Governance

Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People after a meeting ahead of National People's Congress (NPC), China's annual session of parliament, in Beijing, 4 March 2019. (Aly Song/REUTERS)

China's military spending amid the pandemic: Will it go up or down this year?

China's economy has taken a hit from the pandemic, but in the face of external challenges from the US and concerns over cross-straits relations, military spending is expected to be one major topic at China’s upcoming "two sessions". Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan examines the evidence as to whether it will go up or down.
Professor Wang Gungwu speaks on China, the coronavirus, and the prospect of a divided world. (SPH)

Wang Gungwu: Even if the West has lost its way, China may not be heir apparent

In a wide-ranging email interview with ThinkChina editor Chow Yian Ping, sinologist Wang Gungwu shares his thoughts on how China and the world have changed because of the pandemic. He keenly observes that Chinese leaders have sought greater control over the population in recent years, and the situation will worsen as the pandemic deepens their insecurities. On the international stage, an intense clash of interests among the major powers looks set to keep nations divided. On the micro-level however, he takes heart that a “globalisation from below” is taking place; the fact that the virus knows no borders has brought people closer together, with opportunities for reset.
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.
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?
A man wears a protective face mask amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as he walks past the Jingshan park overlooking the Forbidden City in Beijing on 25 January 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Will Covid-19 be the catastrophe that ends China's good fortune?

China has faced reversals of fortune numerous times in history, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. After enjoying decades of upward ascent since its economic reform and opening up, some says China’s fate is about to be reversed again with the coronavirus pandemic, a mammoth disruption that kicked off the 2020s. Lance Gore argues that such massive shock to its political and economic system exposes chinks in its armour but does not necessarily unravel a big country with the world’s most comprehensive industrial structure.
Will the global pandemic push humanity to reflect, make progress, and arrive at better global governance? In this photo taken on 27 April 2020 (rotated 180 degrees), a man is reflected on a puddle of water in a public square during the coronavirus outbreak in Valparaiso, Chile. (Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters)

The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the chasms of the world, but can humanity reflect and make progress?

Chinese academic Deng Xize is mostly pessimistic as he traces lessons from history to conclude that international cooperation is only tenable with the combination of well-functioning international institutions and concert among the major powers. In light of further tensions between China and the US arising from the pandemic, he sees little room for cooperation on a global scale, and instead, only greater signs of animosity of the sort seen during the Cold War.
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 person wearing a face mask walks past a mural by French photographer JR on 20 April 2020 in New York. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Humanity is facing a crisis of global governance, not globalisation

Don’t shoot the messenger, Prof Gu says. Anti-globalisation activists may be quick to point fingers at globalisation per se for the coronavirus mess the world finds itself in. But such quick conclusions miss the message that many have been saying all along that stronger international institutions are needed to make globalisation work. If the world learns these lessons, globalisation can come back from this crisis stronger than before.