Political reform

People walk along a street in Wuhan, Hubei, China on 29 September 2020. (STR/AFP)

Why modernising China is so difficult

Wei Da calls out China’s modus operandi of seeking modernisation yet fighting it at the same time. He says China’s road to modernisation faces the classic dilemmas of setting its priorities right and establishing new paradigms that will liberate it from the shackles of the past. Only then, can China imagine a future that will bring it on par with advanced civilisations. 
In this file photo former Chinese communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong (L) welcomes former US President Richard Nixon at his house in the Forbidden City in Beijing on 22 February 1972. (Handout/AFP)

Was Nixon’s policy of engaging China a failure?

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo made a key speech on China at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum recently. The venue could not have been more symbolic, given former President Nixon’s role in the US’s rapprochement with China in the 1970s, and the current Trump administration’s belief that a new approach to China is necessary as the US’s engagement strategy “has not brought the kind of change inside China that President Nixon hoped to induce”. Analyst and writer Zheng Weibin weighs up the costs and benefits of this new approach.
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.
A government supporter wearing a protective mask holds Chinese and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) flags to celebrate the passage of a national security law in Hong Kong, China, on 30 June 2020. (Lam Yik/Bloomberg)

There will be no peaceful rise — China-US relations enters a new phase

In a recent report outlining its approach to China, the US indicated that it will be guided by “principled realism” in strategic competition with China. Chinese academic Yu Zhi believes that this is a sign of the two countries moving into a “curtailment and containment” phase in their relations. Whoever the next President is, the US line on China looks set to hold. This stance harks back to the beginning of US-China relations, albeit with some adjustments. In any event, both countries are bracing themselves for a rough ride ahead.
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.
Bridgewater Associates Chairman Ray Dalio attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China, on 23 March 2019. (Thomas Peter/File Photo/Reuters)

Ray Dalio at the China Development Forum: What can history tell us about the rise of China?

Ray Dalio, founder, co-chief investment officer and co-chairman of Bridgewater Associates, spoke with Lu Mai, vice chairman of the China Development Research Foundation and secretary general of the China Development Forum (CDF), on 8 June 2020. Drawing from patterns and cycles that he observed from history, his talk focused on global economic trends and how the pandemic would shape the world. He also gave his opinions on China-US cooperation and competition, and gave suggestions as to how the two great powers can work together for the greater good of the world.
A man looks at a globe in a park in Wuhan, 8 April 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

What is China's next move? It has two alternatives

Economics professor Yu Zhi points out that the ball is in China’s court as to whether it will continue being plugged in to the international economic system and whether globalisation itself will continue on its path. In the medium- to long-term, he sees that it is in China’s interest to stay the course and scenarios of decoupling between China and the West are much exaggerated. However, how China sees its strategic role in the world in the future is something its leaders and people have to give great thought to, not in the future, but right now.
Motorists wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus travel along a busy traffic intersection in Hanoi on 13 May 2020. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP)

China should be worried about political developments in Vietnam, not economic rivalry

Vietnam is fast becoming the factory of the world and is well-placed to capitalise on changes to global supply chains. Chinese academic Qiao Xinsheng feels that contrary to popular opinion, though Vietnam is striving to be the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia, it is not going to be an economic threat to China any time soon. What China should look out for, is how the Vietnam government negotiates domestic political and social reforms, and whether the Communist Party of Vietnam is able to avoid the kind of tragedy that befell the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Flower installations to mark the Labour Day holiday are seen on Tiananmen Square in front of the Great Hall of the People, Beijing 1 May 2020. (Tingshu Wang/REUTERS)

Friends to foes: Matthew Pottinger's Mandarin speech to China and US-China relations

US Deputy National Security Advisor Matthew Pottinger’s speech on the anniversary of the May Fourth Movement touched on China’s political system, the spirit of the May Fourth Movement, and hopes for the Chinese people. Zaobao’s associate editor Han Yong Hong sheds light on Pottinger, a hawkish China hand, and looks at how China-US relations have deteriorated since China's reform and opening up.