Zhang Tiankan

Zhang Tiankan

Academic, columnist

Zhang Tiankan is a Chinese academic and columnist whose research interests lie in the relationship between science and technology, philosophy, culture, history and society. He is also a published author of various books and articles in China and abroad.

The dragon in Singapore's Chinatown has four claws. (SPH Media)

Year of the Dragon: How to tell a 'real' dragon from a 'fake' one

Commentator Zhang Tiankan notes that the mythical Chinese dragon has gone through numerous iterations over a long history, and there is not one definitive version of it, much less one “correct” number of claws that it should have. As long as the general image is in line with its majestic and fantastical heritage, the number of claws is secondary.
Children and their parents wait at an outpatient area at a children's hospital in Beijing, China, on 23 November 2023. (Jade Gao/AFP)

Packed children’s hospitals in Beijing reflects China's social conditions

Academic Zhang Tiankan notes that crowded children’s hospitals in Beijing actually reflect social conditions, such as mindsets towards hospital treatment being the best and also the stressful education system, as children do their homework even while hooked up to IV drips. In many cases, rushing to the hospital as an immediate response could do more harm than good and be a great drain on public resources.
An anti-war demonstrator stages a die-in as others mark the 78th anniversary of the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima with a march and protest at Times Square in New York, US, on 6 August 2023. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Chinese academic: Humanity could destroy itself with nuclear weapons

Commentator Zhang Tiankan explores the themes of the movie Oppenheimer, and examines how nuclear weapons may not destroy the earth, but definitely might wipe out humanity and all life.
People hold signs as they gather in Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, Michigan, US, to call for a ceasefire and voice their support for the Palestinian cause on 28 October 2023. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP)

Israel-Hamas conflict: Is it right to always side with the weak?

With the world divided on being for or against Israel or Hamas, Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan looks at why the weak are not necessarily in the right during a conflict against the strong, as some would assert.
Former Japanese politician Yasuhiro Sonoda publicly drank half a cup of radioactive water that he claimed had been treated in October 2011. (Screen grab from YouTube video)

Chinese academic: Can we die from drinking Fukushima treated wastewater?

With the uproar around the Fukushima treated wastewater at a peak, Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan takes a look at historical and scientific facts that help us understand the risks and effects of drinking treated nuclear-contaminated water. Is the fear justified?
Robots on display at a CloudMinds Technology Inc. booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China on 7 July 2023. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China’s strides in AI: Promising but not without its challenges

While China and the West have different strategic visions, they face the common challenge of tackling pitfalls and regulatory challenges while embracing the potential of AI, says Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan.
A fuel cell charging station in Tangshan, Hebei province, China, 18 March 2023. (Xinhua)

Many challenges ahead as China promotes green hydrogen vehicles

The Chinese government has set targets for hydrogen-powered vehicles and diverse uses of hydrogen until 2035 as part of its push to get industries to shift to clean energy. However, given the processes and costs involved, it remains to be seen whether the initiative will gather enough momentum.
A pigeon flies in front of the Kremlin's Spasskaya tower (left) and Saint Basil's cathedral (centre) in Moscow on 1 March 2023. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP)

Russia could decline into a failed state

Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan believes that while Russia looks and acts tough like a major power, it is in fact not as powerful as it thinks, or wants others to think. It has a long way to go before having the same influence as other world powers.
The black-and-white lanterns at COCOPARK in Shenzhen. In Chinese culture, black and white are seen as inauspicious colours. (Internet)

White lanterns and ugly rabbits: The no-nos of CNY decorations

A mall in Shenzhen came under fire for putting up white lanterns with black text as part of its Chinese New Year decorations, while an “ugly” rabbit-shaped light decoration was removed from another mall in Chongqing. Academic Zhang Tiankan muses on tradition and innovation, and the evolution of traditional decorations.