SIGN UP FOR INSIGHTS

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.
The World Is Watching As Tokyo Hosts the Olympics Amid Covid-19
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
The World Is Watching As Tokyo Hosts the Olympics Amid Covid-19

Wada Koji, Professor in the Department of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, and Director of International Medical Cooperation at the International University of Health and Welfare, in The Japan Times (July 9, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Hamano Hideya)

The World Is Watching As Tokyo Hosts the Olympics Amid Covid-19

As the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics near, athletes, coaches and staff are arriving amid still strong concerns about the risk of Covid-19 infections. Measures put in place by organizers may look good on paper. But they are bound to be hard to implement in practice. For one, infections could occur among athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers and spectators. The degree of punishment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hands down to violators could trigger diplomatic issues. It would be unfortunate for athletes to lose their chance at winning a gold medal because they infected someone or became infected.

Hosting the games at a time when people are being asked to stay indoors, avoid large gatherings and remain vigilant may impact their willingness to comply with voluntary restrictions, and therefore lessen the impact of the country’s coronavirus measures. With the spectator ban, the risks of infection have been reduced. But it is also important to make sure that infections will not spread outside the venues such as bars and restaurants where people may gather around to watch the games together.

The world is now paying attention to Japan and we need to act responsibly. This is an opportunity, but at the same time, it can be a risk. We need to imagine how people in other countries will react to the Olympics and help prevent the further spread of the virus. The Japanese public and the rest of the world need to know that Japan remains in a difficult situation and that, while steps are being taken to hold the Games safely, the pandemic is still ongoing. The country must set a good example and make sure that our children and grandchildren are respected by the rest of the world. We can do that by making the Olympic and Paralympic Games a success.


A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?

Mohammad Yahya Qanie, founder of the United Nations Association of Afghanistan, in TOLOnews (July 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Graeme Wood)

A Battlefield of Proxy Wars History Has Never Before Seen?

Afghanistan’s tumultuous peace process came to a halt after American President Joe Biden’s announcement of a withdrawal plan for US troops. This served as a good excuse for the Taliban to boycott any peace talks, assuming that they will have power after the US withdraws.

The escalation of attacks by the Taliban significantly heightened fears of a total collapse of the governance of the state, possibly leading to the loss of control of Kabul. The region fears something bigger: the Taliban’s ambition to be “regional heroes” for Islamic extremists.

In China, as soon as the authorities caught a whiff of Islamic extremism, they went into full force against them. Iran does not want the Taliban to return to power. But Tehran seeks to deepen its relations with the group as a precautionary measure. The reformation of an umbrella organization for many extremist groups has frightened Pakistan, which has called on the Afghan Taliban for support. If Pakistan wants to play a positive role in the Afghan peace process, it must stop supporting the Taliban.

The Afghan government and political leaders must work towards an Afghan-owned peace process. The Taliban must realize that Afghanistan has paid a tremendous price for its past isolation during their regime, and it cannot afford to do so in the 21st century. If the Taliban want to be accepted, they must articulate peace policies. Delaying the peace negotiations to test the waters is not a smart idea. All the regional states maintain ties to various militias and other armed groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, as a Plan B. The longer the talks remain stalled, the greater the danger of regional countries defaulting to this Plan B, potentially turning Afghanistan into a battlefield of proxy wars that history has never seen before.


The Resurgence of Nationalism
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
The Resurgence of Nationalism

Endo Ken, Professor at the Graduate School of Public Policy of Hokkaido University, in The Mainichi (July 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: State Council, The People’s Republic of China)

The Resurgence of Nationalism

In China, tourism of famous sites of the Communist revolution is booming, a way of tracing a proud century of the Communist Party on the occasion of its centennial. This phenomenon might appear to involve poor people poisoned by the one-party dictatorship that sometimes treats human rights and democracy as if they were nothing. But in an emerging country that has overcome its "history of humiliation" and is on the verge of becoming the strongest country in the world, many people seem to become naturally patriotic.

Many people reflexively want to defend their country. Love and pride in one's country is not limited to China, but can be found anywhere and anytime. In this age of globalization, whether it is Tokyo or Shanghai, one tends to see oneself as a replaceable part of a larger system that transcends national borders. Nationalism is the perfect mental stabilizer, anchoring one's ever-changing life in a unique history that continues unbroken.

It must work only when there is a sense of unity as a nation. When a catastrophe occurs in a distant part of a country, the feeling of being a fellow countryman surely intervenes. Nationalism has its benefits. However, when patriotism is imposed "from above" from a position of power, and when people are forced to "ethnically" identify with a certain group, the negative effects can be serious.

Japan is not immune to this kind of nationalism. We should not stop watching China's problems and criticizing them. But if we get so caught up in it and succumb to anti-Chinese peer pressure, then Japan will become a mirror image of China. Nationalism is like a well that never runs dry. The off-putting celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party in China are calling Japan to check itself.


A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

Jan Carlo Punongbayan, PhD candidate and teaching fellow at the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines, in Rappler (July 27, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Communications Operations Office)

A Depressing State-of-the-Nation Address – then Olympic Gold-Medal Joy

As poor as President Rodrigo Duterte's Covid-19 response has been, so was his last state-of-the-nation address (SONA). A sensible president would have started the speech with the pandemic, the most important issue facing the country. But two hours in, Duterte had still not discussed it. He covered benefits and pensions for soldiers and police, the fight against drugs, and his battle with oligarchs and communists. Same, same.

He did not pay much attention to our economic crisis. He did not mention that the economy is collapsing and that we are again the “sick man of Asia”. He did not mention that nearly 4 million are unemployed. He did not mention that inflation is still above 4 percent. He did not mention that millions are hungry. Instead, he boasted about statistics from before the pandemic such as the drop in the unemployment rate, the increase in government revenue, and improved credit ratings. In the minds of Duterte and his economic managers, our timeline is divided into pre- and post-pandemic. They know their record is dismal. They have nothing to be proud of.

Is it obvious that Duterte does not care about the suffering of Filipinos? The address was empty, with no focus – as if the pandemic and economic crisis have passed.

But there will probably still be a pandemic in 2022, or even longer. So if we want the country to get better, let us all vote right in May next year . 

As depressing as Duterte's last SONA was, the mood rebounded with news of the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal won by Hidilyn Diaz at Tokyo. I cried, to be honest. Faith in humanity was restored. Hidilyn carried not only the barbell, but also the people in a way that Duterte failed to do.


In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

Feliece Yeban, professor of human rights education at Philippine Normal University, in Rappler (July 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nigel Goodman)

In the 2022 Election, Choose an Education President

The World Bank (WB) report on the dismal state of Philippine education triggered Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones to demand a public apology from the WB for shaming the country. In the absence of national performance metrics data that say otherwise, it is more prudent to take the World Bank report on Philippine education as an opportunity to examine what we need to improve and use lessons and insights from it to frame our expectations of the next president come 2022. We badly need an education president!

The world is talking about the emergence of Society 5.0, or the Imagination Society, where digital transformation and innovation in science and technology combine with the creativity and values of people to solve societal problems, promote wellbeing, and achieve economic development. This emerging society and economy require a pool of human capital with different skill sets that are future-proof, disruption-ready, and innovation-oriented.

The election season is about to start. Candidates must be able to offer concrete education programs that will transition the country’s education system to something that will focus on developing the country’s human capital for Philippine Society 5.0.

The emergency remote learning that the country implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse into the education revolution that is already underway in many parts of the world. We need school leaders who are imaginative and creative, with enough understanding of the new mindset required to transition our system to be future-ready, data-driven, and innovation-oriented. We cannot afford to have school leaders who will do more of the same things.

But first things first, in 2022, we should choose an education president. Everything else will flow from there. We cannot afford to miss the ongoing education revolution.


What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World

Vijay Keshav Gokhale, foreign secretary of India from 2018 to 2020 and Indian ambassador to China from 2016 to 2017, in The Indian Express (July 19, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: CompleteCommunicationsSwe/Pixabay)

What Beijing Wants To Tell The Rest Of The World

Two high priests of the Chinese foreign policy community, Yan Xuetong and Wang Jisi, have written recent pieces in Foreign Affairs. Their task is to interpret for the outside world what China’s leader Xi Jinping means when he says that “the Chinese people have stood up and the era of suffering bullying has gone, never to return.”

Wang and Yan start by acknowledging that recent changes in US policy mean that relations are unlikely to grow any less tense or competitive. Wang holds America responsible for this adversarial environment. China, according to both, is not to blame in any way, and is simply responding to American provocation.

Both scholars wish to persuade readers (and nations) that unbridled competition can only end one way – badly for America. America is plagued by political dysfunction, socio-economic inequality, ethnic and racial divisions, and economic stagnation. Wang says that Washington must accept that “CPC enjoys immense popularity among the Chinese people; its grip on power is unshakeable.”

Their main message to the Americans is to give up on pressuring China to change its political system as this will be futile, and to return to accommodating the Chinese Communist Party as a legitimate global player. The Chinese message to the rest is to bend to China’s inevitable hegemony.

From India’s perspective, three points might deserve attention. First, the statement that there is a paradigm shift in post-Covid Chinese foreign policy. Second, Yan’s forthright statement that Beijing views America’s so-called “issue-based coalitions” (he presumably includes the Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US) as the most serious external threat to its political security and the biggest obstacle to national rejuvenation. Finally, that China is still offering accommodation if Washington just respects Beijing’s internal order and acknowledges China’s regional dominance.


Looking Back Under The New Normal
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Looking Back Under The New Normal

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Department of Prime Minister and NEC)

Looking Back Under The New Normal

The government has survived the odds to last two years in power. The first challenge that the regime of Prime Minister James Marape met was Covid-19. Just like a child is not terrified by the broomstick in mum’s hand but by the look on her face, it was the enormous fear that made everything seem bleak. But the government moved swiftly before the outbreak was declared a pandemic. The measures it took were criticized but the end story is what we see today – matters could have been far worse.

The PM faced other extraordinary challenges – court battles to remove the government and the economic crisis due to Covid-19. The major risk was the economy – that the entire system could break down. Law and order was another concern. There is no “thank you” in politics. What counts is the whole-of-government approach the ruling coalition adopted as its key strategy. What Marape did was try and put Papua New Guinea (PNG) back on track. Marape became the first PM to give money directly to the people – for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises.

The contest is now between those who want to change PNG and those who want to continue with the old normal. Covid-19 is here to stay. People who say all the right things to impress the country, observers, and friendly nations and organizations belong to the old normal. The people are more aware of what goes on today. They want better times and to do away with the old normal.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.


The Case Against the Housing Tax
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
The Case Against the Housing Tax

Ahn Chang-nam, professor of taxation and finance at Kangnam University, in Asia Economics (May 28, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: song songroov)

The Case Against the Housing Tax

The government is discussing a yet another real-estate tax reform. Given the mounting opposition to a tax hike, the suggestion is to increase the threshold for taxation on households holding a single residential property from 900 million won to 1,200 million won and to assess the tax only on the top 2 percent of properties.

Despite this, the tax on a single residential property is still fundamentally flawed. Families often cannot move between homes because as soon as the value of the property exceeds the 900-million-won threshold, they will need to pay the transfer income tax. The same applies for the comprehensive real-estate holding tax. This is a tax introduced to discourage speculation in the high-end real-estate market, but when this tax starts to apply to ordinary households holding a single residential home because of increasing market value, the tax starts to become unfair and punitive.

If the government makes the right decision to eliminate the unfair housing tax, it can more than make up for the tax gap by aligning our system with other developed countries. It can consider the European Union model and remove many exemptions in the value-added tax (VAT) system. By simply reforming the VAT tax system and by eliminating the housing tax in line with the global trend, the government could fix the tax issue once and for all.

Whether or not the government will make this decision will have a decisive impact on the next election. Many people voted for the centrist government not out of approval but out of dislike for the other extreme alternatives. Whether it will continue to be the choice of the people will depend on its tax policy.


Shocking Case of Domestic Helper Abuse Raises Difficult Questions
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Shocking Case of Domestic Helper Abuse Raises Difficult Questions

Giam Meng Tuck, editor and commentator, in Lianhe Zaobao (February 28, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Sherwin Huang)

Shocking Case of Domestic Helper Abuse Raises Difficult Questions

The torture and murder of a Myanmar domestic helper, Piang Ngaih Don, was so appalling that Singapore’s attorney general himself directed prosecutors to press for the highest possible charge against the employer. Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam expressed “complete abhorrence” over the inhumane crime.

The 40-year-old defendant Gaiyathiri Murugayan admitted to torturing the victim for nine months. Why was the abuse not discovered in time?

Under existing regulations, doctors must check the health of domestic workers regularly. This is a chance to report signs of domestic abuse. Yet, past cases have a common feature: The abuse was not found out or swiftly reported by neighbors. This indifference raises questions about Singaporean society.

Domestic workers have left their families and hometowns to work for low wages. On top of this, they may end up ultimately sacrificing their mind, body or even their life. Whether they can be protected and whether they can get justice after being victimized depends not only on effective law enforcement and justice but on our social conscience. No matter how strict the legal framework is, it cannot prevent "ordinary people" from committing extraordinary inhumane crimes.

The Ministry of Manpower is now reviewing the supervision of domestic workers. It is looking at how to improve the notification system for when doctors conduct routine health examinations of domestic workers. Setting up a more effective reporting mechanism is a priority, which requires greater public awareness and better education of society.

Singapore’s wealth and economy are the envy of neighboring countries. The development of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines remain far behind. Singaporeans must express greater sympathy for all domestic workers so as not to be labelled as "rich but not benevolent".


Stakeholder Capitalism As A Governance Model
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Stakeholder Capitalism As A Governance Model

Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (February 17, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Pascal Bitz/World Economic Forum)

Stakeholder Capitalism As A Governance Model

Stakeholder capitalism was a concept advocated by Klaus Schwab when he founded the World Economic Forum in 1971. Shareholder capitalism emphasizes that companies should serve the interests of shareholders, while stakeholder capitalism believes that companies have an obligation to all stakeholders. Shareholder capitalism has been proven extremely harmful, particularly in the US, which has seen widening inequality, intensification of social conflicts, and the control of political parties by powerful interests.

There are still a few countries in the world such as the Nordic countries, New Zealand and Singapore, which are worthy of recognition. Among these countries, Schwab has highlighted Singapore as model of stakeholder government. Schwab’s praise for Singapore spans its public housing construction, education, health and digitalization initiatives.

He has, however, also emphasized that Singapore’s model may be difficult to replicate in other countries with larger or poorer populations. Yet, pragmatic and stakeholder-driven policy making, common in New Zealand and Denmark, are still worthy of recognition. Ultimately, the government should take care of the interests and welfare of all stakeholders.

Schwab may also feel that in this globalized world, Singapore’s commitment to multilateralism is beneficial. This commitment is illustrated through Singapore’s active promotion of the economic integration of the ASEAN region and the country’s participation in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) trade agreements. Furthermore. the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the crucial role this region will play in the global economic recovery.


The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

Ary Hermawan, editor-at-large and PhD student at the Asia Institute of the University of Melbourne, in The Jakarta Post (July 7, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)

The Covid-19 Tragedy Has Exposed How Broken Politics Is

As the Covid-19 second wave engulfs the nation’s most populous island, we can no longer ignore how the ongoing health crisis has exposed the structural problems underpinning our democracy, how the state has failed us in one of the most challenging times in history.

The pandemic is a disease that exacerbates the ills of society. It is a test case for every political regime in the world. Indonesia is sadly among the worst performers. After all the pandemic carnage, we cannot afford to sustain the social and political comorbidities that have brought us to where we are today. We should no longer let state power lie in the hands of a select few who are elected to office through either corruption or patronage.

These are real problems that have severely compromised our democracy. Our elections have become just another means of accumulating wealth and power for those already endowed with both. Our democracy is far from inclusive; only those with strong financial backing can successfully run for office.

When Joko “Jokowi” Widodo became president in 2014, we thought the people had won in the struggle against the elite. How wrong we were. He was forced to appease the political bigwigs and oligarchic powers just to stay in office and do his job. With political-business elites having such sway, we should not be surprised that policies seem to favor those elites and that during these challenging times, the government seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution.

Corruption and rent-seeking remain rampant during the pandemic, which may have even provided a bigger opportunity for the elite to get richer and more powerful. There is no quick fix. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that a structural transformation of our body politic is past due.


Can Peace Still Be Won In Afghanistan?
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Can Peace Still Be Won In Afghanistan?

Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, UK and UN, in Dawn (July 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: US Institute of Peace)

Can Peace Still Be Won In Afghanistan?

Fears are growing in the region and beyond about what lies ahead for war-torn Afghanistan. A throwback to the past with armed power struggles between militias? A protracted civil war? An ascendant Taliban flushed with victory eventually setting up a government with nominal inclusion of minorities? Or will the Taliban reach out to other Afghan parties for negotiations to forge agreement on their country’s political arrangements and future?

The American military withdrawal is nearing completion in what President Joe Biden described in his end-of-mission address as a speedier drawdown driven by safety concerns. It has been orderly and so far, casualty-free. This means that the US-Taliban Doha agreement is holding with the Taliban ensuring a peaceful exit. Pakistan has played a supportive role in facilitating a smooth US pullout.

But as the US drawdown entered its final phase, fighting escalated between the Taliban and Afghan government forces. The Taliban have stepped up their offensive and in a series of military assaults overrun and captured many districts. Taliban representatives have sought to reassure anxious neighbors that they pose no threat to the region. Although President Biden has said a Taliban takeover is not inevitable, a much-cited US intelligence assessment concluded it could be as early as six months. Pakistan’s assessment is that Kabul could hold out beyond six months.

The US has warned the Taliban against any military takeover. The key question now is whether the international community can still act to encourage the Taliban and other parties to pursue a negotiated settlement. Pakistan should encourage an early meeting of representatives of the Troika countries – US, China and Russia. Let it not be said that diplomacy failed the people of Afghanistan who have already suffered so much through decades of war, turmoil and strife.


Tackling The Pandemic Requires A Strategy To Coordinate Resources
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Tackling The Pandemic Requires A Strategy To Coordinate Resources

Tee Beng Lee, board member, Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, in Oriental Daily (February 6, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: UNIMAS)

Tackling The Pandemic Requires A Strategy To Coordinate Resources

There continues to be a large number of new cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia. If the government had acted decisively from the beginning, it is likely the spread of the virus would have been controlled

The more decisions that have to be made, the greater the need for a systematic strategy. The government should encourage private-sector investment and integrate available resources in the government's decision-making system so that the people and the government can stand on the same front to fight the virus.

The medical resources available to the whole country should be calculated by the Ministry of Health. Similar to China, the government should determine how many halls, auditoriums and activity centers could be employed as quarantine facilities or emergency hospitals. It would be reasonable to call for support from private hospitals. Military and police vehicles can provide transport for patients to hospitals and quarantine centers. When the country is in a crisis, extraordinary measures are required.

The government’s laws and regulations are too strict, resulting in many companies worrying about their employees testing positive and being forced to suspend production. This reduces their willingness to test employees. If the government is unable to afford the cost of national testing, it should encourage the business community to take the initiative to test its employees to ensure uninterrupted operations.

The government should be responsible for accommodating infected persons in pre-expropriated isolation facilities, while the business sector only needs to perform disinfection in accordance with the regulations and allow uninfected employees to continue working. This will minimize economic losses and inevitably increase the willingness of the businesses to cooperate with government policies.

With the right strategy, controlling Covid-19 is not a difficult task. However, if there are too many private interests involved, things can become challenging.


Why The Government Should Label Patrol Boats
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Why The Government Should Label Patrol Boats

Chiang Huang-chih, Professor in the College of Law of National Taiwan University, in Liberty Times (February 22, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Wang Yu-ching/Taiwan Presidential Office)

Why The Government Should Label Patrol Boats

Chinese military ships and planes are entering Taiwan’s sea and airspace. In response, President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that “TAIWAN’ should be painted on patrol vessels to increase international visibility at sea. Some have opposed this decision, viewing it as propaganda that will not only be unhelpful but may even provoke Beijing and increase the risk of conflict. But there are a number of reasons why this may be a good move.

First, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the exercise of maritime law enforcement powers must be duly authorized and clearly marked. This helps ensure that any ship that violates the law can be held responsible.

Second, there is no denying that the situation in the waters surrounding Taiwan is becoming more tense, and there are many countries involved such as China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even the United States and South Korea. Taiwan’s missions in these waters would benefit from clearer labels so as to increase recognition of our maritime patrol work, avoid misunderstandings or disputes and improve the safety of maritime personnel.

Third, China’s Coastguard Law was formally passed in February 2021. Japan and the Philippines have protested, claiming that the legislation violates international law. To counter these threats and express Taipei’s commitment to complying with international law and maintaining regional peace, Taiwan should distinguish itself from the Chinese side through a clear external label.

Finally, regardless of whether this label is displayed, China’s intimidation towards Taiwan is unlikely to disappear. Taiwan should therefore choose to display positive images and strengths as determined by those in power and the intentions of citizens.

Making the label “TAIWAN” visible should lead to increased security and international recognition. The more steps Taiwan can take to highlight its own characteristics the better.


The Rule Of Law Is The Basic Core Value
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The Rule Of Law Is The Basic Core Value

Simon Hoey Lee, member of the Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, in HK01 (March 26, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Samuel Wong)

The Rule Of Law Is The Basic Core Value

In 2004, a group of citizens drafted a declaration of Hong Kong's core values, which they stated were "freedom and democracy, the rule of human rights and the rule of law, fairness and justice, peace and love, integrity and transparency, diversity and tolerance, respect for individuals, and professionalism". These must be upheld for Hong Kong’s continued development, they asserted.

This stirred up some controversy then as these values were based on those of Western democratic societies and failed to take into account many of the unique elements of Hong Kong. In particular, the focus on individualism meant that the importance of the hard work of past generations of Hong Kong citizens were overlooked. The "Lion Rock Spirit", for example, which embodies hard work and solidarity, was a factor behind Hong Kong’s rise.

It goes without saying that the rule of law is the basic core value of Hong Kong. It covers human rights, justice, peace, benevolence, honesty and tolerance. Democracy, however, never existed in Hong Kong under colonial rule, and only part of a democratic system was introduced two years before the handover. As such, democracy cannot be regarded as a core value.

Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot guarantee the prosperity of society. The rule of law, however, can bring security and social stability, through which wealth can accumulate and the economy can develop. Singapore and Hong Kong do not figure very highly in assessments of democracy, yet they have good judicial systems and are at the top of the global prosperity rankings. By contrast, India and the Philippines rank higher in democracy, yet their levels of rule of law and prosperity lag far behind.

Democracy is inherently good. But without an in-depth understanding, the pursuit of “Western democracy” undermines Hong Kong’s established rule of law traditions.


Vaccine Sovereignty Is Needed To Secure Our Future
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Vaccine Sovereignty Is Needed To Secure Our Future

Ahn Jong-joo, chief of Social Safety Communications Center at the Korea Social Policy Institute, in Pressian (May 25, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Marco Verch)

Vaccine Sovereignty Is Needed To Secure Our Future

The recent US-Republic of Korea summit was highly anticipated for a reason—hope for more vaccines. Eventually the meeting resulted in a donation of 550,000 doses of vaccine for soldiers and a consignment vaccine production agreement between two companies: Moderna and Samsung Biologics. Despite the government touting the achievement as a step forward in Korea becoming the next vaccine hub, this by itself was not a breakthrough and the dissatisfactory outcome reminds us once more of the critical need to produce our own vaccines as soon as possible.

The agreement entails the US entity shipping the vaccine concentrate to the Korean side which will repackage it into vaccine containers. This will not result in any knowledge transfer or a guaranteed domestic vaccine supply. But our goal as a nation must be to secure sovereignty over production of vaccines, not to become a hub for them. The benefits of securing vaccine sovereignty are many: it will work as an immediate boost to building domestic herd immunity, and it will also give a significant political leverage where we will be able to donate and allocate surplus vaccine supplies, especially to developing countries.

Many experts are predicting that Covid-19 and other coronaviruses will persist for the foreseeable future. Given what we know of the rapid mutation and the clear risk from the global spread, securing vaccine sovereignty is a matter of national security. As a country, we will never be secure without solid control over our vaccine supply and our government has the responsibility to encourage this development by supporting home-grown technology and working with the private sector to share the burden of R&D expenses. Only by securing the present and the future supply of critical vaccines will we be able to truly own our future.