Civilisation

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.
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
Ethnic Uighur demonstrators take part in a protest against China, in Istanbul, Turkey, 1 October 2021. (Dilara Senkaya/Reuters)

The Xinjiang problem: Can Washington be the defender of all?

Amid revived calls for countries to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing over Xinjiang, academic Peter Chang reflects that the Xinjiang issue has drawn the attention of the West, Muslim populations and others around the world. But the issue, while important, has been further politicised in the wider US-China contest. Moral grandstanding by the West when confronting China does not help the situation either. How much collateral damage will there be in this strategic game?
People look at a billboard showing former US President Donald Trump in Times Square in New York, US, 14 October 2021. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Pandemic diary (Chapter 4): The president who spread a political virus

Like many of us experiencing pandemic days, cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai spent the last two years living quietly. He dwelled in his home in Hong Kong’s Wu Kai Sha, but he was never far from the drama of global Covid-19 news, beamed in from TV and computer screens. The pomposity of one politician stood out — in the face of a life-threatening disease, how could the leader of the world’s largest economy and even the league of nations have set such a poor example and gotten away with it?
Chinese national flags displayed at Wong Tai Sin Temple to mark National Day in Hong Kong, China, on 1 October 2021. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

China's reputation in major countries is at its worst. Can it save itself?

China’s accomplishments in the past four decades deserve respect and emulation from many countries across the globe, despite disparagement from the West. However, China may squander this opportunity to gain goodwill by erring on two fronts: its attitude towards liberalism, and its handling of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s legacy. Making a wrong move on either of these fronts can easily diminish its chances of becoming “one of the good guys” in international politics.