Zheng Yongnian

Political Scientist

Professor Zheng Yongnian is the former Director of East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore and an expert in China's transformation and its external relations. He is co-editor of Series on Contemporary China (World Scientific Publishing) and editor of China Policy Series (Routledge). He is also editor of China: An International Journal. His papers have appeared in journals such as Comparative Political Studies, Political Science Quarterly, Third World Quarterly and China Quarterly. In addition, he is also a long-time columnist for Xinbao (Hong Kong) and Zaobao (Singapore), writing numerous commentaries on China's domestic and international affairs.

 

 

 

Tourists pose with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the background on 8 Feb 2020. Slogans with the words "武汉加油" (Wuhan, you can do it!) wrap the Shanghai landmark. (CNS)

Nations must behave like nations

Zheng Yongnian says every member of Chinese society must act responsibly to see their country through the 2019 Novel Coronavirus epidemic, and it will be a huge tragedy if Chinese people pin their hopes on heroes while society as a whole remains ignorant and incompetent.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wearing a mask and protective suit speaks to medical workers as he visits the Jinyintan hospital where the patients of the new coronavirus are being treated following the outbreak, in Wuhan, January 27, 2020. (Reuters)

Wuhan coronavirus: China needs less politics, more science

Political analyst Zheng Yongnian says adopting a scientific approach in their daily lives would help the Chinese better cope with tests such as the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Refusing to take ownership, the people blame the system, as if it was omnipotent and infallible. He warns that if individuals do not adopt the clear-eyed rationality of science, take a good hard look at themselves and chip in their own capacities, China will continue to lack the stoicism and initiative it needs from all quarters to cope with crises.
The typical person is irrational, rapacious and does not abide by the law. While he keeps the interior of his apartment magnificent, he goes outside and leaves a shambolic mess without a sense of public order. (iStock)

The "hooligan middle class" will drag down China’s economic development

Prof Zheng Yongnian bemoans the “culturally-bereft” middle class in China, and labels them the “hooligan middle class”. He opines that the absence of a cultural middle class is the reason why China lacks originality in technology and innovation, why the intellectual community produces little useful knowledge, and why China has not been able to advance towards qualitative economic growth. He offers the solution.
China-US relations are set on a rocky path, with some fearing an inevitable Cold War. (iStock)

[Outlook 2020] What lies ahead for China-US relations?

With various traps waiting to ensnare bilateral relations and an increasing anxiety in the US about China’s rise, China-US relations are set on a rocky path, with some fearing an inevitable Cold War. Bleak outlook notwithstanding, Zheng Yongnian rationalises that in a globalised interdependent world, China has resources at its disposal to fend off attempts by US hardliners to goad it into a Cold War or worse.
China today faces a lack of social trust. (iStock)

How to build a society of trust in China

Zheng Yongnian says a severe lack of social trust in China is fostered by a loss of traditional rules and norms, as well as a lack of modern universal laws. This explains why, when in trouble, most Chinese people avoid seeking legal remedy, preferring to turn to their social connections (关系 guanxi) instead. He argues that focusing on people, giving autonomy to social groups and improving the rule of law are key to rebuilding that trust.
People chant slogans and hold the words "release (the protesters)" near a police-cordoned area to show support for a small group of protesters barricaded for over a week inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hung Hom district in Hong Kong on November 25, 2019. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Social protests in the era of affluence

Social movements of today are no longer campaigns by the downtrodden poor but avenues for the well-educated middle class to air their anti-establishment discontent. Aided by social media, these groups appropriate concepts without understanding their true meanings, and look set to stay due to structural imbalance in the world caused by globalisation, technological progress and social divide. Zheng Yongnian opines that states badly need institutional reforms if they are to engage the social movements of today.
Many economies fall into the middle-income trap. (iStock)

How can China escape the middle-income trap?

History tells us that avoiding the middle-income trap is not easy. According to Zheng Yongnian, since World War II, very few middle-income economies have successfully become high-income economies. Most economies stagnate, unable to compete with low-income countries in labour costs or with rich countries in cutting-edge technological research and development. How can China save itself from the middle-income trap?
The US does not hesitate to identify China as “the opposition” or “the enemy”, especially when it believes that China’s development and institutional model pose a challenge to the US. (SPH)

China-US conflict: Avoiding the unavoidable tragedy

What is the possibility of the trade war escalating into a hot war? Leading political scientist and advisor Prof Zheng Yongnian looks into the reasons why humans wage various types of wars, and how the current China-US trade war might develop.
The mainstay of protests in Hong Kong has been the younger generation that grew up after the 1997 handover. Now, they are also the mainstay of the pro-independence movement there. (REUTERS)

Who rules Hong Kong

China is not governing Hong Kong. The ‘one country, two systems’ principle forbids it. Foreign powers are not ruling Hong Kong. They can only influence. Hong Kong people are not administering Hong Kong. This remains an ideal. HKSAR is not presiding over Hong Kong. This is due to institutional design flaws. So, who rules Hong Kong?