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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.

An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

Usman Hamid, Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia, and Veronica Koman, human rights lawyer, in The Jakarta Post (May 25, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Marcel Gnauk/Pixabay)

An Unconscionable Prisoner Policy

The United Nations is right: It is impossible to practice physical distancing and self-isolation in an overcrowded prison. We therefore applaud the decision by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly to release almost 40,000 prisoners at risk from the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet Minister Yasonna’s policy falls crucially short: Prisoners of conscience are excluded from the policy, despite the UN urging that “political prisoners should be among the first released”.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government has detained 69 prisoners of conscience (PoCs) on treason charges, a record in recent times for Indonesia. The majority of them, 54, are indigenous Papuans. All are peaceful activists who have been detained for political expression -- simply carrying flags, organizing or participating in peaceful protests, or being members of political organizations. No one should ever be arrested or detained solely for exercising their human rights.

The majority of these PoCs were arrested during and in the immediate wake of the 2019 West Papua uprising that took place from August 19 to September 23 last year. These protests against racism and for self-determination, likened to an “earthquake” of anger and hope, took place in towns and villages throughout Papua.


Pandemics Accelerate the Rise and Fall of Great Powers
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Pandemics Accelerate the Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Xie Maosong, senior researcher at the China Institute for Innovation & Development Strategy, in Guancha (May 25, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Pandemics Accelerate the Rise and Fall of Great Powers

Throughout history, pandemics have accelerated the rise and fall of major powers and civilizations.

If a powerful country that is in a continuous decline suddenly encounters a pandemic, its ability to respond effectively could be completely disabled. Instead, the crisis will intensify internal struggles and further accelerate the country’s decline. Conversely, if a powerful country is on the rise, a pandemic could inspire the government to utilize their strong organizational mobilization capabilities for society. The challenges commonly associated with the rise of a country can be overcome faster during the crisis and social cohesion will subsequently strengthen.

There are several examples of this. The Roman Empire collapsed following repeated outbreaks of the Black Death, which killed 25 million people between 1347 to 1353. While the Empire had long been deteriorating, this disease accelerated the process. In the 20th century, the pandemic referred to as the “Spanish flu”, which emerged at the end of the First World War in 1918, accelerated the rise of the US.

We can see similar patterns in the history of Chinese civilization. During the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), there were more than ten major plagues, which accelerated its decline of the dynasty.

Although dynasties have risen and fallen, Chinese civilization has always survived, unlike Western civilization. A new dynasty represents a historical force that can draw on the lessons of the demise of the previous one. The continuity of ancient and modern Chinese civilizations provides a deeper understanding of the various levels of organization that China has demonstrated in its successful handling of the pandemic. This crisis, meanwhile, has exposed the political incapacity of the US. By comparing the two situations, we can appreciate the significance of the pandemic in accelerating the rise and fall of great powers. China must prepare for this. 


Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law

Kim Gi-dong, editor, in Segye Ilbo (May 22, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: MFDice)

Parental Neglect, Filial Piety and the Hara Goo Law

Abandoned by her mother at age nine, and then a difficult childhood under her grandmother's care. This is a story of Hara Goo of the celebrated South Korean pop girl group Kara. Goo's suicide last November after suffering cyber bullying made tragic headlines around the world. What is less known is the scandal caused by Goo's mother, who reappeared at her daughter's funeral after a 20-year absence, to demand half of her daughter's inheritance.

In Korea, murdering and defrauding someone can disqualify a person from inheriting a victim’s wealth. But not parental negligence. Goo’s brother petitioned for the Hara Goo Law to address this unfairness. The legislation, however, failed to pass within the term of the 20th National Assembly.

South Korean society is witnessing the rise of another extreme of "filial litigation". Upon having their inheritance from their parents, the children neglect their filial duty and the parents then sue for return of their wealth. The mere fact that "filial duty legislation" (to prevent children from neglecting elder parents), was formally discussed during the 19th National Assembly shows the extent of this social issue in this Confucian country where the elderly are traditionally respected.

Today, the bulk of the baby boomer generation carries the burden of supporting the younger and older generations. For most of them, their parenthood covered their children's education, entrance to university, and initial employment. But the parents’ duty now seems never ending as they fund their children's wedding and then the rearing of their grandchildren. On top of caring for this new-normal "kangaroo generation", baby boomers are also expected to support their own elderly parents. From all legal wrangling over inheritance to the increasing burden on one generation, and now with Covid-19 complicating everything, gatherings at family holidays would seem to be gloomier these days. 


The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Cielito F Habito, economist and professor, in his No Free Lunch column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Our high school graduates appear to be making the wrong choices of college courses, as they pursue degrees that do not lead to high-paying jobs. Yet earnings are their primary motivation for getting further education or training, according to a survey of college graduates who completed their studies between 2009 and 2011. The study affirms the widely observed jobs-education mismatch in our labor market, this time from the perspective of the learners.

The survey found that 15 courses accounted for more than 70 percent of the graduates, and nearly half had bachelor’s degrees in just five fields: nursing, elementary and secondary education, business administration, and commerce. But of the graduates in BS Nursing, which was the top course choice comprising 25 percent of females and 18 percent of the males of the graduates surveyed, nearly half (47.2 percent) were not working as nurses. They ended up as contact center information clerks (11 percent), retail and wholesale trade managers (8 percent), general office clerks (6.2 percent), cashiers and ticket clerks (3.5 percent), and even police officers (3.2 percent) and other unrelated occupations.

The biggest mismatch, it turns out, is in the graduates’ lack of the core skills of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, much more than technical skills. Both employers, in many past studies, and graduates, in this one, point to these as the serious gap that could be hardest to fill. It is the neglect of developing these in basic and college education that our education reforms must seek to change, if Filipinos are to propel our economy and society into one that is competitive, prosperous and resilient.


What the US Hopes to do in the Taiwan Strait
Monday, May 25, 2020
What the US Hopes to do in the Taiwan Strait

Li Haidong, Professor at the Institute of International Relations and Director of the Center for American Studies, China Foreign Affairs University, in Global Times (May 20, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: FutureAtlas.com)

What the US Hopes to do in the Taiwan Strait

Despite the pandemic, the United States has made provocative moves over the Taiwan issue. Not only does it support Taiwan’s participation as an observer in the World Health Assembly (WHA), but American warships and military aircraft have repeatedly crossed the Taiwan Strait. Could this lead to conflict between China and the US?

Since 2017, the US government and Congress have pursued a coordinated approach to China, including on Taiwan-related issues. On Taiwan, the government has issued extreme resolutions or bills on the grounds of values, ideology or geopolitical competition. A series of bills, passed by Congress, have been quickly signed by the president. Once established, this approach is difficult to change. US policy towards China on Taiwan-related issues will only intensify.

Although American officials claim to adhere to the one-China policy, recent US legislation has reduced the importance of the principle. In the past three years, the US has issued such documents on Taiwan-related issues as the National Defense Authorization Act, while also strengthening official contacts with Taiwan and showing support for "Taiwan independence" actors. This is not only a reflection of the US abandoning its previous policy framework for engagement with China but also a demonstration of its moving towards a competitive stance.

Third, although the US government is dominated by super hawks who hold extreme positions against China, recent attitudes on the Taiwan issue show that the US still prefers to use Taiwan as a political and diplomatic tool to contain the mainland. For example, in response to Taiwan’s request to participate in the WHA, the US repeatedly gave verbal backing and encouraged other countries to provide support but never submitted any proposal.

Ultimate authority on the Taiwan issue remains on the mainland, as it has been in the past and will remain so in the future.


Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” is Dead
Monday, May 25, 2020
Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” is Dead

Hu Wenhui, political commentator, in his 胡, 怎麼說 (What Do You Say) column in Liberty Times (May 22, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: FreedomFungPhotography / Shutterstock.com)

Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” is Dead

President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized in her re-election speech on May 20 that she resolutely rejects Beijing’s "one country, two systems" proposal. Yet, the next day, while the pan-Blue opposition coalition were still criticizing President Tsai for not showing any goodwill to the mainland, the Chinese National People's Congress of announced plans to introduce a national security law in Hong Kong.

In terms of impact, the national security law covers serious crimes such as subverting state power, splitting the country, interfering with foreign forces, and terrorist activities, which could involve imprisoning and strictly controlling the freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and procession. Under such a law, the people of Hong Kong could be easily be convicted of any crime. If they threaten the regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), they risk being charged and detained by the authorities. The official introduction of law will mark the moment when the freedom of the Hong Kong people and “one country, two systems” die.

“One country, two systems” has been a mask for the leadership of Hong Kong. When society does not obey orders, the CCP has been shown to throw off this mask, revealing their true face of brutality. The CCP and the Hong Kong government have recently used the excuse of the Covid-19 epidemic measures to suppress the Hong Kong people’s objections to this law. While control measures were expected to have expired, they were suddenly extended to June 4, with all assemblies and processions banned. Nevertheless, the population has already gathered to protest against Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

President Tsai was correct to reject firmly the proposal of “one country, two systems”. Furthermore, judging from the brutality of Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong, the pan-Blue coalition are simply boneless worms led by the CCP.


Amid Covid-19, Stabilizing the Political Situation is a Priority
Monday, May 25, 2020
Amid Covid-19, Stabilizing the Political Situation is a Priority

Dominic Lau Hoe Chai, National President, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, in Oriental Daily (May 23, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Yuri Abas / Shutterstock.com)

Amid Covid-19, Stabilizing the Political Situation is a Priority

The Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia recently announced its support for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s decision to reopen parts of the economy. While this was criticized and ridiculed by some people, it is important to avoid using this crisis to score political points. The reason why the Gerakan, a professional and responsible political party, made such a decision was for the sake of the people and ensuring the stability of Malaysia.

The Gerakan Party understands the desire of the people to have a democratic government, and respects and practices democratic principles. In the face of the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis, however, the most important thing right now is to defeat the virus, improve the economy and assist citizens out of the difficulties as quickly as possible.

It is therefore very important to support and cooperate with the current government to ensure that the country can address these unprecedented challenges. Malaysians are now facing problems such as high living expenses and increasing unemployment. The country must have a stable government to formulate and implement effective anti-epidemic strategies and policies to stimulate economic growth.

The Gerakan calls on the government to continue the national reform agenda, launch a people-oriented ruling declaration, and lead the country and people out of the epidemic and economic crisis. Gerakan will play the role of an active and constructive opposition party by speaking out for the people without fear, while checking and balancing the government.

Nothing is more important than life, and priority must be given to protecting people ’s lives as much as possible. To achieve this, Malaysia needs a stable government supported by robust epidemic strategies, political stability and economic support.


Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law
Friday, May 22, 2020
Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law

Hidetomi Tanaka, Professor in the Faculty of Business and Information of Jobu University, in iRONNA (May 19, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

Take a Second Look at Abe’s Attempt to Revise Special Prosecutor Law

The biggest political story in Japan in the first half of May was not only COVID-19, but also the attempt by the Abe government to revise how special prosecutors are appointed. The move resulted in huge and unprecedented backlash on social media, and plummeting poll numbers for Abe and the cabinet, forcing Abe to back away from the plan.

Take a sober second look at the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposed amendments to the law on how special prosecutors are appointed. These changes are perceived by opposition lawmakers and the public to make it easier to control the public prosecution office and make it difficult to investigate alleged government abuses. The debate surrounding the proposed amendment has been clouded by emotion rather than based on reality. Affecting the tenor of the discussion has been the slump in Abe's popularity since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in Japan in late February.

Critics of the amendment have embarked on a fishing expedition that is aimed at scoring political points instead of uncovering the truth, with facts being replaced by intuition and gut feeling about the prime minister's supposed disingenuousness and duplicity when proposing the amendments. With the help of uninformed television celebrities, the fishing expedition has snowballed into a social media hashtag campaign. The public had already made up their minds without bothering to learn about the proposed amendments.

While everyone in Japan is free to express a political opinion, individual judgement must not be based on intuition, feelings and anti-intellectualism.


Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle
Friday, May 22, 2020
Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle

Yutaka Suzuki, Professor, Laboratory of Systems Genomics, Department of Computational Biology and Medical Sciences, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, in Tokyo Shimbun (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson (Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet)

Do Not Use War Imagery As A Metaphor In The Coronavirus Battle

We are not fighting a war against Covid-19. Instead, it is a marathon. Shigeru Omi, who has been on the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board since 2013 and is deputy chair of the Japanese government's expert panel on the coronavirus, has stated that war imagery should not be used as a metaphor for the struggle against epidemic in Japan.

Kaori Muto, a specialist in research ethics at The University of Tokyo, has also argued that militaristic language is problematic, because it implies there are generals who control the "battle", while there are "the weak" whose lives must be sacrificed. This is unacceptable, she says.

Health authorities are continuously struggling to find the best ways to inform and persuade the public. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, has called the fight against Covid-19 "World War III" and a "war of endurance". So, another challenge for health professionals is how to compete with government in providing reliable information.


Quarantine Vs Commemorations
Friday, May 22, 2020
Quarantine Vs Commemorations

MSM Ayub, Deputy Editor and columnist, in Daily Mirror (May 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Indi Samarajiva)

Quarantine Vs Commemorations

Is quarantine a method of punishment? That may be a good question to ask after watching police prevent Northern Province politicians from commemorating Tamils who were killed during the civil war that ended 11 years ago.

While the government was preparing to commemorate the members of the armed forces and the police who laid down their lives in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Northern politicians planned a commemoration of those Tamils, including members of the LTTE, who were killed in the war. 

The government, despite its opposition to those events, had not banned them. But the police used the public-health instructions to prevent the Tamil politicians and the Northern people from attending.  

The quarantine process was perceived as a method for isolating people infected with the coronavirus. The police warned former Northern Province chief minister CV Wigneswaran, who was heading to a commemoration, that they would punish him with quarantine if he disobeyed, even though he and his followers said that they would adhere to health requirements. 

Wigneswaran proceeded to the venue with police permission. He and his group travelled in separate vehicles, wearing face masks. Yet the police later consulted the higher authorities before they prevented him from attending the event. The government had instructed the police not to allow gatherings because of the Covid-19 threat. If he had disobeyed, they could have arrested him.

The importance placed on these events by the Tamil politicians and media indicates the vast division among communities 11 years after the end of the war. The government’s position on the commemoration of Tamils killed in the war is not clear. Is it illegal to hold such events? If so, why didn’t the government ban those commemorations under the relevant law without citing the coronavirus threat?


Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Suroto, Director, INKUR (Induk Koperasi Usaha Rakyat, or People’s Cooperative Effort), in Republika (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Danumurthi Mahendra/USAID)

Economic Recovery Sidelines SMEs and Cooperatives

Looking at the scheme for the recovery of the economy, I doubt if this will improve the purchasing power of the public, which the Covid-19 crisis has damaged far more than the monetary crises of 1998 and 2008. The virus has affected both upstream and downstream sectors of the economy where micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and the cooperatives operate, representing 99.3 percent of Indonesian enterprises, contributing 57 percent of GDP.

The recovery scheme envisages a leading role for major companies, including the state-owned enterprises. The role of MSMEs and cooperatives is minimal. Out of the state funding of 318.09 trillion rupiahs (US$21.5 billion), MSMEs and cooperatives get only 34 trillion rupiahs (US$2.3 billion), and that in the form of interest subsidies.

I suspect there is a hidden agenda in this program in which certain elements have lobbied for a leading role in policy. Our recommendation is for a bigger role for the MSMEs and cooperatives.


Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?

Yu Hong, Senior Research Fellow, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 20, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

Will Covid-19 Accelerate the Shift of Manufacturing from China to ASEAN?

As Covid-19 rages across the globe, both the appeal of globalization and the influence of international organizations have diminished. Instead, this crisis has emphasized the importance of building a strong nation and resilient economy.

ASEAN members are among the countries with the closest economic and trade exchanges with China, with which they have strong ties through global supply chains. The impact of the pandemic is evident in two areas: First, ASEAN's tourism revenue depends significantly on Chinese tourists. The significant decline in their numbers has had a huge negative effect on tourism, aviation, catering and other supporting sectors across ASEAN. Second, ASEAN countries participate in the China-centered global industrial chain, relying upon exports of raw materials and intermediate products to China for final processing and assembly. Many countries, notably Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, have trade deficits with China. Deepening deficits will be detrimental to their industrial development.

As a result of rising production costs in China combined with accelerated domestic economic transformation and the Sino-US trade war, a considerable number of multinational companies are diversifying their supply chains by moving some facilities out of China. Covid-19 has accelerated this process, with the crisis being a turning point in the restructuring of the global industrial chain. While seizing the opportunities brought about by these developments remains crucial for ASEAN’s economic growth, the crisis has demonstrated that economic reliance on China and its industry chains carries significant risks.

With a large young labor force and expanding middle class, ASEAN’s potential is huge. The region’s rich natural resources and low production costs allow ASEAN to play a growing role in the global industrial chain. The restructuring of the global supply chain provides an opportunity for ASEAN countries to implement bold economic and labor reforms to accelerate development of manufacturing.


Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?

Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer, in Khaosod News (May 15, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Should Taxpayers Bail Out Thai Airways Again?

The public is debating whether to rescue Thai Airways from its 200 billion-baht (US$6.2 billion) debt or let it go bust. At its peak, the 60-year-old airline was the pride of the nation. But today, Thai Airways is seen as a source of national embarrassment and never-ending sinkhole of taxpayer money. Rumors have it that the airline is ready to file for bankruptcy.

Should taxpayers shoulder the burden? This is not a question of pride or no pride, but how the government should spend our money at the time Thailand is facing grave economic prospects due to the coronavirus.

Not every Thai takes pride in Thai Airways because its prohibitive prices led some to view the airline as more of the pride of the middle class and the elite. It’s an airline on which politicians and those in power feed, while ordinary people are left to clean up the mess. Perhaps the only aspect for which it can now truly be called a national carrier is that all of us taxpayers will likely have to reach into our pockets to cover the losses incurred by the airline.

Thai Airways is a shadow of its past glories. It failed to be competitive now that the aviation sector is full of low-cost rivals. Its management is bloated and ineffective, its business model a failure.

Even if one says that the government should bail out Thai Airways, there is no guarantee how long it will take before the airline comes back begging for more taxpayers’ money. Any attempt to bail out the airline must be sound, transparent and accountable to the public. Thai Airways must bite the bullet and reform. We cannot keep paying for it as long as they can’t give us a credible solution to its woes.


Support for the Abe Government has Cratered
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
Support for the Abe Government has Cratered

Takanori Fujita, Representative Director of not-for-profit group Hotplus and Visiting Associate Professor, Faculty of Human Welfare, Seigakuin University, in Yahoo! Japan (May 18, 2020)

Summary by Nevin Thompson

(Photo credit: Official Website of the Prime Minister and His Cabinet)

Support for the Abe Government has Cratered

Although the government of Shinzo Abe has been launching one emergency economic measure after another, the prime minister's popularity has cratered, falling to an approval rating of just above 30 percent since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in February. According to a poll conducted in mid-May, support for the government was 33 percent, down from 41 percent a month earlier, the administration’s second-worst result since it was formed in 2012. Only 15 percent of respondents said that Abe is exercising the leadership needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Nearly 70 percent said that his efforts were insufficient.

Despite a variety of relief packages aimed at countering the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, a large part of the electorate feels alienated by the government, thanks to years of austerity and neglect. People have been expected to help themselves and have been actively discouraged by the Abe administration over the past decade from seeking any help from the government during tough economic times. Even after receiving 100,000 yen (US$930) in government relief funds, just 15.8 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the government’s measures. Besides complaining that it took too long to distribute the benefit payments, many voters simply feel alienated after nearly a decade of neglect by the Abe government.


Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy
Monday, May 18, 2020
Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy

He Zihuang, senior educator, in Lianhe Zaobao (May 16, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Mailer Diablo)

Chinese-language Education Reform Will Promote Rapid Mass Literacy

It is a shame that the Chinese-language teaching reform over recent years seems to have overlooked the issue of rapid mass literacy. Rapid mass literacy refers to the process of students learning a lot of words in a very short period of time with the goal of quickly being able to read independently.

As the recognition of new words will provide an important foundation for students to learn, literacy teaching should be the focus in the lower grades of primary school. Students can only read independently if they have mastered a certain number of Chinese characters and vocabulary. The promotion of rapid mass literacy, therefore, will support early reading and writing ability.

Singapore’s Ministry of Education has mentioned the importance of literacy each time it carries out Chinese-language education reforms. They have, however, always lacked specific implementation measures. The current approach to literacy teaching takes places over a long time period and has minimal benefit to the cultivation of students’ interest in reading. As a result, the level of Chinese literacy among students does not match their intellectual development.

Promoting rapid mass literacy in the first and second grades of primary school offers a feasible approach. This is not only a way to tackle the difficulty of learning Chinese but is also the only way to increase students' interest in learning Chinese. It is therefore hoped that future Chinese education reforms will seek to promote rapid and large-scale literacy.