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Weekend catch-up: Chinese demography, the far side of the Moon, Ebola returns

The week that was on The Interpreter.

A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying China’s Chang’e-3 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (Photo: VCG, via Getty)
A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying China’s Chang’e-3 lunar probe takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (Photo: VCG, via Getty)
Published 26 May 2018   Follow @lowyinstitute

The week that was on The Interpreter.

According to media reports, Beijing is considering lifting all restrictions on family size – the so-called “one-child policy” – by the end of the year. Mei Fong:

It is hard to escape the conclusion that China shot itself in the foot demographically with the one-child policy. From having five people to support one retiree, the country will soon have 1.5 workers per retiree. Its bachelors need brides, its elderly need caretakers, yet its women were reduced by the one-child policy.

China’s space agency recently launched a satellite to orbit at a point on the far side of the Moon. Morris Jones:

Later this year, a Chinese robot lander will touch down on the far side of the Moon, becoming the first spacecraft in history to land there safely. It will deploy a small rover and conduct scientific experiments, including a small biological laboratory.

Still in China, news reports detailed new financial openness measures. Fraser Howie:

None of the Chinese market leaders will feel threatened by the opening. Of course, size is no measure of quality, and the Chinese firms generally fall well short of best international practice, but since they are dominant onshore, few care about making a mark offshore. So it’s a thank you for opening, but it comes too little too late to make a difference: a day-late, dollar-short reform.

And in Xinjiang, north-western China, stories are emerging of facilities used to for the detention and “re-education” of ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs. Michael Clarke:

In Xinjiang’s contemporary camps it appears that Beijing wants internees to ultimately return to ‘normal’ life cleansed of markers of Uyghur (and other Turkic-Muslims) distinctiveness and Otherness – such as language, religion, and cultural practice – it has come to perceive as an obstacle to the complete integration of the region.

During the recent inter-Korean summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Kim signalled his preference for a Vietnamese style of economic reform. Khang Vu:

North Korea in 2018 and Vietnam in 1986 have a lot in common in terms of international isolation and inefficient domestic economies. Hence, it is logical that Pyongyang should follow Hanoi’s model to maximise its growth potential while preserving socialist values.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has had a testing start to 2018. Donna Weeks:

In the context of developments on the Korean Peninsula and ongoing domestic scandals, Abe’s punt to ensure his extended prime ministership through hawkish leadership may constitute an own goal. 

Sam Roggeveen on why China is not planning to storm Taiwan’s beaches:

In modern naval warfare, defence is easier and cheaper than offense. China has used this to its advantage, but if it ever wanted to subdue Taiwan, it would find itself on the other side of that equation.

This week marked twenty years since the fall of Suharto in Indonesia. Erin Cook on how Reformasi is influencing Indonesian artists today:

That spectre [the New Order regime] influences the contemporary arts scene in Indonesia ... While Indonesian artists are less likely to be imprisoned for political works – a risk still faced by artists in neighbouring countries – there is a widespread and growing sense of self-censorship.

Australian investment in higher education is decreasing, leading universities to increasingly depend on fees from international students, the largest group of which are from China. Fran Martin:

The majority of Chinese students leave our universities disappointed with the social experience they have there. They haven’t managed to make local friends; despite their best efforts they have not obtained meaningful work opportunities in local businesses; and overall their time in Australia has been marked by social isolation and much less cross-cultural engagement than they had hoped for.

Ireland voted in a referendum yesterday on repealing the total ban on abortion in the Irish Constitution. Clare Murphy:

Unsurprisingly, this referendum campaign has been even more divisive than the 2015 campaign for same-sex marriage. But what also sets this referendum apart from Ireland’s previous constitutional debates is the question around foreign influences in the electoral process. This includes the Republic’s electoral relationship with Northern Ireland and voting rights of Irish abroad; but more seriously, misinformation from foreign sources.

In early May, the Democratic Republic of Congo notified the World Health Organization of a confirmed outbreak of Ebola. Alexandra Phelan:

Critically, in addition to the rapid and comprehensive response to date, for the first time a new tool is available to control the outbreak: an Ebola vaccine.

Kirstin Han on Operation Coldstore and the lack of a national reckoning with Singaporean history:

In Singapore, history is often discussed as a series of fixed facts. Places and dates are memorised, and the ‘Singapore Story’ is internalised and regurgitated when necessary. If someone is definitely right, another person has to be maliciously wrong. This is a pervasive mindset, as exemplified by a statement from a member of the Select Committee who said, during my appearance at an open hearing two days before Thum’s session, that ‘there should really only be one truth’. 

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