Intellectuals

A quick sketch of the author's "study room" by Lücha. (WeChat/玉茗堂前)

A study room of one’s own: 21st century Chinese intellectuals and their pursuit of knowledge

Cultural historian Cheng Pei-kai shares the ups and downs of being an avid reader, from the difficulties in keeping his book collection neat and orderly, to the joy of having a handful of treasured books. He marvels at the sketches a friend made of the study rooms of literati, academics and calligraphers who have since passed on. While his study room is crammed with books and looks more like a storeroom, his love for books burns bright like it does for fellow literati.
People walk outside Grand Central Terminal in New York on 26 January 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

US elite schools churning out 'perfect followers', not change makers?

Commentator Wu Guo notes how Ivy League schools in the US have churned out people who are academically brilliant, but unable to connect with real life or relate to real issues around them. Such indifference is symptomatic of US elites from top backgrounds.
People taking photos at the Jubilee Bridge overlooking the CBD/Raffles Place financial district on 1 March 2023. (SPH Media)

Singapore’s role as a neutral interpreter of China to the West

Professor Walter Woon says that Singapore’s close relationship with both the West and China gives it a unique advantage as a more neutral interpreter of China for the Western world. The country is also well-placed to help reduce tensions between the US and China.
Two women and their babies pose for photographs in front of the giant portrait of late Chinese chairman Mao Zedong on the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, 2 November 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo/Reuters)

From Mao ideals to the American dream: What China's 'sent down youths' sacrificed to chase a better tomorrow

The post-50s Chinese generation of intellectuals who were heavily influenced by Mao had the practice of leaving their children behind as they single-mindedly sought to achieve success abroad. US academic Wu Guo remarks that this generation of people who had been sent down to the rural areas, travelled abroad, and finally gained a foothold and settled down in the US, have always been motivated by a religious zeal for chasing a dream.
Eminent historian and sinologist Yü Ying-shih. (Photo taken from Tang Prize website)

Yü Ying-shih saw Hong Kong as beacon of hope for the Chinese-speaking world

Vancouver-based academic Leo K. Shin remembers his former professor, eminent historian and sinologist Yü Ying-shih, on the first anniversary of the latter’s passing. He says Yü was a staunch defender of humanity intrinsic in Chinese culture who always spoke up against the use of cultural tenets for political gain or acts against human dignity. It comes as no surprise then that he understood well the significance of Hong Kong as a beacon of freedom, democracy and human rights.
A man uses an umbrella to shield himself from the rain while walking past shops along a street during a downpour in Seoul, South Korea, on 30 June 2022. (Anthony Wallace/AFP)

China should avoid labelling South Korea as a Western nation

It would be rather extreme of China to peg South Korea as a key member of the Western camp because of its political system and values, says US academic Wu Guo. South Korea and China are inseparable in terms of culture, history, economy and people ties. It might be more accurate to view South Korea as a buffer between China and the West.
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.
People walk through wet streets after a morning snow storm in Manhattan on 7 January 2022 in New York City, US. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Why the Americans know China better than the Chinese know the US

The belief that the Chinese know far more about America than Americans know about China is a misconception. In the age of globalisation and the internet, a knowledge asymmetry actually exists between the Chinese and the Americans — middle class Americans seem to have an understanding of Chinese culture, history and system based on rigorous academic research and analysis, but the Chinese lack the same level of understanding of the Americans. US academic Wu Guo shares his views on why the “knowledge deficit” exists in China.
People walk through an alley decorated with traditional lanterns near Houhai lake in Beijing, China, on 2 February 2022. (Noel Celis/AFP)

US academic: Equality is a myth, whether in the US or China

Wu Guo notes that equality is very much a mirage, whether in the socialist or liberal democracy conception of the term. The sum total of one’s head start in life is often tied to his or her family background. And often, no amount of levelling up can change that. But this does not mean that equality is of no relevance or should not be aspired to. Adopting an attitude of equality can help ensure that people’s rights are protected, even if the ideal of equality may never be achieved.