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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.

International Cooperation is the Only Way to Tackle the Global Crisis
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
International Cooperation is the Only Way to Tackle the Global Crisis

Da Wei, Assistant President and Professor, University of International Relations, in The Global Times (April 8, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: US Department of Defense/Glenn Fawcett)

International Cooperation is the Only Way to Tackle the Global Crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic has become the "first global crisis" in human history. Four major factors distinguish this crisis from previous events.

First, unlike terrorist attacks or war, this crisis stems from nature rather than the decisions or actions of people. Second, unlike US-centered incidents such as 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the three major economic regions in the world: East Asia, North America and Western Europe, and spread to nearly 200 countries with more than 3 billion people now under lockdown. Third, in terms of duration, humans may have to coexist with this crisis before anti-viral drugs or a vaccine is successfully developed. Fourth, unlike the 1918-20 flu pandemic, this one has spread through modern societies that are highly globalized and interdependent. This interdependence has led to wider political, economic and social shocks resulting in an unpredictable "butterfly effect".

This pandemic is the first global crisis facing humanity, threatening not just countries but mankind as a whole. Some experts regard this crisis as a precursor to the looming climate crisis. How we deal with today’s global crisis will determine to a large extent how we respond to the next one.

Experts on Sino-US relations have often joked that only an alien invasion would prompt relations to return to its previous level of cooperation. Today, the "alien" has arrived in the form of a virus. At this historic juncture, China and the United States have no choice but to cooperate. Fortunately, Sino-US relations have already started to show signs of improvement with some positive momentum towards closer cooperation. Both China and the United States must urgently put aside politics and instead strengthen bilateral action. Cooperation is essential in tackling the first global crisis in human history.


Strengthen Quarantine in Red Zones, While Easing Them Elsewhere
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Strengthen Quarantine in Red Zones, While Easing Them Elsewhere

Lim Fangbiao (林方彪), writer, in his 想太多 (Overthinking) column in Sin Chew Daily (April 8, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Ajai Arif)

Strengthen Quarantine in Red Zones, While Easing Them Elsewhere

The Minister of Health recently stated that the goal of the second phase of control measures would be to reach zero new cases of Covid-19 in a day. It is likely the current measures will be extended, as there have been more than 100 new cases daily. But if the Minister takes into consideration the specific regions with no increases, then it may be possible to strengthen quarantine rules in red zones (those with over 40 cases), while gradually relaxing them in green zones.

The number of red zones has increased to 21. The information provided, however, is not detailed enough. Officials should include data for those still receiving treatment, as it will let the public know more about the current situation. With this information, the situation in the red zones can be analyzed in greater detail. The zones can then be isolated effectively and quarantine controls strengthened, while ensuring sufficient supplies continue to flow into these areas.

In green zones, it will be possible to loosen restrictions gradually and allow normal life to resume. Before the entire country improves, however, those in green zones will have to continue to wear masks, wash hands and maintain social distance. Outbreaks in many countries have erupted after celebrations and large gatherings. Even if the number of newly diagnosed patients in Malaysia drops slightly, society should not get complacent.

This year’s fasting month of Ramadan (April 23 to May 23) and the ensuing Eid al-Fitr activities will likely be canceled or scaled down. Officials must try to communicate effectively with Muslim communities to gain support and understanding for these necessary measures. Ultimately, while the government must act to control the epidemic, these measures cannot lead to the collapse of the whole economy. People have to continue working to maintain their livelihoods.


In Fight Against Covid-19, Public and Private Sectors Need to Work Together
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
In Fight Against Covid-19, Public and Private Sectors Need to Work Together

Chow Hsing-yi, Professor, Department of Finance, College of Commerce, National Chengchi University, in United Daily News (April 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Alix Lee)

In Fight Against Covid-19, Public and Private Sectors Need to Work Together

Taiwan's epidemic situation remains significantly better than the rest of the world, with only over 300 infections and fewer than 10 deaths, despite being geographically close to mainland China. We should thank the government and medical personnel at all levels for their efforts. Otherwise, we might have been caught in a difficult quagmire as Europe and the United States have been. Taiwan must appreciate its situation and strive to maintain it.

While the international media praises Taiwan, we risk becoming complacent. There were already signs of this over the recent Qingming holiday (April 4) with the media reporting a spike in vacations to Kenting. This highlights the fundamental contradiction in the fight against the virus: On the one hand, it is necessary to maintain social distance; on the other, it is necessary to keep up economic activity. China, too, is eager to resume work. Yet this risks the resurgence of the epidemic. In the US, President Trump's reluctance to declare a state of emergency may have made the virus harder to control there.

As Taiwan is an export-oriented economy, the world’s problems arising from the virus will inevitably become ours. When we face the economic crisis, it will be impossible to rely on the government alone. We must rely on some form of public-private partnership to overcome difficulties together and prepare for the recovery. The business community should quickly respond to workplace conditions and assist the government in recommending the direction and focus of relief policies, formulating strategies and practices to reduce the impact on employees.

Taiwan ’s performance has attracted worldwide attention. As long as the public and private sectors work together, we can provide key assistance when the world needs Taiwan. At the same time, doing so will benefit Taiwan economically.


Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal

Kim Hyun-kyung, Professor, Graduate School of Public Policy and Information Technology, Seoul National University of Science & Technology, in The Asia Business Daily (April 13, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong

Nth Room, Telegram – and Why this Won’t Be the Last Cybercrime Scandal

South Korea has been caught up in the Nth Room cybercrime case, in which a shocking number of women and minors were subject to pornographic enslavement. Several individuals including Cho Joo-bin, now under investigation, were blackmailing victims and spreading sexually exploitative videos through the Telegram app. This case is the most recent in a series of similar cybercrimes, including the Burning Sun scandal of 2019 in which a number of high-profile K-pop stars were implicated.

Why is South Korea unable to put an end to such cybercrimes against women and minors?

First, the country has relatively lenient laws against cybersex crimes. From 2011 to 2015, out of 1,800 indictments for filming, distribution and sale of illegal pornographic content, only a meagre 5 percent resulted in imprisonment. In 2018, the average sentence imposed on people convicted of cybercrimes committed against children and minors was just two years. By contrast, child pornography in the US is a serious offense, the production of illegal content punishable by 15-30 years in prison.

Second, South Korea has not been proactive in cross-border cooperation against cybercrime. Media platforms that are often implicated in cybercrimes, such as Telegram, do not disclose server locations and do not store all their data in one place. The South Korean government must step up its international cooperation, starting by joining the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime and discouraging use of uncooperative foreign platforms.

Finally, the government has not taken enough measures to address cybercrime. The government has increased monitoring of illegal digital pornographic content and applied more pressure on platform providers to take responsibility and implement controls. But such measures have been insufficient and ineffective.

Given what little has been done so far, it seems unlikely that the Nth Room case will be the last of its kind in South Korea.


The Covid-19 Pandemic was not a “Strategic Surprise”
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
The Covid-19 Pandemic was not a “Strategic Surprise”

Evan A Laksmana, Senior Researcher, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in The Jakarta Post (April 13, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Mohamad Sholeh)

The Covid-19 Pandemic was not a “Strategic Surprise”

Indonesia was and remains utterly unprepared to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Many have argued that the pandemic has been Indonesia’s biggest “strategic surprise” in decades. But by uncritically painting the pandemic as such an unforeseen occurrence, some analysts may implicitly or inadvertently absolve the government of any responsibility. After all, they argue, Covid-19 was a “non-natural disaster” that many states could not have predicted.

This claim is clearly wrong. Scientists, epidemiologists and global health scholars have warned about a pandemic for years. Over the past two decades, various public health outbreaks, from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to Ebola, should have driven this point home.

Despite ample warnings from dozens of countries hit by Covid-19 outbreaks throughout February and early March, Indonesian policymakers were in denial. They publicly clung to unfounded assumptions about the “saving power” of Indonesia’s temperature or humidity. Some even implied that traditional herbs or dishes could be antidotes to the virus, while others suggested that prayers would be sufficient to stem any viral tide.


The Global Economic Depression is Real
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
The Global Economic Depression is Real

Jin Keyu, Associate Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics (LSE), in Caixin (April 10, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

The Global Economic Depression is Real

Economists are already comparing the current economic downturn to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The main difference is that this one took just three weeks rather than three years to play out.

The notion of a mild recession and a strong V-shaped recovery has now been abandoned, and the economic outlook grows grimmer by the day. We now face a virtual complete halt to all economic activity. The question is: How long will this last? The longer the recession, the lower the long-run growth trend will be. Many jobs that have been destroyed will never come back again. No one can say anything with certainty at this point as we have insufficient information about three things:

First, whether the pandemic can be suppressed. Nobody can say with confidence if current mitigation strategies will be effective. Second, whether there will be another wave of infections in the autumn. We cannot rule this out, even in China, and this raises questions about how long borders can feasibly remain closed. Third, whether government policies around the world will be effective. The optimistic scenario assumes that all of the right policies are in place – health, monetary and fiscal policies in the major economies in the world must work in concert without any disruption.

The unlimited amounts of quantitative easing and liquidity promised by the European and American governments are absolutely necessary. They suggest governments are preparing for the situation to get worse. As such, these aggressive policies are an alarming sign of what is to come. In addition, stagflation and inflation are not unreasonable risks to expect not only in China but also around the world.

Nevertheless, these expectations can change as new data comes in. After all, it is the virus that determines the timeline, not economists.


Legislative Council Members Should Cut Their Salaries
Monday, April 13, 2020
Legislative Council Members Should Cut Their Salaries

Fanny Wong Lai-kwan, columnist, in Headline Daily (April 9, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Legislative Council Members Should Cut Their Salaries

The government announced details of more crisis support funds. In addition to spending more than HK$130 billion (US$16.7 billion) to pay the salaries of employees of enterprises affected by the epidemic, the Chief Executive, senior government officials and members of the Executive Council will reduce their salaries by 10 percent over the next year to share the economic burden with the people.

Many in the private sector have already had their salaries cut, been forced to take unpaid leave, and even been fired. So it is reasonable for private companies to receive government support as the crisis deepens. The leaders of Hong Kong are paid well and are able to take pay cuts.

Yet members of the Legislative and District Councils have not taken similar steps. When it comes to salary reductions, members of LegCo, especially those in the pan-democratic camp, deserve cuts the most. How many days work have they put in over the past six months? How much work have they done to support the economy and job security for citizens? Think about the farce that they have staged time and again in LegCo meetings. Besides damaging the economy further, practically nothing has been achieved.

Not all members are so shameless. Members of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) announced that they would donate a total of HKD$3 million (US$385,000) a month to help the unemployed and those facing immediate livelihood difficulties. Five legislators have donated one month's salary to a newly established emergency fund for the unemployed. The pro-democracy camp has not followed suit.

LegCo members have a very good life. It is time for the public to let them know that they have no reason to be exempt from sharing the economic burden of the crisis.


The WHO is heartless to Taiwan, but we'll never be heartless to the world!
Friday, April 10, 2020
The WHO is heartless to Taiwan, but we'll never be heartless to the world!

Hu Wenhui, political commentator, in his 胡,怎麼說 (What Do You Say) column in Liberty Times (April 6, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Office of the President, Taiwan/Makoto Lin)

The WHO is heartless to Taiwan, but we'll never be heartless to the world!

The world has become a battlefield against the Wuhan Virus (Covid-19). There have been 1.3 million confirmed cases worldwide and nearly 70,000 deaths. These figures are still climbing.

The whole world can see that Taiwan’s performance in the crisis has been excellent. Even though the virus will not show mercy to any person or any country, the strength of each government's epidemic controls can be compared. These are not things that can be denied by the opposition, nor can they be distorted or rejected by slanders from China.

The government's anti-epidemic team was on alert early. As a result, Taiwan has controlled the first wave of virus outbreaks from China as well as the second wave from Europe and the United States. So far, these controls have been well maintained. Taiwan, however, should not be complacent, especially after receiving compliments from international media and other governments.

In addition, the epidemic situation in neighboring Asian countries continues to rise rapidly. Taiwan is therefore still in a crisis surrounded by danger. Complacency will only expose us to the virus. Nevertheless, Taiwan must also hold on to love and empathy for all of humanity and share its knowledge and experience in controlling the epidemic with the international community as much as possible.

Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) is both useless and incompetent, Taiwan should not fail in participating in global efforts to battle the virus. While the WHO is under Chinese manipulation and consequently heartless to Taiwan, Taiwan will not be heartless to the world. Therefore, Taiwan ’s recent donation of 10 million masks and other epidemic prevention materials should be just the beginning. We must continue trying our best to help countries so that the international community knows that Taiwan's helping hand is there.


Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark
Thursday, April 9, 2020
Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark

Hansen Yang (杨瀚森), business leader, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 7, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Prime Minister’s Office Singapore)

Not the Sinking Titanic but Noah’s Ark

As a world economic and transportation hub, Singapore has fought aggressively against the Covid-19 virus. As a small country, however, Singapore must strike a balance between controlling the spread of the virus and maintaining economic operations. Policy measures affect every citizen. It is only when citizens are united and prepared for the worst scenarios can we win this battle.

In the face of this crisis, we must surrender our individualism and move forward in a collective spirit. When governments introduce stricter measures, such as closing borders and cities, citizens cannot selfishly invoke their individual freedom as an excuse to ignore the ban. On a national level, implementing restrictions on the cross-border movement of people to slow and stop the spread of the virus is not the same as shutting down the country. The global supply chain must remain in operation, and the necessities of people's livelihood and medical supplies must be able to cross borders.

In addition, countries must refrain from engaging in a debate over the origins of the virus. This not only leads to discrimination and promotes xenophobia but also is not conducive to international cooperation. It also increases the decoupling of economic and trade links and fuels the risk of political conflict.

During the G20 virtual special summit on March 26, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested that countries should work together on the aspects of public health, economics and scientific research needed to cope with the global challenges stemming from the virus. Leaders of all countries must work together after the crisis to rebuild domestic confidence in globalization. While the epidemic is fierce, this is definitely not the end of the world. We are all on the same ship. This ship is not the sinking Titanic, but Noah's Ark on which humanity will rise again.


China's Traditional Fishing Rights Claim is Baseless
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
China's Traditional Fishing Rights Claim is Baseless

Aristyo Rizka Darmawan, lecturer in international maritime law and senior researcher at the Center for Sustainable Ocean Policy at the School of Law, University of Indonesia, in The Jakarta Post (April 4, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Stratman2)

China's Traditional Fishing Rights Claim is Baseless

Tensions arose afresh between Jakarta and Beijing following a series of incidents in the North Natuna Sea last December. China’s fishing activities in the seas north of the Natuna Islands, protected by that country’s coast guard, were deemed a violation of Indonesia’s sovereign rights in the natural resource-rich maritime territory.

China has insisted on its maritime claim covering almost the entire South China Sea, known as the “nine-dash line”, which overlaps Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the northern parts of the Natuna Sea. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China and Indonesia are parties, there is no such thing as the nine-dash line. Moreover, the July 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the case brought by Philippines against China stipulated that the nine-dash line had no basis under international law.

An article by Lei Xiaolu of Wuhan University that appeared in The Jakarta Post on March 11 argued that China has traditional fishing rights in waters of the Natuna Islands. On at least three counts, she wrongly analyzes the legal concept of traditional fishing rights under UNCLOS. Clearly, China’s traditional fishing rights in Indonesia’s EEZ surrounding the Natuna Islands is misleading and constitutes a misconception.


The Coronavirus Relief Allowance for Children is too Small
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The Coronavirus Relief Allowance for Children is too Small

Chieko Akaishi, Director, Single Mothers Forum, in Yahoo! Japan (April 5, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: MIA Studio / Shutterstock.com)

The Coronavirus Relief Allowance for Children is too Small

The 10,000 yen (US$93) supplementary child benefit launched by the Japanese government as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic should be applauded, but it is not enough. According to a survey, more than half of households are experiencing declining income because of the economic shutdown. Their finances are worsening from month to month and will continue to do so. Some families now rely on donations of rice and can only eat two meals a day.

In addition, the cost of living continues to increase. Due to social distancing and school closures, families must spend more on educational materials for homeschooling and on food, which for low-income families is typically provided by schools.

The per-child household allowance may be topped up to 30,000 yen (US$279) per child per month, but this can only be done through an application process which may exclude some households such as those with parents who are in same-sex relationships or are freelance workers.

Does the government understand the severity of such a situation? Cash delivered to households when the parents don't have the time or information to apply. To prevent households with children from having no rice to eat today, the allowance should be at least 30,000 yen per child.


The Pandemic Does Not Respect Borders – Time to Bar Visitors
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
The Pandemic Does Not Respect Borders – Time to Bar Visitors

Lu San, current affairs columnist and researcher in law and politics, in United Daily News (March 17, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Victor Freitas from Pexels)

The Pandemic Does Not Respect Borders – Time to Bar Visitors

Taiwan successfully controlled the first wave of Covid-19. A second wave of cases imported from Europe, the United States and other places has seen a surge in recent days. During the first wave, the mainland Chinese government’s approach in controlling the virus successfully reduced the number of people infected in Taiwan.

However, as the virus has started to spread rapidly throughout Europe, the US and other parts of the world, the Taiwan government should apply the approaches used in the first wave to control the virus. We should not only request people from some other countries to self isolate but also consider whether to adopt the measures used in India, Vietnam and New Zealand. These countries have stopped issuing visas to some countries. If Taiwan were to follow suit, we will be able to minimize the chances of the virus coming into Taiwan. We should also stop people from the mainland coming to Taiwan as group tourists.

While this approach would be extreme, it would actually more practical and effective than other tactics. As the spread of Covid-19 in Europe and the US has not been effectively controlled so far, it is difficult for Taiwan citizens to know whether sufficient measures are being taken. While some may not support such action on humanitarian or legal grounds, it is important to recognize that other countries are already taking such precautions.

Considering the seriousness of the virus, we should not waste time worrying about whether such an approach would be legal. Above all else, we must ensure the virus does not enter Taiwan.


Why Soft Power is Pivotal
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Why Soft Power is Pivotal

Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, UK and UN, in Dawn (April 6, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: UNIC Islamabad)

Why Soft Power is Pivotal

The global health emergency is showing the significance and impact of soft power – a country’s attributes or behavior that appeals to others and creates positive perceptions. Consider the case of China. After its success in fighting to contain the coronavirus, it has extended help to over 80 countries, setting an example admired the world over, notwithstanding the negative rhetoric of detractors.

China created a soft-power effect. By earning respect through its conduct, China managed to elevate its global position. This demonstrates how instrumental soft power can be in enhancing a country’s influence and international standing. When wielded as part of a country’s diplomatic strategy, soft power can pay rich dividends, enabling that nation to achieve its foreign-policy goals. Soft power is now an essential ingredient in international diplomacy.

Pakistan is among the bottom 10 in the Global Soft Power Index 2020 report recently released by Brand Finance. Western countries are in the top five, along with Japan and China. Singapore is the top Southeast Asian nation at number 20. Pakistan needs to step up its diplomatic game and act strategically. Nation branding is essential, and policymakers should identify and imaginatively incorporate our soft power resources into our foreign policy, engaging more vigorously in public diplomacy to shape our narrative abroad. There is no reason why Pakistan should be at the bottom of the global soft power league.


When Politics Disregards Science
Monday, April 6, 2020
When Politics Disregards Science

Summary by Soomi Hong (Picture credit: Korean Culture and Information Service/Kim Sun-joo)

When Politics Disregards Science

The Covid-19 outbreak makes us reflect on the relationship between politics and science. In a pandemic, the logical response seems to be science-based action followed by a political fix. As we have seen in most countries, however, the order has been the other way around.

A full-blown global crisis became inevitable when the politicians disregarded the experts’ warning that it was a matter not of “if” but “when”. Initial political calculations outvoiced science over and over again. Only when the public health was in undeniable jeopardy did the politicians seriously seek out the scientists. Now, we hear calls for increasing funding for research and support for experts, while politicians try to take all the credit for their all-too-late measures.

According to the journal Nature, “science and politics are uneasy bedfellows. The first is built on evidence and objectivity; the second thrives on opinion and persuasion.” Politics needs science for informed governance: science for policymaking. The countries that will first overcome the crisis will be the ones with governments that quickly establish the right partnership between the two.

Blinded by the flowing international praise for its quick action to implement mass testing, the Korean government seems to have forgotten its initial failure to listen to its scientists. The government’s framing of a dichotomy between a critical domestic press and a laudatory global media only serves as further proof of its inability critically to assess its own performance. No country succeeds when the responsibility falls on the scientists but the politicians take all the credit.


Covid-19 Economic Stimulus: Where will the money come from?
Friday, April 3, 2020
Covid-19 Economic Stimulus: Where will the money come from?

Lim Tak Sing (林德成), columnist, in his 成天幻想 (Daydream) column in Sin Chew Daily (March 28, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: peakpx)

Covid-19 Economic Stimulus: Where will the money come from?

In response to the Covid-19 epidemic, Malaysia’s new government has announced a 250 billion-ringgit (US$57.2 billion) economic stimulus package. While this package is urgently needed, it is important to question where the money will come from. 

With the plunge in global oil prices, government revenue will continue falling. While the Prime Minister continues to promise the implementation of large infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link, the recent distribution of emergency funds will suppress Malaysia’s fiscal capacity. Cost reduction will be one of the only options for the government to manage the country’ fiscal deficit. 

With limited funds, however, the government may be forced to raise money through government-linked companies and private institutions, while also selling off government assets and land. With the potential for currency devaluation, finding a balance between "capital preservation" and "economic relief" will require skill. Both approaches will have a significant impact on Malaysia’s economy.

In spite of these measures, industry will be severely damaged, and it is unclear whether many companies can return to their original business models. The potential wave of business closures is likely to shake the country’s economic foundation. 

The government has often stated that “Industry 4.0” requires the digital transformation of enterprises. This epidemic could be a turning point for businesses to adapt to the future, with live broadcasting, online shopping and online teaching all becoming necessities.  

Ultimately, these economic measures can only fix the symptoms while helping buy additional time rather than address the root issues of the country’s economic problems.