Philip Bowring

Philip Bowring

Philip Bowring has been based in Asia for 39 years writing on regional financial and political issues. He has been a columnist for the South China Morning Post since the mid-1990s and for the International Herald Tribune from 1992 to 2011. He also contributes regularly to the Wall Street Journal, www.asiasentinel.com, a website of which he is a founder, and elsewhere. Prior to 1992 he was with the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review, latterly as editor.

Latest from Philip Bowring

Opinion | As China turns inwards, Hong Kong’s international outlook fades

Foreigners played a major role in forging modern Hong Kong, but with the emphasis now on integration with the mainland and a steady exodus of long-time residents, the city’s cosmopolitan character is now in question.

Foreigners played a major role in forging modern Hong Kong, but with the emphasis now on integration with the mainland and a steady exodus of long-time residents, the city’s cosmopolitan character is now in question.

As China turns inwards, Hong Kong’s international outlook fades
8 Aug 2021 - 6:30AM
Opinion | As China’s Communist Party marks its centenary, how will it portray its history?

A history of the Chinese Communist Party should include the contributions of non-Chinese and acknowledge party critics, as well as celebrating the heroes through uplifting stories.

A history of the Chinese Communist Party should include the contributions of non-Chinese and acknowledge party critics, as well as celebrating the heroes through uplifting stories.

As China’s Communist Party marks its centenary, how will it portray its history?
30 May 2021 - 5:28AM
Opinion | Where multiracial migration has taken hold, people can’t be easily pigeonholed

For a start, ‘Asia’ as a region is home to such diverse peoples it can only be an imprecise concept. In many countries with multi-ethnic populations such as the US, Australia and Britain, language has not caught up with the reality of mixtures.

For a start, ‘Asia’ as a region is home to such diverse peoples it can only be an imprecise concept. In many countries with multi-ethnic populations such as the US, Australia and Britain, language has not caught up with the reality of mixtures.

Where multiracial migration has taken hold, people can’t be easily pigeonholed
25 Apr 2021 - 6:45AM
Opinion | Amid Covid-19 vaccine death rumours and blood clot fears, is anyone still following the science?

From avoiding getting a vaccine to halting vaccination drives, people and governments who claim to be following the science are jumping to conclusions despite a clear lack of evidence.

From avoiding getting a vaccine to halting vaccination drives, people and governments who claim to be following the science are jumping to conclusions despite a clear lack of evidence.

Amid Covid-19 vaccine death rumours and blood clot fears, is anyone still following the science?
21 Mar 2021 - 9:45AM
Opinion | Hong Kong Museum of History must flesh out the city’s story

The interim exhibit at the museum gives much space to the culture of “indigenous people”, although after 1841 Hong Kong was populated largely by immigrants. It also lacks a sense of how Hong Kong came to be a major commercial and maritime centre.

The interim exhibit at the museum gives much space to the culture of “indigenous people”, although after 1841 Hong Kong was populated largely by immigrants. It also lacks a sense of how Hong Kong came to be a major commercial and maritime centre.

Hong Kong Museum of History must flesh out the city’s story
28 Feb 2021 - 7:15AM
Opinion | Why Hong Kong’s coronavirus measures are out of proportion to the risk

Hong Kong officials’ obsession with reducing case numbers to zero means they have paid scant regard to society’s broader interests. There is no denying the global scale of the pandemic but, unless kept in perspective, the cure may be worse than the disease.

Hong Kong officials’ obsession with reducing case numbers to zero means they have paid scant regard to society’s broader interests. There is no denying the global scale of the pandemic but, unless kept in perspective, the cure may be worse than the disease.

Why Hong Kong’s coronavirus measures are out of proportion to the risk
24 Jan 2021 - 6:18AM
Opinion | Britain stuck with the consequences of bungled Brexit and coronavirus response

Britain could have painlessly left with deals like Norway’s and Switzerland’s, but the arrogance of its political class let fantasies flourish long after the referendum and set a high price for blinkered English nationalism.

Britain could have painlessly left with deals like Norway’s and Switzerland’s, but the arrogance of its political class let fantasies flourish long after the referendum and set a high price for blinkered English nationalism.

Britain stuck with the consequences of bungled Brexit and coronavirus response
26 Dec 2020 - 11:34PM
Opinion | Rather than legal reform, Hong Kong must first enforce laws to protect the vulnerable

Beijing’s call for Hong Kong to review its legal system to ensure loyalty to the party, country and people – in that order – is surely less critical than the challenge of ensuring it serves society’s most vulnerable, including the city’s many foreign domestic workers.

Beijing’s call for Hong Kong to review its legal system to ensure loyalty to the party, country and people – in that order – is surely less critical than the challenge of ensuring it serves society’s most vulnerable, including the city’s many foreign domestic workers.

Rather than legal reform, Hong Kong must first enforce laws to protect the vulnerable
22 Nov 2020 - 10:43AM
Opinion | What does loving China mean? The Communist Party decides

The Communist Party’s version of nationalism precludes differences of opinion on official policies in Xinjiang and the South China Sea. History, however, shows that doctrines and heroes of one period are denounced and discarded by the next.

The Communist Party’s version of nationalism precludes differences of opinion on official policies in Xinjiang and the South China Sea. History, however, shows that doctrines and heroes of one period are denounced and discarded by the next.

What does loving China mean? The Communist Party decides
25 Oct 2020 - 4:05AM
Opinion | Panic-driven response to coronavirus prioritises some lives over others

There has been scant debate in Hong Kong, where pneumonia claimed around 9,000 lives in 2019, about Covid-19 in the context of broader health and social interests. Apart from Sweden’s ‘light-touch’ policy, there are also lessons to be learnt from Bangladesh and Brazil.

There has been scant debate in Hong Kong, where pneumonia claimed around 9,000 lives in 2019, about Covid-19 in the context of broader health and social interests. Apart from Sweden’s ‘light-touch’ policy, there are also lessons to be learnt from Bangladesh and Brazil.

Panic-driven response to coronavirus prioritises some lives over others
27 Sep 2020 - 9:26AM
Opinion | Kamala Harris: a progressive choice for vice-presidential candidate in an America still struggling with the language on race

In the US, the language concerning racial issues seems to be stuck in the days of slavery and segregation. Then, as now, people who were not seen as entirely ‘white’ were generally deemed ‘black’, rather than mixed race.

In the US, the language concerning racial issues seems to be stuck in the days of slavery and segregation. Then, as now, people who were not seen as entirely ‘white’ were generally deemed ‘black’, rather than mixed race.

Kamala Harris: a progressive choice for vice-presidential candidate in an America still struggling with the language on race
4 Nov 2020 - 1:04PM
Opinion | Are coronavirus lockdowns justified given the health, economic and social costs?

While billions are being pumped into Covid-19 vaccine research, diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria continue to have high mortality rates. Perhaps, Covid-19 is attracting attention because it largely affects old people in rich countries.

While billions are being pumped into Covid-19 vaccine research, diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria continue to have high mortality rates. Perhaps, Covid-19 is attracting attention because it largely affects old people in rich countries.

Are coronavirus lockdowns justified given the health, economic and social costs?
20 Jul 2020 - 10:13AM
Opinion | Outside the US, Black Lives Matter movement is devoid of context and perspective

The protests after the death of George Floyd in the US rightly raised attention to the high rate of police killings of blacks compared to whites. The copycat protests elsewhere, however, require greater attention to the specific historical context.

The protests after the death of George Floyd in the US rightly raised attention to the high rate of police killings of blacks compared to whites. The copycat protests elsewhere, however, require greater attention to the specific historical context.

Outside the US, Black Lives Matter movement is devoid of context and perspective
28 Jun 2020 - 3:22AM
Opinion | Why a German court’s challenge to the EU is more disturbing than Trump’s outrage or China’s tantrums

Even without Covid-19, there is no shortage of disturbing news, from the Hong Kong police’s crackdown on protesters to Chinese bullying in the South China Sea. But a German court’s challenge to a central tenet of European unity is perhaps the biggest worry

Even without Covid-19, there is no shortage of disturbing news, from the Hong Kong police’s crackdown on protesters to Chinese bullying in the South China Sea. But a German court’s challenge to a central tenet of European unity is perhaps the biggest worry

Why a German court’s challenge to the EU is more disturbing than Trump’s outrage or China’s tantrums
17 May 2020 - 3:15AM
Opinion | Fight against the coronavirus is embroiled in a ‘fog of war’, with the poor becoming collateral damage

The divergences in testing targets, reliability and reporting across countries mean the data is often misleading. Meanwhile, the poor suffer disproportionately during lockdowns and their living conditions make them vulnerable to the disease.

The divergences in testing targets, reliability and reporting across countries mean the data is often misleading. Meanwhile, the poor suffer disproportionately during lockdowns and their living conditions make them vulnerable to the disease.

Fight against the coronavirus is embroiled in a ‘fog of war’, with the poor becoming collateral damage
19 Apr 2020 - 9:19AM
Opinion | Road accidents are likely to kill more people than coronavirus. The world needs to keep perspective

Rich communities can fund collapsing businesses for a while. But can the developing world really enforce coronavirus lockdowns? A balance should be struck between the threat of one disease and the social cost of measures against it.

Rich communities can fund collapsing businesses for a while. But can the developing world really enforce coronavirus lockdowns? A balance should be struck between the threat of one disease and the social cost of measures against it.

Road accidents are likely to kill more people than coronavirus. The world needs to keep perspective
29 Mar 2020 - 8:31AM
Opinion | Hong Kong’s government is sleeping on the job as the coronavirus adds to challenges facing globalisation

Hong Kong should be alive to the coronavirus threat to globalisation, yet unlike in Singapore, another international city dependent on free trade, the government has shown no leadership, leaving medical workers to strike for better protection and domestic workers open to further abuse.

Hong Kong should be alive to the coronavirus threat to globalisation, yet unlike in Singapore, another international city dependent on free trade, the government has shown no leadership, leaving medical workers to strike for better protection and domestic workers open to further abuse.

Hong Kong’s government is sleeping on the job as the coronavirus adds to challenges facing globalisation
16 Feb 2020 - 8:32AM
Opinion | Under Trump, the US’ interventionist policy towards the Middle East has reached a new low

The assassination of Iran’s Soleimani was carried out in Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government. For sure Iran has been interfering in Iraq, but no more than the US. The US is out of control, and must return to established norms.

The assassination of Iran’s Soleimani was carried out in Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government. For sure Iran has been interfering in Iraq, but no more than the US. The US is out of control, and must return to established norms.

Under Trump, the US’ interventionist policy towards the Middle East has reached a new low
19 Jan 2020 - 3:00AM
Opinion | From China and India to Britain and the US, how nationalists’ push for centralisation threatens to tear their countries apart

Hong Kong’s crisis is rooted in Beijing’s determination to assert central authority, to the chagrin of its peripheries. Ironically, the nationalism that stokes such urges threatens unity, in China and around the world.

Hong Kong’s crisis is rooted in Beijing’s determination to assert central authority, to the chagrin of its peripheries. Ironically, the nationalism that stokes such urges threatens unity, in China and around the world.

From China and India to Britain and the US, how nationalists’ push for centralisation threatens to tear their countries apart
22 Dec 2019 - 7:30AM
Opinion | Brexit-beset Britain and Modi’s India are plagued by an inward-looking nationalism that makes them lesser, not greater

The leaders of Britain’s two major parties both see little use for the European Union because they are stuck in the past. Likewise, India’s leaders reject diversity and broader trade to indulge Hindu nationalist fantasies about the past.

The leaders of Britain’s two major parties both see little use for the European Union because they are stuck in the past. Likewise, India’s leaders reject diversity and broader trade to indulge Hindu nationalist fantasies about the past.

Brexit-beset Britain and Modi’s India are plagued by an inward-looking nationalism that makes them lesser, not greater
17 Nov 2019 - 10:59AM
Opinion | Lessons from 1970s Hong Kong: the danger of unchecked police powers, and how a judge-led inquiry and an amnesty can work

When police mutinied in 1977 against an ICAC probe into corruption within the force, the governor of the time backed down, quickly ending a profound crisis. Carrie Lam’s policy address was perhaps the last chance for her to apply similar political solutions to the current crisis. Unfortunately, she completely missed the mark.

When police mutinied in 1977 against an ICAC probe into corruption within the force, the governor of the time backed down, quickly ending a profound crisis. Carrie Lam’s policy address was perhaps the last chance for her to apply similar political solutions to the current crisis. Unfortunately, she completely missed the mark.

Lessons from 1970s Hong Kong: the danger of unchecked police powers, and how a judge-led inquiry and an amnesty can work
20 Oct 2019 - 8:40AM
Opinion | Carrie Lam has bought time with Hong Kong extradition bill withdrawal: now she must find the means of change

Hong Kong’s chief executive should sack half of her Exco to bring in change-makers, raise the possibility of widening voting rights, and start hacking away at policies that entrench the elite.

Hong Kong’s chief executive should sack half of her Exco to bring in change-makers, raise the possibility of widening voting rights, and start hacking away at policies that entrench the elite.

Carrie Lam has bought time with Hong Kong extradition bill withdrawal: now she must find the means of change
8 Sep 2019 - 9:30AM
Opinion | When bad ideas happen to Hong Kong protesters and Beijing

Protesters in Hong Kong made a strategic mistake when they vandalised the liaison office. But over in London and Beijing, the authorities are labouring under dangerous delusions about their power.

Protesters in Hong Kong made a strategic mistake when they vandalised the liaison office. But over in London and Beijing, the authorities are labouring under dangerous delusions about their power.

When bad ideas happen to Hong Kong protesters and Beijing
28 Jul 2019 - 10:11AM
Opinion | Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Carrie Lam has let her one weakness overpower her better qualities

The Hong Kong chief executive, who has stressed her Catholic faith and has a long record of being an honest civil servant, has betrayed the expectations of Hongkongers by doing the bidding of Beijing.

The Hong Kong chief executive, who has stressed her Catholic faith and has a long record of being an honest civil servant, has betrayed the expectations of Hongkongers by doing the bidding of Beijing.

Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Carrie Lam has let her one weakness overpower her better qualities
16 Jun 2019 - 8:42AM
Opinion | The Trump administration’s demonisation of Iran benefits Saudi Arabia and Israel more than the US

The US’ escalating rhetoric and moves against Iran have raised fears of American military action. However, the main beneficiaries of a weakened Iran are its adversaries in the region.

The US’ escalating rhetoric and moves against Iran have raised fears of American military action. However, the main beneficiaries of a weakened Iran are its adversaries in the region.

The Trump administration’s demonisation of Iran benefits Saudi Arabia and Israel more than the US
19 May 2019 - 1:00AM
Opinion | What Occupy sentencing means for Hong Kong’s autonomy

Now that jail time has been ordered for the protest leaders, on the dubious grounds that they inconvenienced the public, it is clear that the courts are no bulwark against Beijing’s determination to block democratic progress.

Now that jail time has been ordered for the protest leaders, on the dubious grounds that they inconvenienced the public, it is clear that the courts are no bulwark against Beijing’s determination to block democratic progress.

What Occupy sentencing means for Hong Kong’s autonomy
28 Apr 2019 - 11:00AM
Opinion | The rich in Hong Kong don’t take public transport. No wonder our road policies are a mess

The government’s inability to tackle our transport problems, from road congestion and illegally parked cars to the protectionist taxi trade and haphazard system of tunnel tolls, comes down to this: the upper classes, including senior bureaucrats, love their cars.

The government’s inability to tackle our transport problems, from road congestion and illegally parked cars to the protectionist taxi trade and haphazard system of tunnel tolls, comes down to this: the upper classes, including senior bureaucrats, love their cars.

The rich in Hong Kong don’t take public transport. No wonder our road policies are a mess
31 Mar 2019 - 8:20AM
Opinion | Duterte’s proposal to change the Philippines’ name highlights the vexed history of place nomenclature

History complicates the choice of place names while sensitivities to certain designations seem to vary with political expediency.

History complicates the choice of place names while sensitivities to certain designations seem to vary with political expediency.

Duterte’s proposal to change the Philippines’ name highlights the vexed history of place nomenclature
18 Feb 2019 - 11:36AM
Opinion | Short of a budget deficit shock, here’s how to ensure Hong Kong spends money more wisely

Years of huge surpluses have allowed government incompetence to continue unchecked, wasting money on needless capital investment. With budget season coming around again, here are four measures to improve this year’s plan.

Years of huge surpluses have allowed government incompetence to continue unchecked, wasting money on needless capital investment. With budget season coming around again, here are four measures to improve this year’s plan.

Short of a budget deficit shock, here’s how to ensure Hong Kong spends money more wisely
13 Jan 2019 - 2:06PM
Opinion | The Huawei fail: why is China hitting back at Canada, instead of uniting the world against US hypocrisy?

The Huawei arrest is a wasted opportunity for China. It could have used the case to ally with countries that resent the US’ Iran sanctions. Instead, the way it is going after Canada smacks of thuggery and nationalism.

The Huawei arrest is a wasted opportunity for China. It could have used the case to ally with countries that resent the US’ Iran sanctions. Instead, the way it is going after Canada smacks of thuggery and nationalism.

The Huawei fail: why is China hitting back at Canada, instead of uniting the world against US hypocrisy?
23 Dec 2018 - 2:00AM