Governance

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.
A demonstrator wearing a protective mask holds a “Follow The Money” sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, 9 July 2020. The court cleared a New York grand jury to get President Donald Trump's financial records while blocking for now House subpoenas that might have led to their public release before the election. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg)

Chinese academic: The US is where money rules behind the facade of democracy

Chinese academic Qiao Xinsheng notes that despite its image of being democratic, the US is driven by capitalism and an individualism enjoyed only by a small number of elites. Such pre-existing conditions lead to a fragmented society made worse by the actions of President Donald Trump.
Paramilitary police officers stand guard in front of a poster of late communist leader Mao Zedong on a street south of the Great Hall of the People during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing on May 22, 2020.  (Greg Baker/AFP)

Tackling ills of bureaucracy? China can pick up a few tips from Singapore

From Mao to Deng to Xi, generations of Chinese leaders have made great and consistent efforts to tackle bureaucracy in the Chinese system. The ills of functional bureaucratisation include rigidness, imprudence and over-staffing, among others, while the ills of structural bureaucratisation lead to unchecked power and its abuse. It is important that one recognises the type of bureaucratisation that one is dealing with and provide the right remedy, says Chen Kang, but the real solution lies in building a system that is predicated on empowerment by the people. In that regard, China can pick up a few tips from observing how the Singapore system works. 
A woman walks past a Communist Party slogan urging people to "Follow the Party forever" outside a residential compound in Beijing on 6 July 2020. (Greg Baker/AFP)

The return of Mao-era practices: New threat to China's political and economic modernisation

EAI academic Lance Gore says that the Communist Party of China is reenacting the “great leader model” and reviving many practices of the Mao era. These include tightening control over information flow and restricting freedom of speech, enhancing propaganda and ideological and political indoctrination, emphasising obedience and absolute loyalty, advancing the ideal of the party acting for the government, among others. He says these anti-modernisation tactics need to be addressed as China attempts to modernise its governance and build institutions with soul.
People wearing face masks walk in front of the entrance of the Forbidden City, while the closing of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference takes place in Beijing, 27 May 2020. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Modernise China’s governance? Get rid of deities and emperors

China has put a lot of effort into modernising its governance system over the decades, but it still seems to miss the mark or to have even regressed in some areas. EAI academic Lance Gore puts this down to a muddled understanding of what true modernisation entails. Cult of personality, formalism, and conformity still permeate the system to a large degree, such that decision-makers live in a bubble thinking that all is well.
Demonstrators raise their fists as they gather on 2 June 2020 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to protest the death of George Floyd while in police custody. (Chandan Khanna/AFP)

A 'left-wing cultural revolution' has come to America?

There is little doubt that the US is in disarray at the moment. Hong Kong political commentator Chip Tsao does not hold back in giving his views on the current situation in the US, claiming that America’s move to the left after eight years under the Democratic Party have worsened the culture of political correctness and left little room for policies that motivate disadvantaged groups to keep their feet on the ground and contribute to society. The middle class is also made to shoulder growing societal and financial burdens. In that light, would the prospect of a change in the US government in five months time be a boon or bane?
A boy plays on a pile of garbage covering a drain at a slum area on World Environment Day in New Delhi, India, 5 June 2020. (Adnan Abidi/REUTERS)

China and India: When Western democracy fails and only utopia remains

Following the recent China-India border clash, Hong Kong columnist Chip Tsao takes a look at both countries and muses that even as some viewpoints converge, different systems and different national characteristics produce very different fates.
In this file photo taken on 1 June 2020, NYPD police officers watch demonstrators in Times Square during a "Black Lives Matter" protest. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP)

Between the US and China, which is the police state?

While some in China admire certain values the US upholds such as the rule of law, Han Dongping observes the irony that in many ways, China’s age-old practice of community policing at the grassroots level may have produced a more humane way of rehabilitating rather than incarcerating offenders. If the George Floyd case that sparked angry protests is anything to go by, the US seems overrun with law enforcement woes rather than ruled by the law.
A man smokes at a stall selling frozen wonton near a hutong neighborhood in Beijing, 5 June 2020. (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

Persistent poverty and a weak middle class: China's fundamental challenge

Zheng Yongnian says China must not get ahead of itself. Recent statistics prove that 600 million people indeed earn a monthly income of just 1,000 RMB. China’s earlier reforms had led to equitable growth, but income disparity has increased with rapid economic development since it joined the WTO. As it stands, the bottom strata of Chinese society remain huge while China’s relatively small middle class continues to suffer in an inadequate social system. Rather than sweep these issues aside in a bid to glorify the country’s achievements but downplay its shortcomings, China must take a hard look at itself and focus on pursuing equitable growth.