Globalisation

A man uses his phone outside Beijing Railway Station in Beijing on 19 August 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Can the Great Firewall of China ever be overcome?

A Chinese app called Tuber barely had time to take root before it was yanked out of existence. It apparently gave Chinese netizens a way across the Great Firewall of China to foreign websites. In practice, those who jumped to try the app noted that it was not as revolutionary as touted to be, yet this could be a glimmer of things to come. With netizens becoming more discerning and information flows increasingly hard to stem anyway, Yang Danxu muses that a lighter touch may be the way to go.
This photo taken on 26 September 2020 shows first-year students holding a Chinese flag during a commencement ceremony at Wuhan University in Wuhan, Hubei, China. (STR/AFP)

Geopolitics is the biggest threat to China-US relations, not trade or tech wars

Contrary to doomsday predictions, the US-China trade and tech relationship is actually rather sturdy. After all, it was their economic and trade complementarity that brought them finally to agree on a phase one trade deal, and against all odds, US direct investments into China grew by 6% (from a year earlier) in the first half of the year. Geopolitics and volatile brinkmanship in the name of power relations could instead be the greater threat. But between Trump and Biden, which is the lesser evil?
Customers wait in line outside a Shake Shack Inc. restaurant in Beijing, China on 20 September 2020. (Yan Cong/Bloomberg)

Is it possible to decouple from the world's biggest market and factory?

Despite US efforts to reduce reliance on China and decouple from it, the process will not be easy, given China’s enormous economic influence. Even with countries such as Vietnam trying to take China’s place as the “world’s factory”, their capacity is limited. However, this does not mean that China’s position is assured, as other countries are noticing China’s penchant for using its economic might as a bargaining chip.
Buildings are seen in the central business district of Beijing on 3 September 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)

If the world needs a new ideology, can the Chinese model be accepted?

China should de-emphasise Chinese exceptionalism if it wants to be accepted by the international community, says senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute, Lance Gore. But that is not the same as lying low or blending into the background. The fact is, China did build a post-reform hybrid system that has worked well for the country. What it really needs is to disassociate itself from the ossified stereotypes of socialism under Stalin or Mao, and rebuild its image on the strengths of market socialism. Only then can it let people sit up and take notice, rather than be given notice.
People are reflected in a puddle after a rainfall as they walk along a shopping district in Beijing on 18 August 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Will China's inward economic shift lead to a closed society?

Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently emphasised the concept of “domestic circulation”, or focusing on domestic markets. But while this might prompt concern that China’s economy may be shut off from the rest of the world, given current circumstances, this is unlikely. What China needs to guard against though, says Zaobao associate editor Han Yong Hong, is the groupthink generated by a closed loop of ideas.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend the first working session of the G20 Summit in Osaka, 28 June 2019. (G20 OSAKA)

Strong China-Japan relations a fantasy in a divisive world: Will ASEAN benefit?

Since the coronavirus pandamic hit, Japan has been trying to reduce an overdependence on China vis-à-vis its supply chains. But this is by no means a sign that it wants to decouple from the Chinese economy. Several Japanese firms in fact have the intention to expand their operations in China. However, the geopolitical situation and other factors have meant a sharp deterioration in bilateral relations including the stalling of a planned state visit by President Xi Jinping. International politics professor David Arase opines that even with the best of intentions and efforts, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe would find it difficult to maintain meaningful relations with China in a divisive world. Closer Japan-ASEAN ties may be one of the upsides out of the chaos.
A paramilitary police officer wearing a face mask following the Covid-19 outbreak, stands guard outside the Great Hall of the People before the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, on 22 May 2020. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China must endure the storm, for time is on its side 

Senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute Lance Gore says that China must learn to rein in its rage and impatience and do its fair share of self-reflection. What good would it do if it gives in to petty emotions and provokes a US-led coalition against it? For sure, it still has room for manoeuvre, thanks to the attractiveness of its huge consumer market. But it must not miss the woods for the trees: the US is still more powerful than it is and the two are better off as friends than enemies. Question is, will China be able to be humble, look itself squarely in the mirror, and refrain from doing the things it must not?
A man crosses the street at Times Square amid the Covid-19 pandemic on 30 April 2020 in New York City. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Why did the US fail to contain Covid-19?

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, commentators posited that democracies saw lower mortality rates during epidemics than non-democracies. Months later, escalating death rates in countries such as the US have called such a thesis into question. Political scientist Zheng Yongnian says it is not so much whether you are a democratic country or not, but what kind of system and values you espouse. The US and Germany, for instance, both democracies, have fared very differently. He takes a closer look at the issues.
An employee works on a production line manufacturing steel structures at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, China, on 17 May 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

Can the domestic market save jobs, livelihoods and companies in China?

With Covid-19 uncertainty and downturns pummelling its export-dependent economy, China’s leaders are trying to steer companies towards the domestic market instead. This may seem like a case of putting old wine in a new bottle, as China has tried this route before. Significant challenges are proving yet again that achieving export sales domestically is no mean feat. Can export-driven companies brave the storm while they reinvent themselves and recover?