The riots in the US following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white policeman have given the Chinese people a chance to gloat at US “double standards” in the terms it has used on the Hong Kong protests. In contrast, the Chinese authorities have been restrained and measured in its responses. Correspondent Yang Danxu speaks to academics to find out what this might mean.
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.
Amid claims of discrimination against Africans in Guangzhou in terms of coronavirus controls, the Guangzhou authorities have stressed that there is no differential treatment of foreigners. Meanwhile, Chinese in and out of China are worried about a second wave of the virus, and retaliation by locals in other countries. Zaobao correspondent Edwin Ong reports.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the notion of ethnic groups and accentuated the distinction between "us" and "them". What was it like in ancient China? How did the Chinese people look at the world around them and were the "outsiders" friends or enemies? While admitting that human society does not always act in its best interest, historian Prof Poo reminds us to differentiate between rhetoric and reality, to value good neighbourliness, and to be aware that groups are vulnerable to political manipulation.
Were China-US relations always as they are now? Or was there something that changed the situation? Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao presents powerful images from US magazines in the late 19th century, which depict sinophobia in US society and difficulties in China-US relations more than a century ago. Are these images proof that history repeats itself?
Stories of race-related incidents have crawled out of the woodwork and spread almost as fast and venomously as the coronavirus itself. Zhou Ruirui of the Centre of Globalisation and Governance at Hamburg University says it’s time for some self-reflection.
Amid the furore over The Wall Street Journal’s controversial “sick man of Asia” headline, Hu Hao points out that going back to history, the term may have first been coined by a Chinese thinker seeking to galvanise change in society. Instead of physical attributes, it referred to the apathetic, backward, and foolish mindsets of Chinese who were passive and indifferent towards the authoritarian regime they were living under. He asks if the China of today is indeed no longer the "sick man"? And if the Wall Street Journal should indeed apologise as the Chinese government has demanded?
Yu Shiyu observes that China could be reading too much into terms such as “sick man” and should by now, have the self-confidence to let such comments roll off their backs.
Political analyst Zheng Yongnian says that in the current panic of the Covid-19 outbreak and against the backdrop of already fractured US-China relations, the US and the West’s racism complex is bubbling to the surface and could taint their foreign policy approaches to China even more. He looks forward to a future where multiple “gods” co-exist.