Intellectuals

Travel is one way to build critical thinking and identity, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai. (iStock)

Woman traveller of the Qing dynasty Qian Shan Shili: Education is the bedrock of a nation

The little-known Qian Shan Shili had the opportunity to travel in the days of upheaval at the end of the Qing dynasty and at the dawn of a new republic. She was the first woman to record her thoughts in two travelogues and felt strongly that China’s new education system paled in comparison with that of other countries such as Japan. She concluded that education should have the aim of building critical-thinking men and women rather than just nurturing a crop of scholars with exceptional talent. After all, she notes, without citizens, how can there be talents? And without citizens, there can certainly be no society. These are wise words, says cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai, that remain relevant even today.
A sign encouraging voter turnout is seen at a campaign yard sign distribution site in Madison, Wisconsin, US, 17 October 2020. (Bing Guan/File Photo/Reuters)

Intellectuals and accountability: Should scientists sway public opinion on politics?

Zhang Tiankan chastises renowned journals The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, Science and Nature, for veering off their professional domains and making prescriptive statements about which US presidential candidate to vote for. Such behaviour is irresponsible and unbecoming, to say the least. He asks: Shouldn't intellectuals be accountable for their views and positions?
Two works by fine art photographers John Clang (L) and Zhou Yang. (Courtesy of John Clang and Zhou Yang)

A dialogue with John Clang and Zhou Yang: Human relations, memories and the compassionate photographer

What do creatives have in common and how differently do they interpret and make sense of the world around them? A chat with Singaporean photographer John Clang and Chinese photographer Zhou Yang gives a glimpse of that exploration. Each photographer has his own approach: Clang takes an almost anthropological perspective by drawing inspiration from those around him, be they friends or complete strangers; Zhou delves into the camera of the mind — the memory — and uses it to tell larger stories about the past and present. Lianhe Zaobao journalist Wang Yiming speaks to the photographers in the first of several fireside chats put together to commemorate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.
An American flag is placed on a fence outside of the US Capitol building on 28 September 2020 in Washington, DC. (Al Drago/AFP)

Anti-intellectualism in US diplomacy: How worried should we be?

Intellectual elites in the US have traditionally played a key role in the way the country conducts international relations, and have guided the US government in shaping is foreign policy. However, the US's words and actions about China-US relations and the coronavirus seem to suggest that it has fallen prey to anti-intellectualism, with rationality and long-term vision thrown away. Japan-based academic Zhang Yun examines the issue and finds out if there is indeed cause for concern.
Students attend the 100th anniversary of the founding of Wuhan High School on the first day of the new semester in Wuhan, Hubei, China, on 1 September 2020. (STR/AFP)

Why intellectuals failed to flourish throughout 5000 years of China's history

Chip Tsao laments the dearth of independent thought in China, following a long history of strictures imposed on intellectualism. If the elements of the “scholar”, “intellectual” and “professional” can be combined and inculcated in the country’s elites, a new dynamism can be sparked off that can help China truly modernise.