Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Establishing humanitarian lanes during COVID-19

Essential workers have their noses swabbed before returning to the workforce at a regional screening center amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore 9 June, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Authors: Alistair DB Cook and Christopher Chen, RSIS

COVID-19 is severely impacting the humanitarian system. It has forced countries to focus on containing the pandemic with national lockdown measures — hindering humanitarian action and denying aid to many affected communities in the Asia Pacific. But countries in the region have begun negotiations to normalise international travel, with Australia and New Zealand being the first to initiate bilateral discussions over the establishment of a ‘Trans-Tasman bubble’ and a ‘humanitarian corridor’ to the Pacific during the pandemic. Read more…

Landslide victory for MPP incumbents as Mongolians vote in record numbers

People cycle past the parliament building at Genghis Square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee).

Authors: Byambajav Dalaibuyan, Mongolian Institute for Innovative Policies and Julian Dierkes, UBC

On the morning of 24 June 2020, Mongolian social media was abuzz with posts of Ulaanbaatar residents proclaiming to have voted in the election. Some were wearing colourful deel — Mongolia’s national costume — to emphasise the sense of civic duty and respect attached to the act of voting. Polling stations closed 15 hours later amid heavy rain, localised flooding and even hail.

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Tough talking at the EU–China summit

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel (not pictured) attend a news conference following a virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Brussels, Belgium, 22 June 2020 (Reuters/Yves Herman/Pool).

Author: Fraser Cameron, EU-Asia Centre

On 22 June, the first summit took place between the new EU leadership team, headed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles Michel, and China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, but there was little time for small talk. One official remarked, ‘the gloves were off from the start’ with no attempt to secure a traditional joint statement, let alone a joint press conference. Read more…

The Philippines’ gender-blind COVID-19 response

Girls hang out with their dogs on the roof of their house as the Philippine government enforces home quarantine to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Metro Manila, Philippines, 21 April 2020. (Photo:Reuters/Eloisa Lopez).

Authors: Dynah A Basuil, KG Lobo and Christine Marie Faustino, AIM RVR Center

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s sudden declaration of a state health emergency in mid-March 2020 left businesses shuttered and the government scrambling to respond to COVID-19. While the government’s policy response appears decisive — related legislation was passed in record time — its formulation neglected collaboration with global experts and civil society leaders on a holistic response involving all parts (family, education, economy and government) of Philippine society. Read more…

Supply chain management and economic statecraft: a five-point agenda

COVID-19 has disrupted global supply chains that rely heavily on manufactures and factories in China. Cargo ships are seen at the Port of Oakland, California, 9 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/ Yichuan Cao).

Author: Heiko Borchert, Borchert Consulting & Research AG

The COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown ordered by governments to contain its spread and the unexpected oil price drop in March 2020 have crippled the world economy. These multiple shocks were a harsh wake-up call illustrating inadequate levels of national preparedness.

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The rubble of inter-Korean cooperation

A TV screen shows news reports on North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's sister Kim Yo-Jong following reports on the explosion of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong on 16 June, at Seoul station, South Korea (Photo: Lee Jae-Won/AFLO via Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula ratcheted up on 16 June when North Korea blew up the Inter-Korean Liaison Office building in the North Korean border city of Kaesong. This is a big blow to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to engage North Korea, pursue denuclearisation and establish a permanent peace treaty to succeed the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement. The timing is ironic considering that the Moon government recently won a decisive election in April positioning it to double down on its engagement policy.

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Up in smoke: Pyongyang ends cooperation with Seoul

A view of an explosion of a joint liaison office with South Korea in border town Kaesong, North Korea, in this picture supplied by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 16 June 2020 (Photo: KCNA via REUTERS).

Author: Evans JR Revere, Brookings

Sadly, explosively and inevitably, North–South Korean dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation have come to a crashing halt. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s signature policy initiative designed to improve relations with North Korea went up in a cloud of smoke last week after Pyongyang destroyed the Inter-Korean Joint Liaison Office — a central symbol of North–South cooperation. Moon’s policy is a victim of the clash between Seoul’s starry-eyed vision of reconciliation and North Korea’s cold-blooded pursuit of domination over the South.

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Emotion and insecurity fuel Nepal–India border tensions

Nepalese students affiliated with the opposition party protest against the new map of India demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli in Kathmandu, Nepal, 17 November 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Author: Santosh Sharma Poudel, Nepal Institute for Policy Research

The territorial dispute between Nepal and India over Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura regions reignited after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road through the area on 8 May 2020. The road leads to Mansarovar, a major Hindu, Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage site in Tibet. During the inauguration, Singh extolled the road’s ‘strategic, religious and trade’ significance. Read more…

Taiwan’s Ko Wen-je: a different type of politician

Mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib and Taipei city Mayor Ko Wen-je pose with a signed partnership agreement between the two cities at the Old Town Hall in Prague, Czech Republic, 13 January 2020 (Photo: Reuters/David W Cerny).

Author: Bill Sharp, National Taiwan University

Ko Wen-je, chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party established in 2019, promises a refreshing approach to politics mixed with humour, transparency and solicitation of direct citizen input. His speaking skills helped him gain appeal among Taiwan’s young during the 2014 Sunflower Movement and, with the support of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), he was elected mayor of Taipei in 2014. Ko aims to free Taiwanese politics of the constant struggle between blue pro-China and green pro-independence forces. Read more…

Establishing a legal right to healthcare in India

A healthcare worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) speaks to a resident about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a check up camp in Dharavi, one of Asia's largest slums, Mumbai, India, 7 June 2020 (Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas).

Author: Shivkrit Rai, Delhi High Court

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, two incidents highlighted the fault lines in India’s healthcare system. In 2017, over 60 children died due to lack of oxygen cylinders amid an encephalitis outbreak in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. In 2019, a similar incident occurred in Muzaffarpur. Reports suggested that the outbreak could have been prevented if Uttar Pradesh state authorities had taken adequate measures. Read more…

Gauging Indonesia’s interests in the South China Sea

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits a military base at Natuna, Indonesia, near the South China Sea, 9 January 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Antara Foto).

Authors: Aristyo Rizka Darmawan and Arie Afriansyah, University of Indonesia

In June, four years after the Hague’s 2016 South China Sea tribunal ruling, Indonesia put forward a formal diplomatic note to the UN. This was in response to Malaysia’s 2019 continental shelf submission that objected to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, including the area bounded by China’s nine-dash line. It said that ‘Indonesia is not bound by any claims made in contravention to international law’.

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Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy in the balance

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, wearing a face mask following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, attends a news conference with officers over Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, China 22 May 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, Institute for China-America Studies

On 1 July 2017, on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese rule, President Xi Jinping laid down three ‘red lines’ for handling the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government. Crossing them would be met with a resolute response. Three years on, that response has come to pass. While Hong Kong’s new China-mandated national security law may be fit and proper in a strictly constitutional sense, China should keep in mind Hong Kong’s common law practises and sensibilities while crafting its fine print. Read more…

Rising tensions on the Nepal–India border

Nepalese student take part in a protest shouting anti Indian slogans near the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal September 28, 2015. According to the students, they were protesting against the Indian logjam at the India-Nepal borders causing acute fuel crises all over the country (Photo: Reuters/Chitrakar).

Author: Rishi Gupta, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Amid rising cases of COVID-19 in Nepal, the country is engaged in a diplomatic spat with India over land disputes in the Dharchula region — a tri-junction between Nepal, India and China. The latest dispute began after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80 kilometre road from Dharchula to Lipulekh in India’s Uttarakhand state. The road will shorten the route for Hindu pilgrims to the sacred Mount Kailash in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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The fear of managing Chinese investment

A view of local landmarks and skyscrapers in Shanghai, China, 18 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Xu Feng).

Authors: Shiro Armstrong and Adam Triggs, ANU

The trend in advanced economies of closing up to Chinese foreign investment has accelerated during the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Asia is hurtling towards a fentanyl disaster

A fentanyl user displays a 'safe supply' of opioid alternatives, including morphine pills in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 6 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Jesse Winter).

Author: Pascal Tanguay, Bangkok

In May 2020, authorities in Myanmar seized a whopping 3700 litres of liquid fentanyl — equivalent to about 30 bathtubs’ worth — alongside other drugs, precursors and weaponry. The lethal drug is increasingly being found cut into common illicit substances as the opioid epidemic rages in North America and Europe. 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, its growing presence in Asian illicit drug markets will likely prove disastrous.

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