Confucianism

A screen displays a CCTV state media news broadcast showing Chinese President Xi Jinping addressing world leaders at the G20 meeting in Rome via video link at a shopping mall in Beijing, China, 31 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Xi Jinping's misguided return to ideology

East Asian Institute senior research fellow Lance Gore argues that two contexts made Xi’s resurrection of ideological orthodoxy almost inevitable — Leninist party rule and China’s rise on the global stage. But Xi’s return to ideology may be to China’s detriment, as it could reverse achievements of the reform and opening up era, and also set China on a collision course with Western liberal democracies.
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.
Jonathan Spence (1936-2021), master storyteller of Chinese history. (WeChat/玉茗堂前)

Jonathan Spence: A Western historian's search for modern China

Professor Jonathan Spence (1936-2021) was a prolific historian who deepened Western readers’ understanding of China’s history and culture through his artful mastery of narrative history grounded in rigorous research. From the inner world of Emperor Kangxi to Jesuit missionaries' voyage to China, to the plight of Chinese intellectuals and literati and the arduous mission of reform and opening up, Spence’s unique writing style brought to life the complex historical figures and events of China. Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, one of his earliest students, and translation academic Jackie Yan pay tribute to Spence and his contribution to the study of Chinese history through this preface to a collection of Spence's translated works published by the Guangxi Normal University Press.
A couple (front, left) wear traditional hanbok dress as they walk across a road in Seoul, South Korea, on 7 January 2022. (Anthony Wallace/AFP)

When neighbours disagree: Did China 'steal' South Korea’s culture and historical memory?

When the Chinese featured a lady wearing a hanbok — what to the Koreans is their national costume — at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, it was as if the band-aid on rising China-South Korean tensions was peeled off. Soon after, cries of foul play and the Chinese “snatching” medals from the South Koreans followed. Are greater squabbles on the horizon for these Northeast Asian neighbours?
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?
Renowned Chinese philosopher Li Zehou. (Weibo)

Growing up (and old) with Chinese philosopher Li Zehou

Think of how the switching between languages, cultures and epistemologies can itself be an integral part of reading and writing, and extend this to a thinker’s broadest philosophical opus, in concepts, articulations and communications — that is the work of Chinese philosophy great Li Zehou (1930-2021), says former Singapore Art Museum director, Kwok Kian Chow.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for a ceremony at the Monument to the People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square to mark Martyrs' Day, in Beijing, China, 30 September 2021. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Is Xi Jinping really going back to Maoism?

Some analyses have sounded the alarm of China lurching to the left in a marked return to Maoism. On closer examination, says Loro Horta, China’s recent clampdowns on capital are rational and not exactly ideologically driven. Issues facing China, such as the need to tackle rising inequality, affect the ruling party’s legitimacy and longevity. These concerns may have a strong push effect on the authorities. In fact, rather than a reversion to Maoism, the Xi government seems to be embracing Confucianism as a basis to enforce social order and norms, just as it derides “evil fan culture” as a means to keep a tight rein on social control.
A bolt of lightning crosses the sky as people look at buildings displaying a light show on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing, China, on 30 June 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

'Winner takes all' no more: China is ready to build the socialist regulatory state

After observing, learning about and experimenting with selected components of capitalism, China is now ready to govern the market in its own style, to create the society of a new socialist regulatory state while bolstering support for the government. Lance Gore says it holds true, whether in China's history or the imagined fairer future society, that Chinese merchants and capital must see their contributions through the larger lens of society and the nation. That is, the capital market must serve the real economy and develop the productive strength of the nation. Creating the socialist regulatory state is like doing a "delicate dance", and as a new creation, there would be chances of missteps and even mishaps.
(left to right) Professors Tu Wei-ming, Wu Teh Yao, and Yü Ying-shih participated in the preparatory works of a conference on Confucianism in 1988, Singapore. (SPH)

Remembering Yü Ying-shih in Singapore: An ambitious social experiment disrupted

Renowned historian and sinologist Yü Ying-shih passed away earlier this month. Chinese culture and history enthusiasts may be familiar with his life’s work on Chinese history and observations of contemporary China, but few may know that he has a connection to Singapore’s history. During the 1980s, the education ministry explored the prospect of teaching Confucian ethics in schools. In the process, they tapped the expertise of eminent scholars such as Prof Yü. Did the experiment bear fruit in the end?