Foreign Policy

East Asia is driving a cautious coronavirus victory lap

From Taiwan to Japan, the East Asian states have largely managed to bring the coronavirus under control – also thanks to their experience in dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2002. The East Asian governments acted faster than the West, but they also benefited from the public. the masks as a social good, while Western experts falsely argued that they were of little value.

At the same time, however, the pandemic uncovered various social fault lines in East Asia, such as Singapore’s prejudice against migrant workers and the role of religion in South Korea.

Here are five of the best foreign policy stories about the region and the pandemic.

1. Fear of China made Taiwan a coronavirus success story

by Hilton Yip, March 16

One of the few clear winners from the pandemic has been Taiwan, which has acted ahead of almost every other state and effectively brought COVID-19 under control. This is mainly due to the island’s experience with SARS, but also to the innate distrust of the demands of the Chinese authorities. Taiwanese authorities banned flights from Wuhan in front of any other country and immediately turned over factories to mask production. “Taiwan has fought its coronavirus outbreak despite being frozen out of the World Health Organization (WHO) and constantly bullied from China,” wrote Hilton Yip in March. “In short, Taiwan had to rely on itself to fight the coronavirus.”

By the time a single local transmission occurred last week, Taiwan had managed 200 days without a single new coronavirus case among residents. This has given the country a significant boost on the world stage at a time when it is desperately needed thanks to the ever-increasing threat from its huge neighbor.

2. Japan’s half-hearted coronavirus measures are working anyway

by William Sposato, May 14th

One of the most mysterious pandemic successes in East Asia was that of Japan. The government’s initial response to COVID-19 was largely botched, littered with failed testing programs, indifferent enforced bans, and a slew of bugs and false statements. But for much of the year, coronavirus numbers stayed low anyway. In a play very popular in Japan itself, longtime William Sposato wrote about how established habits like wearing masks and lack of close physical contact had helped the nation avoid the worst – despite the government’s ineptitude.

But when Japan’s COVID-19 case numbers soared in December following the arrival of a highly transmittable strain of virus from the UK, those good habits may not be enough – and other, less enviable habits may come to the fore. “In contrast to celebrations for those on the front lines elsewhere, nurses and other health workers in Japan have complained about discrimination, the prohibition of children from attending kindergarten, and the general disdain for those who are concerned about carriers To be COVID-19. ” Sposato noticed.

Pastor Samuel Gift Stephen, the founder of the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach, reports to a security guard in a dormitory converted from a factory while he is serving meals for Muslim migrant workers in Singapore on April 24. Ore Huiying / Getty Images

3. Singapore tries to forget that migrant workers are people

by Kirsten Han, May 6th

Singapore’s response has been touted as a role model for how to defeat the coronavirus early on. The city-state waived lockdowns but demanded tight quarantines for travelers and deployed extensive testing and contact tracing teams mixed with mandatory cell phone apps. That approach has largely held up, although neighboring Malaysia, which avoided major outbreaks in the spring, is now seeing a serious second wave. However, the crisis erupted with another outbreak in migrant workers’ dormitories in April. Migrant workers are often overlooked or demonized by other Singaporeans, wrote activist and journalist Kirsten Han in May.

“Even before COVID-19 hit dormitories hard, immigrant working groups urged the government to take action to address conditions such as overcrowding and hygiene issues that make workers vulnerable to disease outbreaks,” Han noted. Singapore was able to keep its migrants away from the rest of the population, but the coronavirus numbers among them would eventually turn out to be the highest in the world: almost half were infected with the coronavirus.

4th Confucianism won’t help defeat the coronavirus

by S. Nathan Park, April 2

As the East Asian nations’ triumph over coronavirus became clear, crude cultural explanations were put forward, ascribing national successes to “Confucian values” of obedience and community. As Korean-American writer S. Nathan Park pointed out in April, responses to coronaviruses were just the latest focus of a longstanding form of Western political criticism: the claim that East Asia’s successful politics only work because of their cultural makeup and supposedly homogeneous populations.

“It repeats the same mistake that made the rampant coronavirus outbreak in the US and Europe possible in the first place: the mistake of viewing Asia as an unrelated other, a place so radically different from the West that no knowledge or no experience is transferable. ” Park wrote. As the success of extremely unconfucian nations like Australia and New Zealand, acting quickly and learning from the East Asian experiences, shows, fighting the pandemic is more about good governance and a willingness to learn from others than about cultural makeup.

5. South Korea’s COVID-19 Church Scapegoat Resists

by David Volodzko, August 19

South Korea’s coronavirus successes have been some of the most notable as the country saw multiple outbreaks in the early days of the virus, each of which was eventually brought under control. One of the main culprits was Shincheonji, a new religious movement with Christian roots that was accused by many of causing a severe outbreak in February. But Church members say they have been wrongly attacked by Christian denominations, which are politically powerful institutions in South Korea. As the church outbreak began, members claim they tried to cooperate with authorities and were falsely accused of lying.

In August, David Volodzko investigated the case and found that the story was more tangled than simply targeting an outsider group. “[Common concern over privacy] In this way, the mysterious Christian sect, by supporting South Korean anti-discrimination law, has made common cause with the LGBTQ community, “writes Volodzko, pointing out the strange alliances that were formed in the pandemic when the government intruded into everyday life .

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