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.
RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests
Monday, November 16, 2020
RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests

Chu Kar Kin, Hong Kong commentator, in Oriental Daily (November 13, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

RCEP is in Southeast Asia’s Interests

The members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – 10 ASEAN member countries, as well as South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand – will reach a free trade agreement. Together, they account for about a third of the world’s total population and 30 percent of global GDP. Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, all have great development potential. In terms of economic and trade cooperation, they have many years of experience in dealing with each other.

The RCEP members will sign advanced free trade agreements on goods, services and investment and trade, involving economic and technological cooperation, Fields such as intellectual property rights are becoming more important for countries to reboot their economies, stabilize employment, and stimulate domestic demand. China is also an important export market for Malaysia’s produce such as palm oil, rubber and fruit. Through the RCEP, the two countries can deepen cooperation and trade. 

As such, Malaysia and other ASEAN countries should be optimistic about the future of RCEP. As an important engine for the economic recovery of various industries in the post-pandemic era, the agreement will deepen the integration of global industrial chains. Certain products and services will have lower tariffs, while member states can set up free-trade zones and establish preferential policies for private enterprises with partner countries. RCEP could even become a mini version of the Belt and Road Initiative within the Asia-Pacific region.

In the 21st century, countries need to abandon zero-sum thinking, unilateralism and protectionism, and actively embrace multilateral cooperation. RCEP is a turning point, boosting the economic confidence of Asia-Pacific countries while laying a foundation for future trade in both Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia, supporting economic growth and creating new opportunities. Together, members will construct a global trading system that promotes cooperation through win-win relationships.

Shared Prosperity Beyond the Belt and Road
Monday, October 5, 2020
Shared Prosperity Beyond the Belt and Road

Xie Yuhang, writer, in Oriental Daily (October 2, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: testing /

Shared Prosperity Beyond the Belt and Road

Malaysia and China’s friendly relations have been built upon a long history of common interests and prosperity. In 2019, Malaysia became China’s second biggest trading partner among Southeast Asian nations.

In September 2013, China unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a development strategy to connect the East and the West, while repositioning China as a global trade and commercial center. China proposes to achieve this goal by addressing the infrastructure gap, such as investment in roads and ports, within emerging markets.

As a country whose main income is derived by exports, especially in the commodity trade and electronics/semiconductor supply chains, Malaysia’s economy is heavily exposed to sudden changes in market demand and prices. The urban-rural gap in Malaysia has exposed obvious systemic flaws. For Malaysia to develop further, the government needs to solve its own infrastructure gap. The BRI can help with this thanks to China's expertise in large-scale infrastructure development and development-financing institutions.

As the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, countries are thinking about the most effective recovery strategies. Both Malaysia and China have taken effective measures to control quickly the epidemic and resume economic activities. The progress may not be as fast as expected, because control measures remain in place and the borders are not open. The pace of recovery between Malaysia and China, however, is still faster than other countries.

It is not impossible for both countries to resume previous levels of economic growth. The Malaysian and Chinese governments should seek ways to enable the two countries to work more closely together on flagship projects to create greater value and win-win situations (such as the East Coast Railway). Through stronger Malaysia-China relations both countries can usher in a new generation of peace and prosperity for the 21st century.

Let All Languages Blossom
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Let All Languages Blossom

Ye Jingwei (叶静薇), writer, in Sin Chew Daily (September 22, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: shankar s.)

Let All Languages Blossom

The fact that Malaysians are multilingual often surprises foreigners. Many Malaysians can seamlessly switch from Malay, Malaysia’s official language, to English to their mother tongue or various local dialects. While this is an admirable feature of the country, it occasionally creates controversy.  

In 2018, when the Minister of Transport Anthony Loke had a radio interview with a Cantonese broadcaster, he agreed to conduct the interview in Cantonese. Yet, he was condemned by those behind the Speak Mandarin Campaign. Yet, promoting Chinese should not mean speaking only Mandarin and rejecting all other dialects

After the current government came to power at the beginning of this year, when Deputy Minister of Education Mah Hang Soon took office, he was also criticized by netizens for his comments in Chinese on Facebook. In addition, the Anti-Corruption Commission set up a Chinese version of its official website, which attracted critics who pointed out that under the Constitution, all official content must be published in Malay. The website of the Ministry of Tourism, however, has versions in over ten languages. Is this also against the Constitution?

There is no question that Malay is the country’s official language, and it therefore makes sense to use Malay for official matters. Yet, in this case, the main purpose of the website was simply to convey information. The faster and easier it is to understand, the more convenient it is. After all, the online audience is not limited to just Malaysians. 

Malaysians should prevent any actions that are xenophobic or hostile to speakers of other languages and instead allow all languages to blossom. 

APEC Should Strengthen Cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative
Friday, September 4, 2020
APEC Should Strengthen Cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative

Chu Kar Kin, Hong Kong commentator, in Oriental Daily (August 30, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: APEC Secretariat)

APEC Should Strengthen Cooperation with the Belt and Road Initiative

While there are still uncertainties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit as originally planned. The theme is "Optimizing Human Potential towards a Future of Shared Prosperity”. In short, as the host country, Malaysia will strive to bring APEC's concept to the general public and lay the foundation for the establishment of balance and fair cooperation among various economies, and achieve more inclusive and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. 

APEC and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are both mechanisms that bring together a number of developed and developing countries. It is time for the two to explore the feasibility of mutually beneficial cooperation. If APEC and the BRI can promote cooperation, the potential impact of these two international giants is limitless. Furthermore, it would be cross-industry and cross-sectoral, from energy to infrastructure, from supply chain to green finance, from logistics management to shipping and aviation. 

APEC and the BRI share the same direction. The integration and cross-industry cooperation of various industries can not only increase sustainability but also produce other benefits. The members of the BRI come from all over the world and new members will continue to join. APEC should consider establishing a formal partnership or alliance, with the BRI to achieve a win-win situation. This could be enshrined by signing a memorandum of cooperation.

The 21st century is a period of encouraging cooperation and inclusive economic cooperation. Future cooperation between APEC and the BRI will help to achieve this.

Will There Be Another Financial Crisis?
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Will There Be Another Financial Crisis?

Kuay Chau Churh, writer, in Oriental Daily (August 21, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: jEd dC)

Will There Be Another Financial Crisis?

The global economic shock of 2020 was not caused by financial speculation or asset bubbles. The black-swan event was that led to it was instead a pandemic and, to control the spread of the virus, almost all countries have adopted a national lockdown policy, restricting international movement and prohibiting many economic activities.

The result of this unprecedented collective shutdown was revealed in the second quarter of 2020 when Malaysia’s GDP fell 17.1 percent year-on-year, setting a record for the worst quarter in history. This forced the central bank to revise its full-year GDP target from the original positive growth rate of 0.5 percent to a contraction of between 3.5 to 5.5 percent.

The ability to stage an economic rebound depends on Covid-19. Any recovery will depend not on its direction or intensity, but instead on when the epidemic can be completely eliminated. Instead of focussing on GDP, it is better to study the debt situation. With a healthy financial situation, anyone can survive the economic downturn.

But household debt is high, accounting for more than 80 percent of GDP. Malaysia’s unemployment rate soared to 5 percent in April, setting a new 30-year high. The job market in the next few months will definitely be bleak, and household financial problems will deepen. Another concern is the housing bubble – more than half of household debt is tied to mortgages.

The central bank will definitely cut interest rates further. If Malaysia is in a low interest rate environment in the next few years, it is conceivable that the banking and financial industries will be hit first. Can the financial system? 

If the economy is to survive, there is no other way than wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and take preventive measures. Only when the epidemic has stabilized can economic affairs recover. 

The Dilemma Facing the Malaysian Chinese
Monday, August 17, 2020
The Dilemma Facing the Malaysian Chinese

黄瑞泰, middle school teacher and a committee member of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Oriental Daily (August 15, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Jorge Láscar)

The Dilemma Facing the Malaysian Chinese

In Malaysia, the dilemma of the Malaysian Chinese is that, to live in peace as citizens, they need constantly to show their non-threatening loyalty.

Today's Malaysian Chinese society has two ways to face this dilemma. The first is to welcome the rise of China, hoping that this will increase the voices of Malaysian Chinese. This approach, however, not only fails to tackle the dilemma but also makes the situation increasingly complicated and awkward. The culture of the Chinese in Malaysia has long a history, and over the years, a Chinese culture unique to Malaysia has developed. The rise of China has led to a weakening of Chinese ways of living in Malaysia. As a result, many have embraced China, deepening the dilemma faced by the Malaysian Chinese community.

The second way is to reflect on the uniqueness of the Malaysian Chinese themselves and seek ways for the community to capture the local characteristics of Malaysia. This involves establishing and fostering uniqueness, a Malaysian Chinese ethos that integrates different ethnic cultures.

While the strength of China will inevitably bring huge changes, this may not necessarily help the Malaysian Chinese community to resolve their dilemma. They should work to wipe out completely the boundaries between them and promote the idea of a strong family.

The Virus of Racism: How Can We Disinfect Ourselves from It?
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
The Virus of Racism: How Can We Disinfect Ourselves from It?

Lim Teck Ghee, commentator and public policy analyst, in Oriental Daily News (June 19, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit:

The Virus of Racism: How Can We Disinfect Ourselves from It?

The death of George Floyd has triggered a wave of anti-racism protests around the world. Millions of citizens, especially young people, took to the streets in solidarity with American demonstrators while criticizing their government's direct or implicit support for racist actions, actions and policies. In spite of Covid-19 restrictions, there were demonstrations in more than 50 countries. While there were no similar protests in Malaysia, some of the country’s leaders have made statements asking citizens to reflect on the treatment of minority groups.

One of them was Nazir Razak, the former chairman of CIMB Group. He expressed support for the movement and reflected upon the universality of this issue in Malaysian society: "How minorities here face the same challenges every day. How institutionalized measures to redress inequality between races have been abused or become out of date, and need to be overhauled. How we don’t even define racism or legislate against it. Our nationhood – what it means to be Malaysian and how our government, economy and society work – needs recalibration."

Political commentator Tajuddin Rasdi wrote that the curve of racism will never be flattened because racism is not considered dangerous, nor do people believe that their alleged enemies are discriminated against. Nazir suggests that Malaysia needs "a new platform" to solve the entrenched racism and that we should be prepared to open the Pandora box and face the difficult problems related to racism.

The racist virus in Malaysia may be completely different from the virus in the US or other countries. However, it ultimately remains a significant problem in both the public or private sphere and affects every aspect of our lives each day. Exposing this virus to the sunlight can give society a better understanding of this social disease and how we can disinfect ourselves from its hazards.

The Confusion Around Languages
Friday, July 3, 2020
The Confusion Around Languages

Henry Ren Jie Chong, Research Fellow at the Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, in Oriental Daily News (June 26, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

The Confusion Around Languages

There has long been a controversy over whether Chinese Malaysians should learn Malay. One of the main arguments for this is the idea that Chinese should learn Malay to be integrated in society, be accepted by the Malays, and to prove that they are “Malaysian”. But we should move beyond the issue of language and discuss what it means to be a national of any country. 

History textbooks would often describe nationality and ethnic groups as referring to the same blood, language and culture groups. This is an inaccurate definition, however. The same language is not enough to be an element of unity. Neighbors Austria and Germany both use German, yet they are not the same country. Switzerland is another example. It has four national languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh. The Swiss does not therefore think that people who speak another language are necessarily of another country.

There are many ways to distinguish one another within a country. Even if there is one language, there remains many other ways to distinguish citizens from each other. And, even if there are different languages, it is still not be impossible to build a nation. In other words, language is not a key factor.

In Southeast Asia, many countries are still building their nation-state. Malaysia is no exception. The question of whether everyone should learn Malay comes up in the context of building a nation. But we should try to think outside such a framework and more about what kind of country we want to build.

The Epidemic is Creating New Waste
Friday, June 12, 2020
The Epidemic is Creating New Waste

Dato’ Ray Tan, environmentalist, in Oriental Daily News (June 11, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Roksana Helscher/Pixabay)

The Epidemic is Creating New Waste

Malaysians have needed to learn a lot under this “new normal”. In addition to wearing masks and maintaining social distance, increased hand washing, and disinfection have also become part of daily routines. Little consideration, however, has been given to how we should deal with used masks and efficiently reduce disposable plastic waste.

According to the Director of the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp), consumers have changed their consumption patterns through greater online shopping for daily necessities and ordering food delivery. As a result, the amount of plastic waste has increased.

During the early days of the lockdown period, only packed take-outs were provided by food operators. The use of disposable plastic lunch boxes and plastic bags, therefore, increased significantly. This was largely unavoidable. Only one out of 10 workers prepares their own lunch. After nearly three months of different stages of lockdown, many people have become accustomed to minimizing dining out. Malaysians should make an effort to make their own lunches to reduce the use of disposable tableware and plastic.

It is undeniable that masks have now become one our daily necessities. The safe disposal of used masks has become a serious issue. While there are no reliable data to show the current global mask usage, Chinese media have reported that the daily output of masks in China on February 29 alone was 116 million. More concerning is that not only are the masks made from plastic but used masks may have also been contaminated with viruses and bacteria.

We must all work harder to think seriously about what can be done to deal with this new type of waste. 

What Should Black Lives Matter Mean to Non-Americans?
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
What Should Black Lives Matter Mean to Non-Americans?

Surekha A Yadav, columnist, in Malay Mail (June 7, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Anthony Quintano)

What Should Black Lives Matter Mean to Non-Americans?

The world watched as protests erupted following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white policeman. As Americans took to the streets, people everywhere took to social media to show solidarity. Many Singaporean friends did too, some going so far as to donate funds to help protesters in the US pay legal costs.

The extent that the #blacklivesmatter cause found resonance in Singapore was heartening. It is good when people recognize injustice in other parts of the world, and I applaud their generosity.

I hope it is part of a larger commitment to fighting injustice everywhere because it is notable that so many of us seem far less concerned about injustice at home or in our local region. This is not a competition; this is about solidarity.

For example, the obvious matter of foreign workers. They are in this country legally performing vital services, but their living conditions, wages and general treatment are markedly inferior to what the local population enjoys.

As non-citizens, it can be argued they should not expect equal pay. But even then, these workers have a Covid-19 infection rate that seems to be over 100 times higher than that for the general population.

Yet support for foreign workers in Singapore has been less visible than support for #blacklivesmatter. Part of this is just the cultural power of the USA. What happens in America seems to be happening to us and so hopefully the lessons learned there will resonate and come to be applied here.

This would be the best outcome. The worst case would be that many of us are simply “virtue signaling” with little thought given to the underlying lessons and situations at home. I hope the outpouring of activism we are seeing will bring positive change at home too.

Populism and Racism Co-Exist, but will Elites Give up Vested Interests?
Monday, June 8, 2020
Populism and Racism Co-Exist, but will Elites Give up Vested Interests?

Wong Tai Chee, retired professor at Southern University College, in Oriental Daily (June 6, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: MyLifeStory)

Populism and Racism Co-Exist, but will Elites Give up Vested Interests?

The Trump administration of the United States and the Conservative government of the UK are prime examples of right-wing populism. Right-wing populists often use inflammatory remarks to win the support of the middle and lower classes while creating international and domestic enemies as a means of consolidating power.

In Malaysia, right-wing populism has emerged in another form, blending Malay racism with Islamic elements. It has become a tool to promote cohesion of the country, even if it is rife with internal conflicts of interest. Theoretically, this not only protects the vested interests of Malay elites, but also protects the political and economic interests of the middle and lower classes of Malay people. This form of racism with elements of populism has actually succeeded in giving Malay middle and lower classes confidence in the government. Populism and racism are very different, yet in Malaysia they exist together. We call this phenomenon populist racism.

In Malaysia, the Malay racist upper class has wielded power through the ruling class to control and manipulate the civilian population as a whole. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has successfully used poverty alleviation alongside democracy as tools to build legitimacy and a certain degree of justice, thereby giving the majority of the Malay middle and lower classes a sense of security. Malay racism advocates the love of one’s own ethnic and religious attributes as the basis for safeguarding the interests of the ethnic group. To this end, it must exclude political leaders of other races, no matter their contributions to the country.

For the common interests of the people of all ethnic groups, the only hope lies with the intellectuals with a conscience among the Malay elite. But can we expect those with a conscience to be willing to give up their vested interests?

There is No Such Thing as Outdated Businesses, Just Outdated Thinking
Monday, June 1, 2020
There is No Such Thing as Outdated Businesses, Just Outdated Thinking

Koong Lin Loong, Chairman, SMEs Committee, The Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, and Managing Partner, Reanda LLKG International Chartered Accountants, in Sin Chew Daily (May 30, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory

There is No Such Thing as Outdated Businesses, Just Outdated Thinking

Malaysia is slowly reopening its economy. But after such trauma, how can companies recover?

While the central bank has announced a six-month grace period to help SMEs with loan repayments, by October their cashflow will tighten up. Even if the economy recovers, Malaysians should be prepared to maintain social distancing in the medium and long term. This would make it impossible for companies to return to where they were before Covid-19.

While the situation may appear bleak, there are four things companies should do to prepare:

First, companies should reformulate a one-year financial budget for after this crisis, considering how to reduce fixed costs such as rent and salaries, while trying to maintain their original income and develop more sources of revenue. Second, companies should try and change their working methods (to video conferencing, for example), re-examine their products and services, and optimize productivity. Third, companies should focus on whether their services and products are truly in demand now. Society may need new things. Finally, companies should conduct mid- to long-term analysis of the productivity of employees, machinery and operating models.

Companies should also make good use of the tax incentives and allowances granted by the state to protect cashflow during this difficult period. Furthermore, the government should use this crisis to reform completely the domestic business environment to be more pro-business by reducing bureaucratic procedures, eliminating corruption and attracting investment. This would build a good foundation in the event of another wave of the pandemic.

This crisis has affected many companies, and some will not survive. There is no need to be pessimistic, however. This will pass and normality will return. In the meantime, companies should focus on reducing costs and protecting cashflow. After all, there is there is no such thing as outdated businesses, just outdated thinking.

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 /

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.

Profiting from the Crisis is Unacceptable
Friday, May 15, 2020
Profiting from the Crisis is Unacceptable

侯显佳 (Hou Xianjia), columnist, in Oriental Daily News (May 13, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Abdul Razak Latif /

Profiting from the Crisis is Unacceptable

As nationwide efforts are made to combat the Covid-19 epidemic, we must also prevent the emergence of another disease – corruption. It has recently been reported that there have been suspected cases of corruption in the course of the Ministry of Health’s procurement of medical materials during the crisis. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating several allegations including abuse of power relating to negotiations and contracts.

The purchase of medical materials must follow the principles of transparency, openness and integrity. While government departments should be able to make purchases quickly with minimal red tape, they must still choose reputable and recognized contractors or sellers. Medical supplies such as respirators and medical equipment should only be purchased from established companies. In addition, the government should publish the amount and details of the materials. While enhancing transparency and credibility, this can also eliminate rumors and speculation.

During the crisis, many large companies, businesses, civilians and non-governmental organizations have made donations. When received by the government, they should also provide information about these materials so that medical staff and hospitals can ensure they have access to the available supplies and equipment they need. 

Investigations will clarify if there are indeed cases of corruption or abuse of power. This epidemic is expected to continue for a long time. Steps must be taken to prevent individuals from using this crisis to make a fortune.

Finding a Balance Between Virus Control and Protecting the Economy
Monday, May 11, 2020
Finding a Balance Between Virus Control and Protecting the Economy

Dominic Lau Hoe Chai, National President, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, in Oriental Daily (May 8, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: S.O /

Finding a Balance Between Virus Control and Protecting the Economy

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that most economic activities would resume on May 4. The government must closely monitor the situation and take relevant measures to prevent future outbreaks and support Malaysia’s economic recovery. The Gerakan party supports the government ’s decision, as it strikes a balance between the fight against the epidemic and the need to revive the economy.

The government cannot keep people at home and stop all economic activities indefinitely. This decision is undoubtedly important for businesses and citizens. SMEs account for 70 percent of domestic enterprises, contributing more than two thirds of employment opportunities and accounting for nearly 40 percent of GDP. Only by keeping the enterprises active can we avoid growth in unemployment.

The resumption of some economic activities and employment, however, does not mean that the control order has been lifted. On the contrary, this is only a slight loosening of measures. People can still not hold large-scale group activities. The public must strictly abide by the guidelines set by the government to avoid future outbreaks of the virus. This will hopefully strike a balance between virus control and protecting the economy.

Health experts have warned that the Covid-19 virus could continue to circulate for the next two years. The government and the people should not become complacent. Actions such as wearing masks, maintaining personal hygiene and keeping safe social distance are all necessary. Law enforcement agencies should also enforce the law strictly and penalize those who violate orders.

The Gerakan Party emphasizes its support of the government ’s recent decision as the longer strict controls are in place, the greater the impact on the national economy.