-democracy activists tear a placard of Winnie-the-Pooh that represents Chinese President Xi Jinping during a protest against a proposed new security law outside the Chinese Liaison Office in Hong Kong, 24 May 2020. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP)

Hong Kong’s Cinderella story ended in 1997

With the Chinese government about to enact a national security law for Hong Kong, the SAR is worried about its future and people are afraid. Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao, in his usual abrasive way, notes that over the more than 20 years following Deng Xiaoping's passing and Hong Kong's return, Beijing and Hong Kong have been butting heads to the point that everything now seems to be an irreconcilable, destructive mess. Hong Kong has been taken hostage, he says.
A masked anti-government protester holds a flag supporting Hong Kong independence during a march against Beijing's plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, 24 May 2020. (Tyrone Siu/REUTERS)

Why Beijing is taking the risk to push through the national security law and rein in Hong Kong

Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan notes that this year’s “two sessions” in China includes a contentious national security law for Hong Kong that has been months in the making. The law is unlikely to go down well in Hong Kong, nor with Hong Kong watchers with vested interests such as the US. What gave Beijing the confidence to push through such a law at this point in time?
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?
A woman wearing a face mask walks at a square of a park in Yokohama, 10 May 2020. (Philip Fong/AFP)

Why has Japan not imposed a lockdown, like China and the rest of the world?

Japan has not implemented a lockdown or harsh measures, but it has generally managed to keep its coronavirus cases and death toll low. How has it managed to do this and what does it say about its political system? Professor Zhang Yun of Niigata University examines Japan’s pandemic-management style.
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.
People walk past a tree with a mask and eyes stapled on it, in Melbourne, on 20 April 2020. (William West/AFP)

Chewing gum on the sole of China's shoes? Australia-China relations take a nosedive

China's Global Times editor Hu Xijin called Australia the “chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes”. The Chinese public seems to agree and wants to “find a stone to rub it off”. This is but a sampling of Chinese reactions to recent statements by Australian leaders. That Australia's calls for China to be part of a Covid-19 independent international inquiry strike a strident tone is not unexpected, given that negative attitudes towards China have been simmering in Australia for quite a while now.   
This picture taken on 21 February 2020 shows a woman wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the Covid-19 coronavirus, exercising at a park in Beijing. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Will China turn its back on the world again?

After more than 40 years of reform and opening up to the point that China has become an integral node in global supply chains, will the pandemic be the circuit breaker that cuts off the flow of connections between China and the West? Will the currents of international trade and cooperation flow again or will China ironically be more like the US in thinking “I am the world”? And once allegedly compared by Napoleon to a “sleeping lion”, will China resume its sleep shortly after awakening?
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.
A man in front of a screen displaying a propaganda image (top), on a street in Beijing, April 20, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Covid-19: China's missing narrative in the global battle of narratives

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.