People wearing face masks wait at an intersection in Beijing's central business district in China, on 1 November 2023. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

The China factor behind several Indo-Pacific hotspots

US researcher Wei Da gives a threat assessment of potential hotspots in 2024, from the South China Sea to the Taiwan Strait, the Korean peninsula and the Ukraine war, with the China factor in mind.
A woman takes a picture along the moat outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, on 21 November 2023. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Where is China now?

Only by absorbing the essence of modern civilisation can they rise above it, and only by standing on the peak of Western civilisation can they go on to the next level, says East Asian Institute senior research fellow Lance Gore. When one scans the terrain of Chinese public opinion and even academia, we see that very little remains of the constructive mentality once prevalent from the late Qing dynasty onwards — i.e., the spirit of humbly learning from the West for self-strengthening. Instead, we see "cultural self-confidence" that is not substantiated by proper analysis. Furthermore, political reform cannot always revolve around the consolidation of the ruling party’s position, and not make plans with the long-term interests of the Chinese people in mind.
Demonstrators take part in a march in support of Palestinians in Boston, Massachusetts, US, on 17 December 2023. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP)

How Israel-Hamas war has revived debate on the clash of civilisations

Both Hamas and Israel have framed their war over Palestinian national independence as religious and civilisational, says academic Ma Haiyun. This seems to fit into Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilisations” theory, even though to define Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a cultural fault line war is historically, religiously and intellectually untrue. Such rhetoric is dangerous, especially when talk of religious wars is turning into reality, and the US’s “Israel first” policy is undermining US diplomacy, soft power, reputation, and most importantly, international institutions such as the UN that the US has sustained after World War II.
Chen I-shu, Aries. (Photo provided by Chiang Hsun)

Taiwanese art historian: The madness of Aries

Taiwanese art historian Chiang Hsun reflects on the prominent Arians from history and those he had encountered. Perhaps there is a wildness in them passed on from generation to generation that brings together poetry, instincts, and even the power of madness.
People hold signs as they gather in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, Michigan, US, to call for a ceasefire and voice their support for the Palestinian cause on 28 October 2023. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP)

Israel-Hamas conflict: Is it right to always side with the weak?

With the world divided on being for or against Israel or Hamas, Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan looks at why the weak are not necessarily in the right during a conflict against the strong, as some would assert.
Peter the Great (left) and Emperor Kangxi (right) both wanted to make their countries strong by emulating Europe. (Wikimedia)

Why Peter the Great and Emperor Kangxi failed the modernisation test

Commentator Chip Tsao notes that Russia’s Peter the Great and China’s Emperor Kangxi each wanted to make their countries strong but their efforts fell short. Freedom and democracy were unfamiliar concepts for the Chinese people, while the idea of a social contract did not take root in Russia. In the 21st century, both countries still have to threaten war to prove their greatness.
A child sitting on a man's shoulder takes a picture as she visits the Bund waterfront area in Shanghai, China, on 5 July 2023. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Is China’s good fortune reversing?

Whether China can prove naysayers wrong and keep up its good national fortunes depends on solving old problems associated with restarting the mechanisms of the Soviet Union model, and tackling new problems arising from successful development.
Chinese paramilitary police walk on the Bund promenade along the Huangpu river in the Huangpu district in Shanghai, China, on 15 June 2023. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

Can China maintain a hard line against the US?

In this key period of China’s rise, it can either choose to adopt a hard line or to cool down. History tells us that the hard line is likely to prevail, but China should be aware that this may lead to one overestimating its own strength, challenging the existing hegemon too soon, and ultimately meeting failure. The crucial question is whether the hard line is backed by wisdom. What China is going to do with the strength it has gained remains a puzzle to most countries, and this is the root of the perception of the Chinese threat.
People march as they participate in a May Day rally on 1 May 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images via AFP)

Can China and Russia reject Western political civilisation and still prosper?

Researcher Wei Da notes that while many things can be learned and embraced from the West, its political civilisation is one that China has rejected. But isn't that rejecting the core while transplanting the branches and leaves? Will that work?