Science

Jonathan Spence (1936-2021), master storyteller of Chinese history. (WeChat/玉茗堂前)

Jonathan Spence: A Western historian's search for modern China

Professor Jonathan Spence (1936-2021) was a prolific historian who deepened Western readers’ understanding of China’s history and culture through his artful mastery of narrative history grounded in rigorous research. From the inner world of Emperor Kangxi to Jesuit missionaries' voyage to China, to the plight of Chinese intellectuals and literati and the arduous mission of reform and opening up, Spence’s unique writing style brought to life the complex historical figures and events of China. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, one of his earliest students, and translation academic Jackie Yan pay tribute to Spence and his contribution to the study of Chinese history through this preface to a collection of Spence's translated works published by the Guangxi Normal University Press.
Charles Lieber leaves federal court after he and two Chinese nationals were charged with lying about their alleged links to the Chinese government, in Boston, Massachusetts, US, 30 January 2020. (Katherine Taylor/Reuters)

US must not be naive about intentions of China’s Thousand Talents Plan

The recent conviction of former Harvard department head Charles Lieber has cast the spotlight once again on China’s Thousand Talents Plan to attract global scientific talent to contribute their expertise to China. The American scientific community is pushing back against some of the US government’s harsh reprisals, but Hu Hao says strong action is warranted as the threat of authoritarian regimes seeking to gain technical knowledge to threaten democratic and liberal values is real.
A man takes a photo of a screen broadcasting Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering his New Year speech, at a restaurant in Beijing, China, on 31 December 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Is Chinese socialism superior?

Although the Chinese Communist Party believes in the great future of socialism, the basic contradictions of socialism that caused the demise of the Soviet Union are yet to be fully resolved in China, says Lance Gore. As a matter of fact, President Xi Jinping’s mantra of “returning to the party’s original mission” is inadvertently resurrecting some of the same problems that bedevilled classic communism.
A staff member walks near a poster with an illustration of China's space station, at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China, 14 October 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

In a US-China war, will the first blow be struck in space?

Recent Chinese animosity against Elon Musk and SpaceX’s Starlink satellites attests to the understanding that information systems will be key in future warfare. If there comes a day when SpaceX’s envisioned 42,000 Starlink satellites are deployed and positioned, it would technically be feasible to put up a “space blockade” against the enemy. Evidently, both China and the US see the strategic implications and are stepping up the space race.
SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks on a screen during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain, 29 June 2021. (Nacho Doce/File Photo/Reuters)

Elon Musk and the new China-US space race

A Chinese space station’s near-collision with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites has Chinese internet pundits wondering if this is another ploy by the US to contain China’s space progress and steal China’s space technologies. Is a new China-US space race in the offing? Zaobao’s China Desk examines the issue.
People walk along at financial district of Lujiazui in Shanghai, China, 15 October 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

How China's 'poor' ultra-rich can truly become world-class entrepreneurs

Deng Qingbo finds that those who have “grown rich first” during China’s initial period of reform and opening up, and who have grown rich a second time by consolidating their holdings, now find themselves locked in an endless pursuit of wealth with no clear direction to better themselves. He thinks it is high time that they “grow wealthy for the third time” in the spiritual sense, and give back to society by developing a truly influential and well-respected corporate culture. It works out well that this would be in line with China’s “common prosperity” goals.
Divers swim above a bed of dead corals off Malaysia's Tioman island in the South China Sea, 4 May 2008. (David Loh/File Photo/Reuters)

Marine science collaborations can help defuse tensions in the South China Sea

With environmental security shaping a new South China Sea conversation about ecological challenges, science cooperation represents a litmus test to link the impact of environmental change to both national and international security, and can offer a means to defuse tensions, says James Borton. His new book, Dispatches from the South China Sea: Navigating to Common Ground, will be released soon.
Western media has reported that China has sent hypersonic weapons into orbit. (Internet/CNS/SPH)

What’s real (and not) about China’s hypersonic weapons tests

China’s recent tests of hypersonic weapons has attracted the attention of the West, which is wary about what this rapid progress might mean. On its part, China is downplaying these tests as “routine”, and emphasising that they are helpful to eventually reduce the costs of space technology. Is the US overreacting and playing the “victim”, while having its own agenda?
In this file photo taken on 6 March 2021, demonstrators throw masks into a fire during a mask burning event to protest Covid-19 restrictions, at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, US. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images North America/AFP)

How the pandemic overturned my understanding of Americans

Like many of us experiencing pandemic days, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai spent the last two years living quietly. Even now, scenes on television are rife with pandemic news in the US. Watching health workers refusing to get vaccinated or the population spurning masks in defence of their freedoms, Cheng wonders why some people are willing to be “martyrs” for the cause they believe in. Or worse, are they just foolishly courting the virus? Maybe this really shows a great gulf in attitudes between the East and West.