Tectonic shifts in Chinese society

Dr. Wei Hongxia, the “authorized government portal site to China” “published under the auspices of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) in Beijing” is not known for being very fair in its reports. Indeed, I have followed its opinion pieces with the very intention of getting a radically different perspective. However, every once in a while, there comes an opinion piece with some very good observations that are able to stand up to scrutiny.

Here’s Dr. Wei Hongxia, “visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace”, discussing three very relevant changes in China that could well shape how the next 10 years play out under new leadership: Chinese political culture, Chinese civil society and Chinese foreign policy.

Observers have noted that the scale and the scope of the coming changes are likely to be widest in China’s three most important leadership bodies: The Party, the government and the military. It’s believed that the coming changes will see roughly two-thirds of the existing membership replaced by newcomers. These newcomers will largely account for many of the leading positions in China’s political, economic and ideological administrations, and provincial, foreign policy, public security and military operations after the upcoming 18th Party Congress and the 12th National People’s Congress in the Spring of 2013. In general, this new generation of leaders is more diverse in their educational, professional and economic backgrounds. Most are better educated than their predecessors and some even have diplomas from foreign institutions. Some of them have been chosen through competition, some through recommendations and some have gradually risen through the ranks. They are also more cosmopolitan in their worldviews and policy choices than their predecessors. Their backgrounds are more complex, representing different interest groups within China.

Fabricating a HK Tiananmen incident?

I don’t count myself amongst the pro-government camp when it comes to politics in Hong Kong. I generally side with the pro-democracy camp. But regardless of political affiliation, one cannot but help be concerned by the anti-Chinese bias of many western media companies, particularly those in the US.

Take for example NYTimes’s coverage of the protests against national education and their not so subtle attempt to link these protests with the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989:

The protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to China in 1997, have been somewhat similar to the much larger Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989: large numbers of students have flocked to public spaces in front of government buildings, staging sit-ins and, in some cases, hunger strikes.

All true, thankfully modified by the phrase “somewhat similar”. Now here comes the more subversive bit:

The demise of democracy: Part 3 (Asia)

For the past half century, democracy has been the political ideology. The cold war saw a concerted effort to promote democracy, led by the USA. Since then, more and more countries have moved towards some form of democracy as the specter of communism was beat back. The idea of everyone’s opinion being considered in an equal and fair manner, without prejudice, captured the imagination of millions around the world. The recent spate of political upheaval in Arab stats, dubbed the Arab Spring, was heralded as the dawning of true democracy in the Middle East. But reality presents a far more murky picture, one where democracy’s success and future are both called into question. Here’s an examination of where democracy stands across the world.

Previously: The West (USA), The West (Europe)


Although Myanmar has now held elections, freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and shown increasing openness, it remains a far cry from having true democracy. Japan seems to be going through new prime ministers like they’re merely disposable cups with six different prime ministers in just as many years. It hardly seems to be a good sign of a stable and mature democracy when the prime minister’s position seems to be nothing more than a revolving chair with a new occupant every year or so.

In Asia, Thailand has been thrown into political turmoil in the aftermath of Thaksin Shinawatra’s removal/departure. Much like the extremes of the US political system, the red-shirt vs. yellow-shirt divide has become a symbol of the paralysis of the Thai political system. With occupation followed by street battles and prime ministers brought down by legal tussles, Thailand has seen a period of increasing turmoil. In fact, the pitch street battles forced transport systems to shut-down and even required military involvement in an attempt to end them. Whether Yingluck Shinawatra will have better luck healing the divide and moving Thailand towards the democratic utopia as advertised remains to be seen. She faces a difficult dilemma because, as noted by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University#, “If she doesn’t try to bring Thaksin back, Thaksin won’t be happy. If she tries to bring him back, his opponents won’t be happy”.

Hong Kong might appear to be moving towards democracy, but I would really compare it to inching like a snail. I’ve argued that Hong Kong’s political process is getting more mature, that is not the same as saying Hong Kong is making significant moves towards democracy. The other city-state to consider is Singapore, which whilst far from a very open democracy, nevertheless commands considerable economic might and still manages to provide amply for its civilians.

Of course, all this happens in the massive shadows cast by China which has managed to be simultaneously prosperous and anything but a democracy. Although it has fallen from it’s glory days of 8% growth, China still manages a more than respectable 7% growth rate and has managed to beat most expectations with its economic growth. Although aspects of the system may appear to be supportive of independence and democracy (what with ‘independent’ candidates and all), it would be pretty hard to convince anyone that there are plans for anything other than continuing the one party rule. And as many people in China would concur, what’s so bad about that. Whilst China has a long way to go to improve, there is nothing yet to suggest conclusively that it would be entirely impossible without democracy.

Next time: The Middle East

2nd China National High School Debating Championships 2012 [MOTIONS]

Motions used at the 2nd China National High School Debating Championships 2012

R1 (Women’s Issues): THW promote women higher and faster in employment situations as a matter of government policy
R2 (Arts): THW make public funding for the arts available for the production of video games
R3 (Education): THW test teachers regularly
R4 (Rights): THW encourage its citizens to break laws in other countries that violate human rights
R5 (Popular Culture): THW teach the appreciation of popular culture in schools
R6 (Medical Ethics): THW criminalize healthcare workers who flee from work during a contagious epidemic
R7 (Social Dilemmas): THBT, upon death, every person’s body should revert to the State for scientific use, or for organ donation, depending on necessity
R8 (Sexuality): THW ban clinics that claim to cure homosexuality

Results for 2nd China National High School Debating Championships 2012

Finalists and members of the organizing committee

The 2nd China National High School Debating Championships 2012 was once again hosted in Hangzhou, China, from 7th to 14th July at the prestigious Hangzhou Foreign Languages School. A total of 52 teams competed in 8 preliminary rounds followed by a octo-final break; all in WSDC format.

The Grand Final was between Team Fat Boy (Hangzhou Foreign Languages School) and Team Two Rivers (Chengdu Foreign Languages School). Team Fat Boy won by 4-3 on the motion that ‘THW ban corporations from donating to political campaigns’. Peter Yang of Team Two Rivers was awarded the Best Speaker of the Grand Final award.

Ann Shen Chong of Team Memeda (Nanjing Foreign Languages School) was awarded Best Speaker of the Tournament.

A defense of the 2012 Hong Kong Chief Executive Election

Today, 1,200 people will cast ballots in the Hong Kong Chief Executive elections 2012. It has been an eventful campaign, with even a full Wikipedia page being developed with details outlining all the various bits of mud that were slung around. Let’s first be clear, as Anson Chan so eloquently stated, this election is not a free and fair election. Albert Ho was clearly not going to win, and only 1,200 people were able to express any opinion in any instance.

However, in contrast to the 2007 elections, this was measurably more competitive with 3 candidates (Leung Chun-Ying, Henry Tang and Albert Ho) rather than the 2 (Donald Tsang and Alan Leong). Notably was the fact that there were a whole host of other politicians who were considered possible candidates, including Rita Fan and Regina Ip. There was even a ‘primary’ between the various pan-democrat groups. The campaign itself was also more competitive with genuine uncertainty as to who would be ultimately elected until about a week ago. In addition to the formal poll, there was also the HKU’s public opinion poll that was conducted yesterday and the day before.

Although the 2012 elections are not free and fair elections in their own rights, I think it is hard to argue that they have not been an improvement in comparison to the 2007 elections. Whilst we should continue to push for universal suffrage in 2017, we should stop and think how far we have gone this year.

1st Canton IV: May 2012 [UPDATE]

[UPDATE] Registration starts at 13:00 (GMT+8) 19th March

Dear Asian debate circuit,

I’m Howie Ding from China. Together with my colleagues from GDS, SYSU EDT and JNU EDT, we proudly present you the 1st Canton IV on May.4th-7th in Guangzhou(historically known as Canton), China. The format of the event is Asian Parliamentary format.

This is the first ever International debate tournament host in Southern China and we dedicate this event to debate lovers all around the world, especially those who intend to participate UADC and Australs. You would receive below benefits from our tournament:

  • 7 Preliminary Rounds and Pre-Quarter, Quarter, Semi and Final
  • A world-class Adj-core with Robin Teo being our CA, Ely Zosa, Omar Salahuddin, Sebastian Templaton, Toshiaki Ikehara and Emily Zhang being our DCAs.
  • We also guarantee you not only the quality of the A-core, also a qualified big adj-pool of 8 more world/Asian/austral breaking or former International tournament CAs. The confirmed includes: Zheng Bo, Imran Rahim, Cecile Gotamco and Nicole Ng.
  • Tasty Cantonese cuisine, especially Dim-sum Morning Tea and a Fancy Break Night Party.
  • We are treating you two big meals. One will be a grand Cantonese dinner, another will be a Cantonese ‘Dim-sum’ Morning Tea (breakfast is the fanciest meal of us! You can try hundreds of dim-sums!) in the oldest restaurants of Guangzhou (130 years) and a fancy break-night party.
  • Optional tours! You can optionally take our first trip to Baomo Garden, to see the traditional architecture of Chinese gardens in the first day. For our last day, we also arrange you to take a half-day downtown trip and try local street foods!


2nd China National High Schools’ English Debating Championship 2012

Dear Debate Friends,

I am happy to announce that we will be holding the 2nd China National High Schools’ English Debating Championship 2012 this summer in the city of Hangzhou, China. Last year, 32 high school teams from the cities/territories of Macau, Hong Kong, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Tianjin and Wuxi took part in the inaugural event held at Jinling High School in Nanjing. This year, we will give you more exciting debates, even better judges, and a lot more fun. We are holding this event this July in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Hangzhou, which is renowned for its breathtakingly beautiful West Lake.

We would like to invite your high schools and/or your former high schools to send debate teams to take part in this event. Together, we will celebrate the growth of high school English debating in China and give our young people 7 days of intellectual summer fun and many good memories to bring back to their homes and cities. This is non-profit debate education project aimed at proliferating debate as a student development activity.


East vs West – Education Systems

One of the most balanced and reasonable articles I have read on for a long time, commenting on the educational systems in China and the US.


Learning to be more like each other
By Ma Yingyi, January 23, 2012

Today, we are faced with the fascinating paradox which sees Chinese students flocking to American schools and universities in the belief that the American education system is superior; whilst American educators and the public deplore the problems with their own education system and are looking to China in order to seek a better education for their children. This search is principally a result of the considerably higher test scores of Chinese students in international assessments.

Shifting norms in cross-strait relations

Originally posted at

Paul Lau Chun Man (Hong Kong, UWC AC 2010-2012)

The most remarkable thing about the presidential and parliamentary elections that Taiwan held on January 14th 2012 may well be the simple fact that they were unremarkable. Unlike previous elections, there were no last-minute attacks, no shots fired, no Chinese missiles, no obvious US meddling, no critical Chinese coverage, indeed, coverage of the elections weren’t even censored by Chinese media. Current president, Ma Ying-jeou, was successfully re-election to a second and final term with 52% of the vote. Opposition candidate, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party, came in with nearly 46% of the vote.