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.

 

 

 

This picture taken on 21 February 2020 shows a woman wearing a face mask, amid concerns of the Covid-19 coronavirus, exercising at a park in Beijing. (Wang Zhao/AFP)

Will China turn its back on the world again?

After more than 40 years of reform and opening up to the point that China has become an integral node in global supply chains, will the pandemic be the circuit breaker that cuts off the flow of connections between China and the West? Will the currents of international trade and cooperation flow again or will China ironically be more like the US in thinking “I am the world”? And once allegedly compared by Napoleon to a “sleeping lion”, will China resume its sleep shortly after awakening?
A woman crosses a street in Beijing, April 22, 2020. China's economy shrank for the first time in decades last quarter. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Salvaging China’s economy: Economic growth is meaningless if the society is ruined

Professor Zheng Yongnian recognises that the economic impact of the coronavirus will be deep. Beyond thinking about whether short-term cash payouts should be given, he mulls over measures that can see China through protracted headwinds. Key is the political will needed to move the country’s strategies away from GDPism, or an obsession with GDP, to those of building social safeguards as the country strives to build a sustainable economy.
A man in front of a screen displaying a propaganda image (top), on a street in Beijing, April 20, 2020. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Covid-19: China's missing narrative in the global battle of narratives

While it appears that China is going all out to shape the global narrative in a vacuum left by the West, Zheng Yongnian says this is a non-starter as China is often reactive to Western narratives, resorting to tit-for-tat tactics, rather than projecting its own clear narratives. The arduous task of establishing a voice and a narrative remains the biggest international challenge that confronts China.
The Statue of Liberty in Paris, during a winter flood. Humans have always struggled to master nature. (iStock)

From humility to arrogance: A fight with nature is a fight with ourselves

Zoonotic viruses will continue to plague humankind if man continues recklessly destroying the environment and natural habitats in the name of development. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the Covid-19 outbreak, Zheng Yongnian says, it is that humans, both in the East and West, need to learn how to be at one with nature, rather than seek to subdue or triumph over nature for their own ends.
A man wearing a protective facemask stands in front of a movie poster in Shanghai. - China on February 19, 2020 ordered three reporters from American newspaper the Wall Street Journal to leave the country over what Beijing deemed a racist headline, in one of the harshest moves against foreign media in years. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Where multiple 'gods' co-exist: Countering the racism complex in Western diplomacy

Political analyst Zheng Yongnian says that in the current panic of the Covid-19 outbreak and against the backdrop of already fractured US-China relations, the US and the West’s racism complex is bubbling to the surface and could taint their foreign policy approaches to China even more. He looks forward to a future where multiple “gods” co-exist.
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.