Soon Hoh Sing, current affairs commentator, in Oriental Daily News (August 29, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: John Ragai)
By 2030, the share of Malaysia’s population aged 65 years and over is forecast to exceed 10 percent. This will mean that the country will experience aging demographics and a low birth rate. This will put pressure on public finances due to falling tax revenues and increasing public health expenditure.
While this is a universal phenomenon, it is important to note that, since Malaysia is not a rich country, public debt has been rising sharply. If trends continue, it is likely that the lives of Malaysians will become increasingly difficult due to the country’s limited fiscal capacity. One of the possible consequences of this is that public services that are currently free or cheap will become chargeable or expensive, especially medical services.
In many developed economies such as South Korea and Taiwan, the population is already declining. Unless the fertility rate increases or foreign workers are welcomed, it is inevitable that our society will struggle. As far as Malaysia is concerned, in the 1950s, the number of births per woman was roughly five to six, while some even gave birth to 10 children. In recent years, however, this figure has dropped to two.
In developed countries, there are usually various measures in place to encourage childbirth. In Malaysia, there are Chinese groups that have set up grants to encourage childbirth, but the response has not been satisfactory. If it hopes to reverse the declining fertility rate, Malaysia will have to work out how to offer benefits to raising a family that outweigh the various costs. If not, the alternative will be to welcome foreign workers to make up for inevitable labor shortages.
Jan Albert Suing, political science researcher and writer, in The Manila Times ( October 17, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Ken Opprann/Nobel Prize Outreach)
The Nobel Prize is arguably the most prestigious award in the world. But in the Peace category, its reputation has been tarnished in much of the world. In some cases, the honor has gone to the polar opposite of the stated ideals such as Barack Obama, who approved the Libya and Syria bombings. The award is routinely used by the US, the UK and the West to divert attention from their own warmongering and to moralize and to create willing proxy mouthpieces to attack nonaligned nations or leaders.
Journalist Maria Ressa does deserve recognition. The Philippine government did congratulate her. Whether we agree with her politics or not, she has shown courage, risked legal cases and financial pressures. but she also receives millions of dollars of foreign money from groups such as the US National Endowment for Democracy.
Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have suffered a far higher price against far more aggressive governments of superpowers, created much greater impact against tyranny, wars, and freedom of information, for humanity and not just one country.
On what basis can the Nobel board consider Maria Ressa or Dmitri Muratov of Russia more deserving of recognition, courageous as they are for criticizing their governments? What about different whistleblowers of US military atrocities who were charged or put in jail for years? What about leaders or lesser luminaries who have actually avoided, prevented or reduced wars? There is a clear conclusion to draw: There can be no heroes recognized when their actions are against the US or Western government.
Qian Hao, Professor and Director of the Centre for Canadian Studies at the Shanghai International Studies University, and President of the Association for Canadian Studies in China, in Global Times (September 23, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Martin Chevalier/Le Journal de Montréal/Press pool)
Justin Trudeau has won a third term as Canada’s prime minister, with his Liberal Party forming another minority government. What does this mean for China-Canada relations?
Canada’s China policy was one of the issues in the campaign debates. The "3Ms Case" (referring to Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou detained in Canada and the two Canadians who were arrested in China, Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor) is likely to have affected voting preferences.
Whether China-Canada relations can recover now that the election is over depends on the diplomatic agenda of the two countries. Trudeau promised that he would bring back the two Michaels from China. Yet Meng's return is still a prerequisite for improving China-Canada relations. The Canadian side hopes that the United States will lift the charges against Meng. This, however, depends on the diplomatic skills of Canadian policymakers.
According to data from the China-Canada import and export trade index for the three years from January 2018 to December 2020, China-Canada trade volume was not affected by the deterioration of diplomatic relations. This offers clear evidence that Canada is different from Australia. In addition, Canada, as a member of the Five Eyes alliance, is the only country so far that has not blocked Huawei from participating in 5G contracts.
It is possible that Trudeau will continue to work hard to improve China-Canada non-governmental relations during the term of his new government, particularly in areas such as environmental protection and energy. The governments of China and Canada should adopt a positive dialogue, seek common ground while understanding differences, and deepen cooperation.
Liu Xuming, Chairman of Asia Digital Bank, in Oriental Daily News (September 21, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: MyDIGITAL)
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted more Malaysians to accept digital finance processes such as paying bills by online transfers. This has prompted Bank Negara Malaysia, the central bank, to announce that it is issuing up to five digital bank licenses by the first quarter of 2022. The fierce competition in this sector indicates the digital transformation of the banking and financial industries in Malaysia.
On the demand side, the demand for digital banking services among Malaysians is increasing. Mobile banking transactions in the first year of the epidemic reached 460 million Malaysian ringgit (US$110.3 million), an increase of 125 percent over 2019. On the supply side, many companies have formed consortia to join the fierce battle for the five licenses. Facing such strong demand, improving the general and professional education for users of digital finance is essential.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysian government has promoted the professional training of digital economy human resources such as through the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which was announced in February 2021. The domestic labor market, however, remains unable to support the development of the digital financial industry. To overcome the talent shortage, hiring managers are required to provide on-the-job training to make up for the lack of skills. The level of general knowledge of digital finance among the public is also a concern. Awareness is limited to online banking, with few knowing anything about sophisticated products and services such as digital assets.
In the face of the unstoppable wave of the digital finance era post epidemic, not only professionals but the public too should have sufficient knowledge of digital finance. This will not only help build understanding and trust but also an appreciation of all digital financial products. This will allow the whole society to access and manage wealth fairly and efficiently.
Watanabe Masahito, Associate Professor in the Graduate School of International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies at Hokkaido University, in Liberty Times (September 19, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: @DeptofDefense on Twitter)
The US has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and American public opinion is now shifting on the necessity of future military deployments. Decisions on where troops should be deployed depends on foreign policy priorities. Taiwan should consider just how much of a priority it is to the US. There are three points to consider:
First, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan represented the end of the 20-year war that began under the presidency of George W Bush. Many people in the US believe that the war in Afghanistan was unnecessary. After then president Barack Obama ordered the execution of Osama Bin Laden, public concern for Afghanistan continually diminished. Withdrawing troops was one of the key priorities of President Joe Biden.
Second, public opinion in the US still favours strict policies against China with a 2020 survey showing that 73 percent of American citizens had a negative attitude towards Beijing, the lowest level since the Cold War. As this attitude spans both Democrats and Republicans, the tough stance of the US against China is not expected to change in the short term.
Finally, there has been a steady deepening of Taiwan’s relations with both the US and Japan. This is largely related to the impact brought about by the loss of freedom in Hong Kong. Protecting the security and stability of Taiwan is seen by the US and Japan in the broader perspective of protecting freedom and democracy in Asia.
Taiwan’s context is clearly very different from Afghanistan. Nevertheless, if the recent US withdrawal of troops can revitalize discussions on the development of Taiwan-US relations, this would be a positive thing.
Dwikorita Karnawati, director of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), in Media Indonesia (October 1, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: cea +)
Though it has been three years, the earthquake and tsunami that occurred on September 28, 2018, are still etched in memory. More than 2,000 people died in the disaster. A rare type of earthquake, where the fracture velocity exceeds the speed of seismic shear waves and causes a sonic boom. An earthquake of this type was also blamed for the disaster that hit San Francisco in 1906 and killed more than 3,000 people.
The government’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has changed the socialization material to educate the public, especially those who live along tsunami-prone coasts. The simple message is, if you feel an earthquake shock, immediately run away from the beach to a high place, without waiting for an early warning or siren.
Whether a tsunami occurs or not, the important thing is to save yourself first. This message is part of our effort to build a culture of safety by increasing the community's capacity to carry out self-evacuation. Having this capability will be very effective in protecting coastal communities from tsunamis, as has happened in the communities of Japan in 2011, Nias in 2005, and Aceh in 2004. Bearing in mind, in some parts of Indonesia, the estimated time of arrival of a tsunami ranges from one to seven minutes. The old principle of 20-20-20 (if you feel a shaking on the beach for 20 seconds, immediately run to a place higher than 20 meters because a tsunami will come 20 minutes later) seems no longer appropriate.
Another thing which is no less important is to build a reliable communication network infrastructure. Not only is it vital in disseminating early warning messages but communication networks are also vital in disaster reaction, rescue and relief. No one can predict when the earthquake and tsunami will occur but with the involvement of all parties – the central and local governments, community, academics, private sector and media – to provide comprehensive education and robust mitigation plans and efforts, then Indonesians can manage to live with the threat of disasters. Like in the Korean television series Squid Game, Indonesia is in a race against time. Every second is so precious.
Anil K Antony, tech entrepreneur, in Hindustan Times (October 4, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: @narendramodi on Twitter)
A key focus of discussion at both the Quad Summit and the India-US bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden was tech collaboration. While the two leaders agreed to revive a bilateral mechanism for accelerating high-tech commerce, Quad discussions had better defined outcomes. These included an agreement on tech principles and standards and an understanding among the participating countries (Japan and Australia were the others) to build on the work of a critical and emerging technology working group, first conceived at the Quad’s virtual summit in March.
The group is meant to facilitate technology standards development, and identify collaborations on critical and emerging technologies, including biotechnology, semiconductors and future communication technology. A key objective is the creation of resilient technology supply chains. Both the bilateral and Quad meetings focused on low-emissions technology solutions to tackle the climate crisis, as well as cybersecurity.
These are positive developments for India. Disruptive changes in China, however, make the realization of these goals challenging. China’s clampdown on tech companies has been restricted only to the consumer sector, even as state support to hard and manufacturing sectors including 5G/6G, semiconductors, batteries, avionics and space tech has accelerated. This suggests a state-supervised redirection of the tech sector into emerging strategically vital areas to optimize long-term geopolitical and geo-economic gains.
The Quad’s success in high-tech cooperation depends on the ability of the four nations to draw on each other’s strengths and identify opportunities for collaboration. They would also have to work with utmost urgency if they are to keep up with the singularly focused, state-guided competition from China. Falling behind in these strategic emerging technologies, the drivers of the digitally driven economies of our future, will be debilitating for democracies.
Nelson Chow Wing-sun, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at The University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (August 13, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: HUI YT / Shutterstock.com)
The changes that have occurred in Hong Kong over the past year have made some consider emigrating. The current wave of emigration may not stop in the short term. For Hong Kong to turn a new page, society must re-understand the meaning of "one country, two systems" and embrace their national identity. Since the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong people have mostly focused on defending the systems and values left over from the British colonial era. They have, therefore, overlooked their new “one country” national identity. The government must do more than just prevent social turmoil if they expect to ease the wave of emigration. There are several ways to do this:
First, with the National Security Law enacted last year, order in society has returned. But stopping violence and curbing chaos is not enough. The government must win the support of the people so that they can have confidence in the future of Hong Kong.
Second, the government should implement various programs to improve people's livelihood. The government should address problems such as the housing shortage and the lack of care for the elderly, rather than just make statements. Only through this can society feel that the government is determined to improve their lives and put their wellbeing first.
Finally, the government should redefine the values of Hong Kong people. While Hong Kong people’s pursuit of democracy, freedom and the rule of law are not wrong in themselves, the relevant interpretations of them have unfortunately been distorted. The most difficult task, therefore, is to reshape the values that are in line with the current situation in Hong Kong, making them the basis for uniting society and once again encouraging people to seek common ideals and goals.
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: CCTV screenshot from YouTube)
Hao Min, Vice Dean of the Department of International Politics at the University of International Relations, in Global Times (July 16, 2021)
Academic cooperation and scientific and technological exchanges are an important channel for engagement between China and the United States. In response to the nonsensical American government’s presidential proclamation barring certain Chinese students and researchers from entering the US as non-immigrants, over 1,000 Chinese students from eight top science and engineering colleges in China are initiating a class-action lawsuit requesting that the administration of Joe Biden revise or rescind the executive order.
Signed by Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, in May 2020, the order was ostensibly aimed at "protecting intellectual property rights" and "preventing spies from stealing advanced American science and technology". It completely runs counter to the values of "openness and freedom" in academia that Americans defend.
Students should be aware of the following:
First, the large-scale refusal of visas is an extension of the US investigation of Chinese researchers. The vast majority of those scrutinized have been shown to have nothing to do with the "technical espionage" alleged by the US. This illustrates that the US government is determined to curb China's high-tech development for national strategic purposes.
Second, the vague term "military-civil fusion" has become a gimmick used by the US to suppress China. Students (even those from the arts or social sciences) who were refused visas came from science and engineering colleges considered by Washington to be involved in military-civil activities and to have a connection to the People’s Liberation Army. It should be noted that many American laboratories are funded by the US military.
Chinese students must be prepared for a protracted legal battle. Litigation in the US is costly and could last months to years. Even though many American colleges and universities have responded positively to the views of Chinese students, none have been willing to support the case against the government.
John Leo C Algo, climate advocate and environment researcher, in Rappler (September 21, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
Nearly five decades have passed since then-president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. While he claimed this was done to suppress civil unrest and communist threats, it became glaringly obvious that he simply took advantage of the chaos to create a dictatorship that plundered this nation for the next 14 years.
The impact of martial law was so devastating that we are still feeling the consequences today. By the time Marcos was kicked out, the economy was in bad shape from the corruption and heavy borrowing from other countries. Poverty rates drastically increased, the value of the peso went down, and the country's reputation crashed. Truth be told, all of us are still paying for the trillions worth of debt today.
No matter how hard the Marcoses try to make us forget, we remember that thousands were killed or tortured during this time. Their human rights were undoubtedly violated, their families suffered. The dictator's family does not even have the decency to apologize and admit to the crimes.
Nevertheless, arguably the most important fallout from the martial law era is our newfound appreciation of freedom. The restoration of democracy in 1986 gave hope for Filipinos to reverse the wrongs of Marcos, his family, and his cronies, and finally place our country on the right path.
Current President Rodrigo Duterte is implementing the Covid version of martial law right now. Lockdowns, military personnel in places where they should not be, extrajudicial killings, the economy in recession, his cronies getting rich too fast to be hidden.
The fallout from martial law is an issue of national significance. This means that we all are stakeholders, and we have the right to resolve this for good. There is no neutral anymore. Moving on is not an option, not until justice is served.
Ann Hsieh Ching-fan, adjunct instructor of journalism and mass communications at International College of Ming Chuan University, in The Storm Media (July 25, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Executive Yuan)
Vaccines are the best weapon against Covid-19. Despite their availability in many countries, there are still some who are reluctant or refuse to get vaccinated. In Taiwan, where the pandemic has claimed over 700 lives, there are many lessons to learn from "vaccine hesitancy”.
While there are vocal groups who are reluctant to take the vaccine all over the world, the polling company YouGov found that vaccine hesitancy has dropped in recent months. According to The Economist, there are two reasons for the decline: the speed of the vaccination rollout and the severity of the outbreak. First, when the pace of immunization picks up, many sceptics are more likely to change their attitude. Second, when the number of deaths from Covid-19 increases sharply, people’s fear of the virus is likely to outweigh their concern about vaccines. The latter is the situation Taiwan is in.
At the start of the outbreak in mid-May 2021, there were just 12 Covid-19-linked deaths in Taiwan. At this time, society’s willingness to vaccinate was not high: the vaccination rate was still less than 1 percent with around 66 percent of respondents in a survey stating that they did not want to be vaccinated. Yet, by early June, this percentage had fallen to 27 percent. The extent of hesitation has therefore fallen much faster than in France, Singapore, Hong Kong or the United States. As of late July, the death toll had climbed to nearly 800.
Others should learn from Taiwan’s mistake. The prerequisite for minimizing vaccine hesitation is to prepare adequate vaccines and distribute them early. Compared with Europe and the US, vaccine delivery in Taiwan has been both slow and delayed. Even if the society’s willingness to receive vaccines has risen sharply, the painful price has already been paid.
Xu Chengwei, Research Fellow at Nanyang Technological University, in Lianhe Zaobao (March 15, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: cattan2011)
According to the World Bank, Singapore’s birth rate has declined over the past 30 years and now stands at 1.1, far below that of the population replacement rate of 2.1. There are many reasons for this, which have to do with all aspects of our social environment and work culture. If Singapore’s birth rate is to be increase, scholars and policymakers should discuss the real difficulties faced by families with children and assess the root causes of the reluctance to raise kids.
The following issues should be addressed to encourage young people to have children:
First, the government should continue to subsidize families with children. Although the state already provides generous childcare allowances, there is still room for improvement when compared to other countries such as Canada. Policymakers should conduct detailed household surveys to assess better the childcare burden of the average family.
Second, the government should evaluate and improve existing childcare facilities. Examples of measures include establishing passenger compartments for women on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system and encouraging workplaces to offer maternity rooms with refrigerators for milk storage.
Third, the government should evaluate whether to extend maternity leave, while giving fathers longer paternity leave. Current leave allowances for fathers are low and prevent them from supporting the mother at critical times. In addition, wages during maternity leave should be shared by the company and the government.
Finally, there should be a new holiday and sick leave allowance for maternity check-ups. At present, pregnant women can only use their ordinary sick leave (around 14 days).
Failing to address the declining birth rate will have profound negative impact on Singapore’s economy, society and culture.
Ang Peng Cheoh, self-employed employment agent, in Lianhe Zaobao (July 22, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: chillipadi)
The government has twice in the past three years canvassed the public's views on the death penalty. This has made some worry about whether the authorities are considering its abolition.
The death penalty debate has a long history. Human rights organizations that oppose the death penalty often argue that there is no evidence that it reduces the crime rate. Meanwhile, the Catholic church opposes that death penalty because it deprives people of their sacred life and dignity. While these arguments may appear reasonable, they only uphold the human rights and the entitlement of the perpetrators. Meanwhile, they fail to consider justice for the victims and their families.
Serious crimes punishable by the death penalty in Singapore include murder, drug trafficking, and the use of arms and firearms. This has led to significant decrease in crime each year. In 2012, Singapore amended its relevant mandatory death penalty law. This allowed judges to use their discretion in cases. For instance, drug traffickers who provided information that led to the arrest of drug lords would not have to face capital punishment.
This amendment sends the wrong signal to potential criminals. Those who commit serious crimes should be sentenced to death in accordance with the law. Empowering judges to consider mitigating circumstances should only be permitted to do so in cases that do not involve the death penalty. There should be no gray areas, no room for discretion, in the prosecution and sentencing of cases in which conviction would require capital punishment.
Singapore’s long-term security and low crime rate are a result of its strict laws and the insistence that law enforcement and judicial personnel handle cases in accordance with the law. Not only should the death penalty be maintained but it also needs to be consistently enforced to deter and reduce crime.
Zheng Yu (郑禺), freelance writer, in Oriental Daily News (June 29, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory
(Photo credit: YuriAbas / Shutterstock.com)
A government official revealed that Covid-19 vaccines would soon be available privately, allowing the public to pay and get shots faster. There are many problems associated with the commercialization of vaccinations. Immunization should be regarded as a project for which the government is solely responsible because of the simple fact that it is related to public health. Malaysia’s inefficient vaccine rollout has led to a slow uptake rate. While privatization may speed up the process, free-market policies may cause even bigger problems.
In India, for example, some are defrauding others by selling fake vaccines. As early as three months after the vaccine was released, law enforcement agencies began to discover the production and distribution of counterfeits. Even if government supervision is in place to guarantee there are no such products, there are still other concerns. In Japan, there have been cases of normal saline accidently being used to dilute the vaccine. As a result, the relevant authorities had to check antibody responses of all those who had been vaccinated to determine who did not get the proper vaccine.
It is important to remember that humans are not machines that strictly obey orders and it is inevitable that mistakes will occur during vaccination. Fortunately, under the existing mechanism, there is government supervision, and mistakes can be tracked. This would not necessarily be the case with private companies, however. Should something go wrong with a company’s service, it would very likely harm the business if any mistake were revealed. Private firms would, therefore, be more likely to conceal such accidents.
Ultimately, private companies are profit driven. Some companies may secretly cut corners to save expenses, or they may try to conceal incidents to maintain their reputation. It is much safer for vaccinations to be supervised by the government.
Jug Suraiya, columnist, in The Times of India (September 9, 2021)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes
As it celebrates its 75th birthday, India looks over its shoulder to get a glimpse of the road taken, and the one not taken. At the time of independence, there were two visionaries to guide the infant nation as it took its first steps on the path of freedom. One was Jawaharlal Nehru, and the other was Mohandas Gandhi.
They had very different personalities and two very different ideas of India. Nehru sought to imbue his country with a scientific temper, a nation whose temples were factories and dams. Gandhi envisaged a village India in which each rural community was a republic unto itself, bound together by the centripetal motion of the spinning wheel.
As prime minister, Nehru had political authority, Gandhi moral suasion. Nehru’s idea of a centralized, urbanized India which gave priority to higher learning as embodied by our Indian Institutes of Technology prevailed at the expense of primary education and grassroots development which would have released the country from the bonds of illiteracy and rural backwardness.
What if the two Indias could somehow have merged? The household of my early childhood was a microcosm which reflected these two ideas. My father was cast in the Nehruvian mold of vigorous discipline and modernism. He never wore Western clothes but had trained himself to speak perfect English; he was a vocal advocate of family planning, far ahead of his time. My mother came from village India and brought with her a lifetime habit of frugality, an affinity with the downtrodden, and an impish irreverence towards pomposity. So you could say I had the best of two Indias. And yet I have regret. For what? That the pupil didn’t have it in him to learn all that he might have from his two mentors.