Identity

The blooming Calophyllum blancoi. (Facebook/蔣勳)

Taiwanese art historian: Reflecting on the indigenous culture of Orchid Island

Catching sight of a rare native flower in bloom, art historian Chiang Hsun ponders beauty in diversity and the unique heritage of the indigenous people of Taiwan’s Orchid Island.
The late theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun, whose plays and teachings have shaped a generation of theatre makers in Singapore. (The Theatre Practice)

True gems: Singapore’s pioneers of the arts deserve more credit

Teo Han Wue laments that we are not doing enough to remember the remarkable contributions that Singapore’s pioneers of the arts have made. Singapore’s early artists and theatre practitioners were the avant-garde who went beyond the tried and tested in China or elsewhere. If we don’t remember our past achievements, how can we be inspired to produce greater things in the future?
A gas station burns after Russian attacks in the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 30 March 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

An ostracised Russia's descent into war and lessons for China

We should not underestimate the role of political psychology in international relations, says Lance Gore. Often, human nature and emotions play a large part in decision-making, and factors such as wounded pride, a need to assert one’s identity or a sense of insecurity can bring about major consequences. Moreover, when feelings are stoked and public opinion drawn on the side of the “good guys”, it is not so much the high ideals of liberalism but a realist game at work. Russia and China have not learnt finesse in playing the two-tier game of international politics; neither have they realised they are not strong enough yet to change the rules of the game.
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 hold placards depicting leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally to demand her release and protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, 8 February 2021. (Stringer/File Photo/Reuters)

A year on from the coup, Chinese New Year in Myanmar hijacked by politics

Hein Khaing rues the fate of the Chinese in Myanmar, who have always been treated as “third-class citizens” and were put in a bind again this Chinese New Year, which falls on the anniversary of last year’s coup. Forced to keep their shops open yet called upon to unite against the junta, many of them faced a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” situation. What will it take for the plight of the Chinese in Myanmar to change?
"Sometimes through the cracks, I watch people go by."

[Comic] We live in the crevices of life

Chinese comic artist Bai Yi observes that most of us, the masses, are but tiny pawns fighting to survive in this immense and turbulent world. Lives are spent living in obscurity and dullness, often voiceless and unnoticed, coming and going in the crevices of life and society. No one really wants to live such a life forever, but before the crevices are exposed under the light, can we contemplate our lives in the safety of the shadows?
People sit on a ferry as the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center are seen on 5 December 2021 in New York City, US. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP)

Why democracy is failing and why some authoritarian regimes might just work

Lance Gore notes that US President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy is one that will fade away just as quickly as it appeared. Fundamentally, the summit and the “good versus evil” dichotomy it espouses is way past its time. With democracies today, not least the US, facing issues of decline and some authoritarian regimes offering practical governance and livelihood solutions, the clash of systems is just not so clear-cut. In fact, if China irons out some of the kinks in its system, it may become a model of benign authoritarianism that others may find worth emulating.
Paramilitary police officers keep watch as people climb the Great Wall of China in Beijing, China, 1 October 2021. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Wang Gungwu: China, ASEAN and the new Maritime Silk Road

Professor Wang Gungwu was a keynote speaker at the webinar titled “The New Maritime Silk Road: China and ASEAN” organised by the Academy of Professors Malaysia. He reminds us that a sense of region was never a given for Southeast Asia; trade tied different peoples from land and sea together but it was really the former imperial masters and the US who made the region “real”. Western powers have remained interested in Southeast Asia through the years, as they had created the Southeast Asia concept and even ASEAN. On the other hand, China was never very much interested in the seas or countries to its south; this was until it realised during the Cold War that Southeast Asia and ASEAN had agency and could help China balance its needs in the maritime sphere amid the US's persistent dominance. The Belt and Road Initiative reflects China’s worldview and the way it is maintaining its global networks to survive and thrive in a new era. This is an edited transcript of Professor Wang’s speech.
The Indonesian flag flies as people wearing protective face coverings wait to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine dose at Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, 14 August 2021. (Yulius Satria Wijaya via Reuters)

How a hoax pandemic donation sparked anti-Chinese and anti-China sentiments in Indonesia

A bizarre case involving a generous donation from a Chinese Indonesian family that never materialised has brought the spotlight on identity politics in Indonesia. When the fraud was revealed, praise for the Chinese Indonesian community quickly turned into a means for the anti-government (and anti-China and anti-Chinese) social media channels to attack the Indonesian government and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.