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.
Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?
Monday, April 27, 2020
Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?

黄瑞泰, teacher at The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH), in Oriental Daily News (April 25, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Olga Ozik/Pixabay)

Why Do We Still Get So Obsessed With Nationality?

There are more than six million migrant workers and refugees in Malaysia. They live among us and often work in jobs that Malaysian citizens refuse to do. As such, they are an important source of labor for the overall economic development of the nation. Yet, throughout Malaysia’s Covid-19 crisis, foreign workers including refugees have become the targets of criticism.

Everyone who lives in this country is indeed part of our society. We must not get all tangled up in the issue of nationality as we live through this serious global pandemic. Everyone has their own story with regard to nationality, identity or why they came to Malaysia. Yet what we must focus on right now is whether they can maintain the basic requirements for their dignity and survival.

Malaysia's unique political system has caused society to recognize the concept of "citizen" in the narrow sense of nationality. But anyone who lives in a society is a citizen. In this Covid-19 epidemic, we can all become infected and spreaders of the virus. In this crisis, we are all equal.

The stigmatization of and discrimination against migrant workers and refugees create psychological pressures that we cannot understand. If we continue to ignore, condemn, abuse and show prejudice against them, particularly at this critical time, it will not only fail to solve the problems caused by the public-health crisis but could also lead to a more serious situation that we cannot handle.

If we want to maintain the stability of Malaysian society, everyone should take care of and help each other. Throughout this crisis, no one can be alone. Only with mutual understanding and solidarity can we maintain a stable and secure life.

Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected

Lean Hooi Hooi, Professor at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, in Oriental Daily News (April 19, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: esfera /

Citizens Within the Belt and Road are all Connected

From the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan to the time when China was actively battling the epidemic, people from all sectors of Malaysian society contributed money and support by providing healthcare equipment and materials for China. Malaysian private enterprises delivered these items through various channels, while citizens came together to cheer on the Chinese people.

In mid-March, when the number of confirmed cases in Malaysia also started to rise, the government had no choice but to launch their own measures to control the epidemic. Now, Malaysia is facing its own shortage of medical supplies. China has responded by sending necessities including test kits, ventilators and protective personal equipment, while Chinese enterprises have made donations through the embassy. China also sent a team of medical experts to share their experiences with local counterparts.

This crisis has helped demonstrate the deep friendship between Malaysia and China. President Xi Jinping said that "the friendship between nations lies in the mutual love between the people and the mutual love of the people lies in mutual communication." Establishing common ground is the fundamental purpose of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). There are three levels of people-to-people exchange: mutual understanding, trust and friendship to build a community of common destiny. The BRI enhances not only mutual understanding and friendship but also economic cooperation.

The Covid-19 virus presents a crisis and an opportunity to bring Malaysia and China closer. After the crisis, the people of the two countries will continue to work together to promote the movement of people, logistics and capital. This will ensure that the heavily damaged Malaysian economy can recover as quickly as possible.

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.

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.  

The Never-Ending Debate Over Malaysia’s Leadership Transition
Tuesday, January 21, 2020
The Never-Ending Debate Over Malaysia’s Leadership Transition

CK Tay, columnist, in China Press (January 17, 2020)

Summary by a contributor (Photo credit: Prachatai)

The Never-Ending Debate Over Malaysia’s Leadership Transition

When will Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad pass the baton to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) President Anwar Ibrahim? 

Mahathir had said that he would hand over power in two or three years, but some politicians – including Azmin Ali, Deputy President of PKR – have urged him to stay on for a full term of five years. Anwar’s supporters are worried about unexpected twists if the leadership transition drags on. There are also voices urging Anwar to take over as soon as possible to stabilize the Pakatan Harapan administration, as Mahathir has seemed uninterested in pushing for real political reforms.

Mahathir most recently promised to relinquish the post after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. He has also reiterated that he would make good on his promise to hand over to Anwar. Nonetheless, many people do not trust him simply because of his many policy flip-flops since returning to power. 

When a country’s policies are reversed and changed so often under the helm of the same prime minister, investors are understandably worried that the next leader would come in and overturn existing policies, causing them to suffer investment losses. Examples of flip-flops that have left investors in limbo include: calling off the ongoing East Coast Rail Link project, only to revive it later with a revised route; and delaying the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail and the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System projects.

A “coup” should be a hush-hush operation. Leaders of the four political parties within the Pakatan Harapan coalition should meet and discuss matters behind closed doors. It will do investors and businesspeople no good if the disagreement over the Malaysian PM handover continues to boil up publicly till November.

Tussle Over the South China Sea
Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Tussle Over the South China Sea

See Kian Cheah, political analyst, in Nanyang Siang Pau (January 6, 2020)

Summary by a contributor

Tussle Over the South China Sea

Malaysia filed a submission with the United Nations in December 2019, seeking to establish the limits of its continental shelf in the northern part of the South China Sea. This came 11 years after the Vietnam-Malaysia joint UN submission for a portion of their continental shelf in the southern part of the disputed waters.

What are the motives behind Malaysia’s latest move? Malaysia’s UN challenge against China could be seen as a gesture to prod China to expand its investment in Malaysia. In particular, Malaysia wants China to step up its involvement in Malaysia’s mega projects, such as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail. China is also possibly the only country in the world that is capable of helping Malaysia to realize its Greater Kuala Lumpur project – a region ten times the size of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia is well aware that it has everything to lose if it files the submission just to please the United States. Its claims on the South China Sea could therefore be interpreted as a bargain with China. Malaysia and China could opt for private negotiations on the South China Sea, because neither wishes to see both sides suffering consequential losses.

While it is highly possible that Vietnam, after losing the Philippines as its ally on the issue of maritime territorial dispute, is eager to find another partner from ASEAN to voice their discontent with China, Malaysia is unlikely to pair up with Vietnam in this pursuit.

Post 2020: Where is the Road Ahead Leading Malaysia?
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Post 2020: Where is the Road Ahead Leading Malaysia?

Tay Tian Yan, Deputy Executive Editor-in-Chief, in Sin Chew Daily (January 1, 2020)

Summary by a contributor

Post 2020: Where is the Road Ahead Leading Malaysia?

Malaysia’s Vision 2020 dream is dashed. Not only has it failed to be a fully developed country by 2020, it is also far from being a united nation with a diverse, liberal and advanced society. Malaysia is currently bogged down by worsening racial tension, religious dogmatism, a lack of a clear development direction and endless political drama.

Interactions between ethnic groups have fallen into the trap of a zero-sum game, with each blaming the country’s problems on the other. Grassroots support for the anti-ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) rally and the Malay Dignity Congress pointed to hardening racial sentiments. A mufti calling for the closure of vernacular schools and an Islamic welfare association warning the Chinese Organisations Congress of the recurrence of May 13, 1969, racial riots have also found support from the ground.

Religious dogmatism has seeped into everyday life and government policies. A Muslim evangelical foundation is permitted to organize programs in national schools, while society reels from a “Buy Muslim First” campaign (choose Muslim-made products over others).

In terms of development direction, the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 lacks substance and specific execution plans. Since taking over federal power, the new government has reneged on its election promises and made many about-turns on its policies. The East Coast Rail Link, Lynas rare earth plant and Bandar Malaysia – projects once condemned by the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition – are now celebrated as the country’s pride.

On the political front, both Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional choose to continue on the racial and religious path to gain electoral votes and retain federal administration, a great harm to social harmony. There have also been signs of a power struggle among the component parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Meanwhile, the final battle between Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim, while entertaining, is damaging to the country. Inconsistent policies and unstable politics will only push investors away.