Laura Zhou

Laura Zhou

Reporter, China

Laura is a contributor to Inkstone. She is a reporter for the South China Morning Post's Beijing bureau.

Location
Beijing
Language spoken
English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Areas of Expertise
Diplomacy
China and America’s rivalry heads to Manila
The United States and China have both stepped up their efforts to woo the Philippines as the two global powers fight for supremacy on multiple fronts, including the South China Sea. On Friday, the agriculture ministry in Manila announced that a US-funded animal disease laboratory had opened in the northern region of Luzon, The Manila Bulletin reported. Earlier in the week, Sung Kim, the US ambassador to the Philippines, said he had handed over 5,000 hygiene kits and 16 handwashing stations to Manila’s mayor to aid local efforts to combat Covid-19.  That donation came after the US last month provided the Southeast Asian nation with 100 new ventilators. The latest American charm offensive cam
Are China’s dams to blame for droughts in Southeast Asia?
Fishermen in northeast Thailand have seen catches in the Mekong River plunge, while some farmers in Vietnam and Cambodia are leaving for jobs in cities as harvests of rice and other crops shrink. The common thread is erratic water levels along Asia’s third-longest waterway. Water flows along the 2,700-mile Mekong shift naturally between monsoon and dry seasons, but non-government groups say the 11 hydroelectric dams on China’s portion of the river – five of which started operating in the past three years – have disrupted seasonal rhythms. This threatens food security for the more than 60 million people in the lower Mekong that rely on the river for a livelihood. “Naturally, Mekong water ris
China’s ‘mask diplomacy’ met with wariness
As health workers around the globe struggle to find enough hospital beds and medical supplies to cope with the coronavirus crisis, China has stepped in.  So too has Germany, the United States, the European Union and many others. But Beijing’s efforts – which state media has called “China’s solution to fight the pandemic” – have had a mixed reception, and analysts say its “mask diplomacy” will do little to convince critics in the West. Across the globe, more than 3 billion people are living under lockdown measures to limit the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 720,000 people worldwide and killed at least 34,000. Two weeks ago, as Italy emerged as the new epicenter of the pand
How the coronavirus affects beekeepers and why it matters
Chinese beekeeper Mo Jiakai should be as busy as the inhabitants of his 200 or so hives at this time of year. He and his wife should be close to Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, ready for the colonies to make the most of the canola crops coming into bloom. Instead the 48-year-old is stuck much further south near a city called Panzhihua, trying to keep the bees alive as blanket traffic bans imposed to stop the coronavirus epidemic put their livelihood in danger. “We would have to go into quarantine for 14 days upon our arrival in Chengdu, which means the hives would be left to starve and die,” said Mo, who has been in the beekeeping business for more than two decades. “For bee
Soccer star sparks controversy with Xinjiang social media posts
Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil has become the latest international celebrity caught in a political storm in China after he strongly criticized Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang. The German soccer player hit out at the Muslim world’s silence over allegations of widespread human rights abuses in the far western region, where a million mainly Uygur Muslims have reportedly been detained in re-education camps. The comments prompted a backlash from Chinese newspapers and social media users, some of whom accused him of “hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.” China’s state broadcaster CCTV did not air Arsenal’s Sunday matchup against Manchester City. Özil, whose family originates from Turkey, pos
Risk of South China Sea clashes rises as Beijing blurs lines
More flashpoints are likely to occur in the South China Sea as China strengthens its presence with ships that blur the lines between military and civilian operations, experts warn. Beijing lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, including islands that sit amid rich fishing grounds and which are believed to be sitting on big oil and gas deposits. China’s claims put it at odds with Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. While China’s military activities have been under intense scrutiny over the past years, Beijing has been steadily increasing its non-military presence in the region. A recent incident in which up to 275 Chinese vessels were spotted near the Philippine-o
Study challenges accusations of China’s ‘debt trap’ diplomacy
As it struggled to pay back loans to Chinese firms, Sri Lanka’s handover in 2017 of a strategic port to China on a 99-year lease became a smoking gun for critics of Beijing’s “debt trap diplomacy.” But a new study of China’s loans to developing countries challenges this view. As part of its vast “Belt and Road Initiative,” Beijing is seeking to link China to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and beyond with new roads and ports, often with Chinese funding. While Chinese President Xi Jinping has presented the program as a trade push that benefits everyone involved, Washington has slammed the Chinese deals as opaque and predatory. But research by the Rhodium Group, a New York-based consultancy, h
Why China and Russia have their eyes on the Arctic
While the warming relations between Russia and China remain marred by mutual suspicion, the countries have found much common ground in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean. The countries have said they want to work together in developing the Northern Sea Route, Russia’s traditional Arctic shipping route, after China launched what it called the “Polar Silk Road” last year. While Chinese investment along border regions have fed popular resentment in Russia, the countries have much to gain from collaborating on shaping the Northern Sea Route into a viable alternative shipping route, analysts said. “Russia looks to link the Asia-Pacific region with Europe through this Northern Sea Route as it's
China’s authoritarianism challenges ‘the end of history,’ says prominent scholar
China’s model of authoritarian government could be an alternative to liberal democracy, but only if Beijing manages to control social stresses and maintain economic stability, according to American political scientist Francis Fukuyama. Academics have not agreed on the definition of a “Chinese model” but debate has intensified over the past decade over whether a mix of a market economy and authoritarian government along Chinese lines could be a viable alternative to Western liberal democracy. The assessment by Fukuyama – who in a 1989 essay forecast the triumph of political and economic liberalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union and in 1992 wrote bestseller The End of History and the L
Ethiopian envoy defends Chinese loans against ‘debt trap’ worries
Ethiopia is renegotiating billions of dollars in loans from Beijing for a railway to avoid being buried by “serious” debt woes, Ethiopia’s top envoy to Beijing said. The railway links the Ethiopian capital to neighboring Djibouti, and is tied to China’s global infrastructure push that critics say sets a “debt trap” for poorer countries. It’s common practice for a country unable to meet the terms of an existing loan to try to renegotiate a new repayment schedule or new financing. But when it comes to China as a lender, the loans have taken on a geopolitical dimension as the United States accuses Beijing of using loans to expand its sphere of influence. Supporters of this view have pointed to