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

The COVID-19 squeeze on South Korea’s labour market

South Korean medical staff members wearing facemasks and protective clothing while on duty at Keimyung University Daegu Dongsan Hospital in Daegu, South Korea, 19 March 2020 during the coronavirus outbreak (Photo: Reuters/Lee Young-ho).

Author: Vladimir Hlasny, Ewha Womans University

In the densely populated South Korea, just a hop away from China, COVID-19 hit early and strongly. By mid-February, South Korea had the second highest number of infections in the world. Since then the number of cases has been slowed down to a trickle — but clusters keep resurfacing in blind spots such as church congregations, fitness classes, night clubs and warehouses.

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IA-CEPA will not solve Indonesia’s FDI problem

Stacks of containers are seen at Tanjung Priok port amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, 3 August 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana).

Authors: Krisna Gupta and Andree Surianta, ANU

The Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) came into effect on 5 July 2020. It is intended to facilitate less restrictive movement of goods, services and investment between the two countries. As attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is a top priority for Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, a freer flow of investment from Australia is certainly welcomed. But while IA-CEPA holds promise for trade, there are issues that will undermine its effectiveness in helping Indonesia attract increased FDI. Read more…

Political crackdowns follow Cambodia’s COVID-19 lockdown

An activist is detained by police during a protest where activist groups urged the government to release and drop charges against a union leader Rong Chhun who was arrested last week in Phnom Penh, Cambodia 3 August, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lach).

Author: Sorpong Peou, Ryerson University and Emma-Jane Ni, McGill University

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Cambodia is enjoying considerable success compared to its Southeast Asian neighbours despite its relatively poor healthcare system — recording just 240 cases and no deaths by early August. While critics argue that these remarkably low numbers are due to underreporting, the government’s restriction measures for public safety have genuinely succeeded in containing the pandemic. Its crackdowns on the opposition, on the other hand, remain problematic.

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COVID-19 undermines South Korean diplomacy

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, wearing a face mask, arrives at a briefing for foreign diplomats on the situation of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea 6 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Jung Yeon-je).

Author: Jeffrey Robertson, Yonsei University

South Korea attracted global attention from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, the BBC reported that Seoul’s ‘trace, test and treat‘ approach was saving lives while hospitals in Europe and the United States were overwhelmed. In April, the New York Times reported on South Korea’s capacity to hold democratic elections despite COVID-19, and by June, CNN reported on the lessons to be learned from South Korea’s public health success story. Read more…

US–China scientific cooperation faces an uncertain future

Chinese and US flags flutter near The Bund, Shanghai, China, 30 July 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song).

Authors: John P Haupt and Jenny J Lee, University of Arizona

Geopolitical tensions between the two largest scientific knowledge producers in the world are intensifying, and the Trump administration is now scrutinising scientific collaboration with China as a potential threat to US national security and economic prosperity. Chinese researchers and graduate students are being portrayed as potential spies who may steal intellectual property, while China’s ‘Thousand Talents’ program is characterised as a scheme allowing China to acquire US technology, intellectual property and know-how.

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Strengthening the Philippines’ approach to maritime security

A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, 29 March 2014 (Reuters/ Erik De Castro/File Photo).

Author: Ellaine Joy C Sanidad, Philippine National Coast Watch System

Over the last decade, a lack of expertise among countries in managing their maritime domain has allowed lawlessness and crime on the seas to proliferate. Emerging criminal networks have become more complex and harder-to-quell. The relationship between various security threats, such as maritime piracy and terrorist financing, is also becoming increasingly interconnected. Read more…

Shaping from within: a UN with Chinese characteristics?

The Chinese national flag is seen in Beijing, China 29 April 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Rosemary Foot, University of Oxford

Chinese President Xi Jinping is urging China to ‘lead the reform of the global governance system’ and to ‘actively participate in the formulation of international rules’. Such statements suggest that we now should be able to gain better insight into Beijing’s vision for the world order. What can we learn from its efforts to reshape how the United Nations operates? Read more…

Why Thatcherism and Reaganomics won’t work after COVID-19

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks next to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during a news conference in Canberra, Australia (Photo: Reuters/David Gray).

Author: Abul Rizvi, University of Melbourne

All governments are thinking hard about how they will manage economic recovery once international borders re-open after COVID-19. Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently rejected fiscal austerity but wants to copy other policies from the era of Thatcher and Reagan.

So which policies from this era are suitable for developed nations as they re-open their borders after COVID-19?

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No end to Malaysia’s political games after Najib’s courtroom downfall

Police officers stand guard outside Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The rule of law isn’t so much about the absence of abuse of power — it’s about the absence of impunity. That’s why Malaysians can be gratified with the guilty verdict handed down against their former prime minister Najib Razak, who on 28 July was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million on charges relating to his role in the 1MDB corruption scandal. Read more…

Najib verdict complicates Malaysia’s game of thrones

Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak leaves a courtroom for a break at Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1 June 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Francis E Hutchinson, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

On 28 July, Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak made history when he became the country’s highest-ranking official to be convicted in court. Najib was found guilty of seven criminal charges relating to his role in the 1MDB investment fund corruption scandal. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined US$50 million. Najib remains on bail pending appeal, but more charges are on the table regarding misappropriation of funds. Read more…

China’s challenge in Morocco’s Africa-to-Europe commercial corridor

French President Emmanuel Macron and Moroccan King Mohammed VI speak as they attend the inauguration of a high-speed line at Rabat train station, in Rabat, Morocco November 15, 2018 (Christophe Archambault/Pool via Reuters)

Author: Michaël Tanchum, University of Navarra

Morocco’s West-Africa-to-Western-Europe commercial transportation corridor is redefining the geopolitical parameters of the global scramble for Africa. Morocco has surpassed Spain and is poised to become the dominant maritime hub in the western Mediterranean. Morocco is now the geopolitical gatekeeper in a new global competition for manufacturing value chains, connecting West Africa to Europe in which the Middle East and China are vying for a role in this emerging commercial nexus. Read more…

Will COVID-19 lead to uncertainty in Asia’s energy markets?

An aerial view of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage tank of CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation) in Tianjin, China, 12 October 2018 (Photo: Reuters).

Authors: Leo Lester and Michael Thomas, Lantau Group

How energy sectors react to COVID-19 depends upon the questions they ask and the insights they gain. In Asia, which has long been an engine of global growth and a key player in conventional fuels and renewables, the question is usually something like, ‘what effect will the collapse in oil prices have on energy economies?’

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Rebranding China’s internationalisation of higher education

Tourists crowd in front of the main gate of Peking University. Global university rankings show a direction for the development of China's higher education rather than a mere realization of the gap between top foreign and Chinese universities. China's prestigious Peking University and Tsinghua University dropped respectively from 54th to 92nd and 65th to 98th in the annual world university rankings published by the Center for World University Ranking (CWUR), headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, in Beijing, China, 4 October, 2018 (Reuters).

Author: Qiang Zha, York University

While China is having extraordinary success in internationalising higher education, progress mostly driven by a state-led agenda and a top-down approach is limited by the subordination of academic and educational interests to political ones. When China launched its world-class universities initiatives in the mid-1990s, it pledged to raise Chinese universities to a first-rate standing. Read more…

The case for an East Asian ‘climate club’ led by Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City, United States, 25 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

Authors: John Mathews, Macquarie University, Elizabeth Thurbon, UNSW, Sung-Young Kim, Macquarie University and Hao Tan, University of Newcastle

The Nobel Prize-winning US economist William Nordhaus fired a salvo recently when he published an article on how to drastically revamp international efforts to deal with climate change. He argued that climate negotiations operate according to a deeply flawed structure that has no chance of success, with no penalties for free-riding and non-membership. Read more…

Myanmar’s COVID-19 response banks on Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi pays her respects to her late father during a ceremony to mark the 73rd anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon, 19 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Ye Aung Thu).

Author: Kyaw San Wai, Yangon

With an official total of 351 cases and six deaths four months after the first COVID-19 case was confirmed, Myanmar appears to be weathering the pandemic. Despite limited testing, the combination of government responses, community involvement and arguably sheer luck has so far spared the country’s long-neglected and under-resourced health system from being overwhelmed. Read more…