Rather than perpetuate the “giant baby syndrome” of mollycoddled citizens, says Lance Gore, the Chinese government should go against its combative instincts and focus on harmony. Only then can it forge an inclusive social contract with the populace, where there’s room for active citizenry and a healthy civil society.
Even as the US government blacklists several Chinese companies for being “Chinese Communist military companies” or a national security threat, Wall Street does not seem fazed; investors seem prepared to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to betting on China.
The liberalist discursive system leaves little room for one to contemplate the possibility that a strong government can also be a good government, much less the positives of the East Asian developmental state or Asian values. In fact, under the East Asian social contract, people are willing to empower the government for greater outcomes for all, and the government works to win the approval of the people as a means to preserve their legitimacy. Now, when the flaws of liberalism are laid bare by Covid-19 and other crises, it may be worth taking a closer look at the merits of the East Asian social contract.
US academic Han Dongping notes that the US is no longer in the leading position it used to hold, and it is finding it difficult to handle the challenges from other countries, especially China, not least because of its own domestic contradictions that are getting harder and harder to reconcile. It can no longer rely on old ways of maintaining order domestically and internationally. It has to come up with new strategies — fast.
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.
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.
Deng Qingbo observes that despite sharing the same language and ethnicity as the mainland Chinese, the Taiwanese have been quicker to imbibe Japanese culture than Chinese culture per se. He sees that mainland China has a lot of catching up to do if it is to win the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese and reclaim some of the admiration it once enjoyed in areas such as civilisational development, culture, and literature.
Lance Gore analyses that the knowledge economy offers great potential for bettering the lives of people. But capitalism may not be the best route to take. Power in the hands of a few, income gaps, job losses and wage cuts in the digital age bear this out. Can China offer a third way as it seeks to marry socialism with a market economy? The West is already considering some proposals with a socialist bent such as the Universal Basic Income (UBI). Surely, proponents of socialism can think of even more revolutionary ideas?
Zhu Ying states that it is impossible to understand the new Cold War between China and the US without understanding the clash of ideologies that marked the first Cold War and which clouds the current state of relations between China and the US. If we are lucky, like the first Cold War, the new Cold War will not tip over into a hot war. However, accidental mishaps wrought by zealous ideologues cannot be ruled out.