Philosophy

Pedestrians walk along the banks of the River Thames in view of the Battersea Power Station office, retail and residential development in the Nine Elms district in London, UK, 7 January 2021. (Hollie Adams/Bloomberg)

Life is short. Would you risk yours for a Covid-19 'challenge trial'?

As Covid-19 “challenge trials” in the UK get underway where volunteers are intentionally infected with the coronavirus, Chip Tsao ponders how many of us would put our lives on the line for the greater good? Would having a Western or Chinese mindset have a part to play in the decisions made? And would cultural differences such as the Chinese focus on self-preservation explain why China was better at getting the epidemic under control? 
Paramilitary police officers wearing face masks march outside the Forbidden City in Beijing on 22 October 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Heritage, CCP traditions & liberalism: Three fundamentals of China's new social contract

Lance Gore firmly believes that the social contract between government and people is seeing a radical upheaval around the world. In China’s case, a new social contract will be shaped by the triumvirate of Chinese culture and heritage, the traditions of the CCP, and the influence of liberal ideals. Only the strengths of each should be retained, while the shortcomings be discarded.
People cross a street during morning rush hour in Beijing, China, 15 December 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Would Confucius have approved of the death penalty?

A Confucius saying goes: “When the wind blows, the grass bends.” Therefore fault not the common man, says Chiang Hsun, but the decision-makers at the top. But taking a step further back, who are we to cast the first stone at anyone?
This photo taken on 21 October 2020 shows tourists passing a wall with a slogan that says "Grand Alliance for China's Reunification under the Three Principles of the People", on Taiwan's Kinmen islands. (Sam Yeh/AFP)

Are Cold War-era slogans making a return in the internet age?

Having lived through the Cold War era when people were misled by empty slogans and labels, Taiwanese writer Chiang Hsun cautions that we may once again find ourselves under the influence of such meaningless words in the noisy internet age. Have we lost our basic cognitive skills to observe and contemplate in solitude? 
The Thousand-Foot Precipice of Mount Hua (华山). (iStock)

The backpacker and travel writer from 400 years ago — China's Xu Xiake

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai celebrates the free-spirited explorer Xu Xiake, who roamed the depths of China in the late Ming dynasty. Xu's journeys were hardly glorious forays that forged new paths or alliances. But for the quiet reminder they give to embrace one’s passions and explore the world, Xu will be fondly remembered.
A man waves a US flag as people celebrate on Black Lives Matter plaza across from the White House in Washington, DC on 7 November 2020, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. (Eric Baradat/AFP)

Liberalism and globalisation serves the elites; the world needs a return to the nation state

EAI academic Lance Gore finds that the trend of deglobalisation and internal unrest seen in developed countries in recent years can be attributed to the disintegration of the Western liberal social contract, as well as the struggle between various forces that seek to restore or reforge that contract. He says liberalism is only effective for the elites, while globalisation is a grand banquet for capital; the masses at large, unfortunately, fail to benefit. He sees a return to the nation-state as the precondition for repairing the social compact, and Asian countries will have an edge over the West in achieving this. 
People wearing face masks on the Bund along the Huangpu River look at the light show seen in the Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai on 2 November 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

In the digital age, how is humanity to save its own heart?

Plucking the hairs off pork belly skins teaches patience, perseverance and taking pride in one’s work. In the modern frenetic lives we live, how many of us are willing to slow down to learn those lessons?
Screenshot of video clip showing US President Donald Trump and Chinese President at the Forbidden City, November 2017. (Twitter/CGTN)

The ‘historyless’ Americans and their arrogance

Hong Kong commentator Chip Tsao notes that the difference between China and the US is that while China is proud of its history, the US takes pride in leaving its history behind in its pursuit of the future. He says this is the reason why when dealing with China, the Americans lose out.
People climb the Great Wall, illuminated to mark the first day of Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day, in Beijing, China, 1 October 2020. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: The high road to pluralist sinology

Professor Wang Gungwu, eminent historian and university professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore, was awarded the 2020 Tang Prize in Sinology earlier this year. At the 2020 Tang Prize Masters’ Forums — Sinology held last month, Professor Wang traced the evolution of sinology in the West and East, observing that today, a “pluralist sinology” is emerging alongside a rising China. This allows for the term “sinologist” to be applied to a much larger group of scholars, and for the bringing together of various knowledge traditions and academic disciplines in the study of China. While there is much to be cheered by this, Professor Wang also urged his fellow scholars to be ready to “douse the fires that others had fanned”, as knowledge gathered by pluralist sinology could be used as a weapon amid intense rivalry between the US and China. This is the transcript of his speech.