Civilisation

Plain porridge with pickled lettuce is enough for a hearty breakfast. (iStock)

Pickled vegetables, fermented beancurd and stinky egg: An art historian's love of preserved foods

Ensconced in Dapu village in Chishang, a Hakka enclave where air-drying is a common way to preserve food, art historian Chiang Hsun muses about the ways that Chinese and others around the world have ingeniously learnt how to preserve food for long periods of time from methods ranging from pickling to salt-curing and air-drying. In food preservation as in life, time builds character and patience often yields rewards.
A Russian soldiers stands with a national flag at the Red Square during the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on 26 August 2022. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP)

Will China and Russia join hands to push for an alternative world order?

Out of the ashes of a changing global order could rise a growing China-Russia alliance, says East Asian Institute senior researcher Lance Gore. Such a prospect is made possible by the common ground they share, including having a victim complex, harbouring resentment towards the West and aspiring to regain their past grandeur. However, the two civilisations are very different and there could still be a misalignment of objectives. In light of the obstacles, will their relationship stay a strategic partnership that goes no further?
A view of the exterior of the north complex of the National Library of China, 2009. (Wikimedia)

The lack of public libraries in China is not a funding issue

Despite China’s strong cultural history and traditions, its efforts towards promoting reading and building public libraries remain wanting. Researcher Chen Hongbin presents some surprising statistics on the severe shortage of libraries in China, and looks into the contributing factors and possible solutions.
A woman rides a bicycle along a street in Beijing, China, on 6 April 2022. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Why China's 'peaceful rise' will be particularly difficult

EAI academic Lance Gore notes that China’s “peaceful rise” is a particular hard sell because it involves the rise of a major heterogeneous civilisational power, which is different from the mere transfer of hegemony between states from the same civilisation. Thus China needs to work on gaining acceptance from the international community by conveying the merits of its civilisational traits and avoiding pitfalls such as a reversion to cultural dead wood or failed Marxist orthodoxy.
Wang Gungwu and Malaysia (2021). (Photo provided by Peter Chang)

Wang Gungwu and Malaysia: Building an intellectual bridge to China

Tracing the evolution of China’s development, Malaysian academic Peter T.C. Chang pays tribute to historian Wang Gungwu and his contributions to the study of Chinese overseas. Wang continues to play a major role in the field as a member of a pioneering class of bridge-building scholars who are adept at explaining China to the world, and the world to China. This is an edited version of the book chapter “A Pioneering Class of Bridge-Building Junzi” from the book Wang Gungwu and Malaysia (2021) published by the University of Malaya Press.
The Chinese national flag is raised during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, at the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, on 4 February 2022. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP)

Can socialist China change society's value orientation and triumph over the ills of capitalism?

An overhaul in its social value orientation is needed if China is to tackle the pressures on employment and social structures that the digital economy, artificial intelligence and smart automation will bring. Essentially, it should root out casino capitalism and the related social ills of “winner takes all”, “get rich quick”, “lying flat” and envy that have seeped into society. The Chinese Communist Party is making an effort but it will not be easy to abandon a purely material approach and prize other values that will raise the quality of life and elevate a civilisation.
China Customs officers raise a Chinese flag during a rehearsal for a flag-raising ceremony along the Bund past buildings in the Lujiazui Financial District at sunrise in Shanghai, China, on 4 January 2022. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

The Chinese ruling party needs a new pact with the people to forge a more humane and self-confident nation

Lance Gore notes the transitional nature of the third historical resolution passed by the Communist Party of China (CPC) recently. It kept Pandora’s box closed, leaving issues of history unresolved. Will the CPC use a fourth historical resolution to build a pact with the people to forge a vibrant, humane, self-confident nation on the world stage?
A man holds a mobile phone in front of an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping displayed at the Museum of the Communist Party of China in Beijing, China, 11 November 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

China turning inward? China has always been a civilisation unto its own

The pandemic and China's zero-Covid policy have led some in the West to caution against the danger of China turning inward, closing its border to the world, building a man-made bubble, and adopting a closed nationalist discourse. But academic Lance Gore says China has always been a civilisation unto its own, and it now has both the means and reasons to decouple from the Western-led capitalist system to some extent, so as to pursue its own path of building socialism with Chinese characteristics. This might bring some benefits to China but could also lead to their misreading of the world in the long run, and cause it greater pain when its efforts to lead and galvanise are not reciprocated.
People cross a street during sunset in Shanghai, China, 15 November 2021. (Aly Song/Reuters)

George Yeo: Charm and China in a multipolar world

George Yeo, Singapore’s former foreign minister, gave a talk titled “China in a Multipolar World” to students of the Master in Public Administration and Management (MPAM) programme taught in Chinese at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy on 3 November. He spoke about time and patience needed for a multipolar superstructure to emerge, and for earlier dominant players such as the US to adjust to the new order. In the meantime, it is in China’s interest to master the art of charm, knowing when to go hard or soft in its relations with the US and Europe, its neighbours India and Japan, and issues such as the South China Sea and Taiwan. This is an edited transcript of his speech and excerpts from the Q&A session.