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A SIA SO CIET Y MAGA ZIN E

A N E W M A N - J U L I S I N I T I AT I V E


PHANIE / ALAMY

N O V E L C O R O N AV I R U S S A R S - C O V -2 C O L O R I Z E D S C A N N I N G E L E C T R O N M I C R O G R A P H O F A N A P O P T O T I C C E L L ( B L U E ) I N F E C T E D W I T H S A R S - C O V -2 V I R U S P A R T I C L E S ( Y E L L O W ) , I S O L AT E D F R O M A P AT I E N T S A M P L E .


COVID-19 In ... Dispatches on the virus from across the Asia-Pacific. BY J EO N G M I N K I M , LOT F U L L A H N A J I FA Z A DA , M ITCH EL L P H A M , A N D H I LTO N Y I P  

Letter From the President BY J OS E T T E S H EER A N  

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The Year No One Saw Coming How 2020 made a mockery of prognostication. BY TO M N AG O R S K I  

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The Coming Post-COVID Anarchy The pandemic bodes ill for both U.S. and Chinese power — and for the global order. PG. 34

Rebuilding the Chain A trade war and a pandemic have made companies think twice about where their products are made.  W IT H W EN DY CU T L ER  

We Do Not Dream Alone: Art and Creativity Under Lockdown Fatima Bhutto, Vibha Galhotra, Min Jin

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The Real Pivot to Asia How COVID-19 forced the world to see a key region in a new way. BY IS H A A N TH A RO O R  

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Lee, Xu Bing, and others reflect on art in the time of COVID-19. 

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Surviving COVID-19 Personal encounters with the virus.

A Wake-Up Call for Museums

B Y M I C H E L L E F L O R C R U Z A N D D R . AV I N E S H

How museums can recover from a devastating year.

B H A R , W I T H WA R R E N M O K , P E T E R P I OT, A N D

BY M I CH EL L E Y U N M A P P L E T H O R P E  

J OS E T T E S H EER A N  

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‘We’re Hardly Heroic’

When the World Came to a Halt

Wuhan medical workers offer a grim glimpse into

An eye-opening data visualization explores how

life on the frontlines during the virus’ early days.

COVID-19 changed the way we live — and move.

BY T R AC Y W EN LI U  

BY G R ACE M A RTI N E Z  

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PG. 58

VIBHA GALHOTRA , IN .... TIMES, SET OF 15 PERFORMANCE PHOTOS, 2020. C O L L A B O R AT I O N O N D R E S S D E S I G N , R O H I T G A N D H I + R A H U L K H A N N A . P H O T O G R A P H E R , R A J E S H K U M A R S I N G H .

BY K E VI N RU D D  


The COVID New (Ab)Normal

Meet 2020’s Asia Game Changers

Assessing the fallout from a norm-changing year.

Honoring those who made a difference in a most

BY C . R A JA M O HAN , CHARLES SANTIAG O,

trying year.   P G . 94

WITH DANIEL RUSSEL AND FERNANDO Z O B E L D E AYA L A  

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After The Pandemic: How Will COVID-19 Change the World?

Waking Up From the Hong Kong Dream Did 2020 mark an end to ‘one country,

Feat uring Rana Foroohar, Pico Iyer, Sharmeen

two systems’? A look back at the

Obaid-Chinoy, Andrew Yang, and others.   P G . 6 8

1997 handover suggests the writing

Teaching Truth to Power

was on the wall.

A new approach to education is essential to address

BY O RVI LLE SCH E LL  

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systemic racism. BY A N T H O N Y JACK SO N 

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Hong Kong 20/20 A dramatic year of change as seen through the lens

Up Close and Invisible A n A si a n A mer ic a n pho t o g r apher d o c u me nt s ( L E F T ) S T E P H E N YA N G ; ( R I G H T ) M AY J A M E S

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BY M AY JA M E S 

New York City’s tumultuous year. BY S T EP H EN YA N G 

of a local photojournalist.

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Asian American Ghosts Six decades after a landmark law

In Other News Seven stories, w ith lit tle or nothing to do w ith COVID-19, that shaped the year in Asia. BY M AT T SCH I AV ENZ A 

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Contributors 

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brought millions of Asians to the United States, the events of 2020 reaffirm how tenuous the population’s status is. BY JIA LY N N YA N G  

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COV ER P H OTO I L LU S T R ATI O N BY A R S H R A ZI U D D I N

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T H E I N A U G U R A L A S I A S O C I E T Y T R I E N N I A L , T I T L E D W E D O N O T D R E A M A L O N E , I S N O W O N V I E W AT A S I A S O C I E T Y M U S E U M , N E W Y O R K . K Y U N G A H H A M , W H AT Y O U S E E I S T H E U N S E E N / C H A N D E L I E R S F O R F I V E C I T I E S D S K M 0 2 - D - 0 5 ~ 0 7, 2 0 1 8 – 1 9. C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A R T I S T A N D K U K J E G A L L E R Y. P H O T O G R A P H B Y C H U N H O A N

Publisher Asia Society Managing Editor Dan Washburn Executive Editor Tom Nagorski Senior Editor Matt Schiavenza Design Director Lisa Lok

Contributors Avinesh Bhar Wendy Cutler Michelle FlorCruz Anthony Jackson May James Jeongmin Kim Tracy Wen Liu Michelle Yun Mapplethorpe Grace Martinez C. Raja Mohan Lotfullah Najifazada Mitchell Pham Kevin Rudd Daniel Russel Charles Santiago Orville Schell Boon Hui Tan Ishaan Tharoor Jia Lynn Yang Stephen Yang Hilton Yip

Illustrators Christina Chung Ryan Inzana Arsh Raziuddin

With funding and support from Harold J. Newman and Mitchell R. Julis Asia Society takes no institutional position on policy issues and has no affiliation with any government. The views expressed in Asia Society Magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Asia Society.


DECEMBER 2020

Dear Friends,

W

elcome to the 2020 edition of Asia Society Magazine. Last year’s inaugural issue was a sweeping look at two decades, the first 20 years of what has been dubbed the “Asian Century.” So this really represents the first in the series that will zero in on one year, in detail, and its impact for Asia and beyond. Little could we have imagined what this year would bring. Or that 2020 would produce so much drama, so much trauma, and leave us with so many questions about the state of Asia and the world for years to come. Hence our title: “The Year No One Saw Coming.” It’s no exaggeration, whether one refers to the pandemic or the outbreak of protests against systemic racism. In these pages you will find a combination of analysis and frontline reporting, in part a review of the year’s paradigm-shifting events, in part a forward-looking examination of what those events may portend for the months and years ahead. We look at the profound impact of the pandemic on the U.S.-China relationship; on global supply chains; and on its impact for particular regions all across Asia. There are dispatches here that examine how different corners of Asia experienced the pandemic, and their relative successes at “flattening the curve.” We have stories from people in the Asia Society network who battled COVID-19 in a personal way, myself included. We look at what 2020 meant for Asian American identity, and how global education can help in the struggle against racism. And, as we did last year, we turn once again to a group of diverse and expert voices to hazard predictions, in this case responses to one fundamental question: How will COVID-19 change the world? Not surprisingly, given that our participants in the exercise range from Eurasia Group CEO Ian Bremmer to novelist Min Jin

Lee, from Asia Society Trustee Doris Ho to U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang, the answers are provocative and distinct. Once again, we thank the founders of Asia Society Magazine, Asia Society Trustees Harold Newman and Mitch Julis. They have been our steadfast supporters since the beginning of this endeavor — actually, since the time when it was only the germ of an idea. We also thank you, our readers, for your interest, and we thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts and feedback as you move through these pages. And one more thing: Whatever your perspectives, your own geography, or your political points of view, we assume you will join us in wishing, as we turn the page on the calendar, that 2021 will bring us relative calm, a COVID-19 vaccine, and far fewer traumas in Asia, and beyond. Good riddance, in other words, to the year no one saw coming.

Warmly,

Josette Sheeran President and CEO Asia Society

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BY ON DECEMBER 15, 2019, we gathered at Asia Society in New York for what had become something of a year-end tradition: a group of experts from a range of fields prognosticating about the year ahead and what it might portend, for Asia in particular. As in years past, the event was a mix of serious and lighter fare: How might North Korea provoke the Trump administration? Which Asian nations would rule at the Tokyo Summer Olympics? We talked about the South China Sea and the Afghan War, about cli-

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TOM NAGORSK I

mate change and the global economy, about protests for Muslim rights in India and protests for greater democracy in Hong Kong — and we did so with a terrific trio of speakers: Ravi Agrawal, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, New York Times international climate correspondent Somini Sengupta, and Nick Consonery, a director at the Eurasia Group. It was, we all thought, a stimulating and thought-provoking conversation. It was also, as events would prove, a classic example of the perils of prognostication.

That night our Asia Society panel imagined growth rates dipping in South Asia. “I worry about 4.5 percent growth in India,” Agrawal said, noting that 4.5 would translate to roughly half the 2019 rate. China’s GDP might slow as well — a percentage point or two. We guessed collectively that the big stories of the year would come from North Korea and Hong Kong, from elections in Taiwan and the U.S., and from dangerous new spikes in carbon dioxide emissions. We traded ideas as to how the U.S. and China might


S U P E R S T O C K /A L A M Y

repair their deteriorating relationship. “China virus” and “kung flu” regular, Olympic-fueled diplomacy, there were no And beyond the would-be medal winners, racially-tinged tropes in defense of his Olympics at all. Governments and global lenders have injected enormous infuwe wondered whether the Tokyo 2020 own COVID-19 response. Meanwhile, all three panelists correct- sions of economic stimulus, with mixed Games might bring sports-led diplomacy to the many conflicts in play, from the ly predicted that Hong Kong’s status results and no clarity yet as to what would be a source for tumult in 2020. shapes the regional recoveries may take Mediterranean to the Pacific. “Stalemate might be the best we can hope — V-shaped, J-shaped, and W-shaped, for,” said Agrawal. Taiwan? An easy pre- among other geometric terms, have enLITTLE DID WE KNOW, as we gathered o n t h a t D e c e m b e r n i g h t , t h a t a diction, maybe, but kudos anyhow to our tered the lexicons of laypersons and crown-headed virus was already tearing group for saying that Tsai Ing-wen economists alike. And speaking of lexicons, no phrase through the city of Wuhan, in central would roll to victory in the elections China, and that virtually every major there, buoyed in no small way by the tur- was more important in 2020 than development in 2020 — in Asia and be- bulence in Hong Kong. As for climate “flattening the curve”; by and large the nayond —would be traced to this tiny in- change, again, in the how-could-one- tions of Asia have bested the rest on that front: South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, vader of cells. One year later, it is no exVietnam, and China, despite its early aggeration to say that the virus has It is possible that our missteps. Finally, as noted above, mileviscerated economic growth, broken children will explain lions of people may never travel or work global supply chains, taken more than or go to school in exactly the same ways. one million lives, and brought millions to theirs, ‘Well, we do things It is possible that our children will exmore to food pantries and unemploythis way because of plain to theirs, Well, we do things this way ment lines. COVID-19 hasn’t just changed because of what happened in 2020. paradigms, it ’s turned them upside what happened in 2020.’ down. Conversations about online education and universal basic income have have-known category, Sengupta missed ONE L AST NOTE about the year, and gone from think-tank musings to urgent what now looks like a rare silver lining in about our trio of forecasters. It was the reality; city dwellers have fled, in search the COVID nightmare: a plunge in CO2 Times’ Sengupta who, when asked what of cheaper and more spacious housing emissions (8.8 percent emissions drop in gave her hope for the year ahead, angiven the now-prevalent experience the first half of the year) that has come swered by describing what she called “a of working from home; and all manner of with the virus-inspired economic melt- surge of civil society activism.” It was industry —airlines, hotels, restaurants, downs. As for the group’s thoughts on something to watch in 2020, thanks to a Fortune 500 companies, and millions of GDP figures, well, suffice to say that had fresh sense of political engagement small businesses — are limping to the any of them suggested an anemic 1.9 among the younger generation in so finish line of this roughest of years, percent growth rate projected for China many parts of the world. Sengupta may — and a more than 10 percent drop for have been referring to demonstrations in grasping for ways to survive. And how was a 2019 forecaster to India’s economy — they would have been Hong Kong and India, but her remarks laughed off the stage. And yet as we were prescient, given another trauma of imagine any of that? Actually, in some ways our prognosti- write, those are the estimates for where 2020: the tension and fury that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. cators did surprisingly well, missing only each nation’s economy will land. Where are we, exactly, as 2020 draws On our stage last December, Foreign Polithe magnitude of the troubles they cy’s Agrawal agreed that millions of young foresaw. Nick Consonery identified a de- to a close? As we go to press, former vice president people had grown more emboldened to teriorating U.S.-China relationship as his top worry for 2020 — “a trend line of neg- Joe Biden has won the U.S. presidency — challenge the status quo. “Something’s in ativity,” he warned, that would produce one more global event in which the coro- the air,” he said. In retrospect, he might “the next phase of tensions.” He was right, navirus played no small part. We have have been referring to the anger of a genthough of course he couldn’t have imag- lived through an almost unprecedented eration, or to an invisible virus. Little ined an atmosphere so poisoned that collapse in the global economy. Manufac- could he or we have known. Chinese officials would accuse American turers closed down for months. Passensoldiers of brining a deadly virus to Chi- ger planes grounded. Theaters shuttered. Tom Nagorski is executive vice president at na, or that President Trump would make Stadiums, too. Not only was there no Asia Society.

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WE DO NOT

V I B H A G A L H O T R A , I N . . . . T I M E S , S E T O F 1 5 P E R F O R M A N C E P H O T O S , 2 0 2 0 . C O L L A B O R AT I O N ON DRESS DESIGN, ROHIT GANDHI+RAHUL KHANNA . PHOTOGRAPHER, RAJESH KUMAR SINGH.


DREAM ALONE

Art and Creativity Under Lockdown INTRODUCTION BY BOON HUI TAN

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TO SAY 2020 has been a difficult year would, at

this point, be cliche: Across six continents, millions of human beings accustomed to moving about freely have found themselves relegated to their homes, as the invisible coronavirus wound its way around the world like a slow-moving hurricane. Artists were not spared. The pandemic closed museums, galleries, concert halls, theaters, and cinemas across the globe, forcing cultural workers to isolate themselves indoors. On these pages, you will find a diverse collection of artists and creators reflecting on this theme of isolation: How has the coronavirus — and living under quarantine — affected their lives and work? How will the pandemic shape the future? Yet if we were to examine cultural isolationism more broadly, we’d find that the pandemic is hardly the only source of blame. In the years before 2020, populist nationalism and xenophobic attitudes fanned by right-wing politicians — and the exploitation of minority communities — steadily accelerated, a trend resulting in a more inward-looking culture. The author Edward Said once commented about how, within nation states, forces aligning themselves with the orthodox, conservative, and mainstream traditions insist on the idea of a definable “pure” culture — “our culture.” These movements often look back to a historical golden age that may not have existed. There is thus an increasing inability to recognize how any one culture develops in relation to other cultures — that cultures consist not only of the legacies of past historical encounters, but also continue to develop in complex processes of exchange with the cultures of others. This deterioration in the historical social compact between communities was what prompted my initial proposition for the Asia Society Triennial, a festival of art, ideas, and innovation slated to run from October 27, 2020, through June 27, 2021, in New York City. The artistic projects in the Triennial are an act of resistance against cultural isolationism and often demonstrate the impossibility of a “pure” culture. Artists and artworks are produced within complex webs of association and causality across geography and history. We can thus never be alone.

Two projects of the Triennial demonstrate this by connecting Asia to the U.S. in unexpected ways. One is We the People: Xu Bing and Sun Xun Respond to the Declaration of Independence, guest curated by Susan L. Beningson, Ph.D. The artists Xu Bing and Sun Xun have created new works to respond to the ideals exemplified in the Declaration — a rare, 19th century copy of which will also be on display — but through the lens of Asia. In her catalogue essay, Beningson writes of how Xu Bing used a copy of The Analects of Confucius, a text that was studied deeply by the founders of the United States, to create a new work made from silkworm thread that comments on the fragility of manifestos such as the Declaration. The younger Sun Xun created a 24-page folding album that borrows from Chinese literati painting traditions to illustrate the fiery dynamics through which new worlds are born or established norms are broken. The other project comes from Japanese-Australian artists Ken + Julia Yonetani’s Three Wishes installation, featuring three sculptures of an angelic creature. The creature’s wings are from the Zizeeria maha butterfly, hatched from eggs collected as part of a scientific study into the biological impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power disaster. This work was inspired by Walt Disney’s belief in the benefits of atomic energy following World War II and connects the radiation fallout tragedy of Fukushima with its long-term impacts on wildlife and, by implication, human life, to the eff usiveness and cheeriness of victorious America’s postwar embrace of a nuclear-powered future. These two projects express one of the central concerns of the Triennial: that we can never dream alone — or, in fact, act alone. The title of the Triennial, We Do Not Dream Alone, references a line in Yoko Ono’s 1964 seminal publication Grapefruit: “A dream you dream alone may be a dream but a dream two people dream together is a reality.” It is an argument that art has the potential to counteract our urge to silo during these uncertain times. Boon Hui Tan is co-curator and former artistic director of the Asia Society Triennial.

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How did the pandemic change the way artists live, work, and think? We asked eight Asia Society Triennial participants to assess the toll 2020 has taken.

HAMRA ABBAS Born in Kuwait City. Lives and works in Boston, and Lahore, Pakistan. The disruption in our lives due to the strain of this pandemic has been a daunting experience. It has shaken our sense of security and requires a more profound reflection on who we are as people and our responsibilities towards [the] environment and life around us. HAMRA ABBAS, EVERY COLOR (DETAIL), 2020. PRIVATE COLLECTION, DUBAI, UAE. PHOTOGRAPH BY ASIF KHAN.

GHIORA AHARONI Born in Rehovot, Israel. Lives and works in New York City.

GHIORA AHARONI, THANK GOD FOR MAKING ME A WOMAN, III, 2019. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST. PHOTOGRAPH: GHIORA AHARONI STUDIO ©2019.

My studio decided to take up full-time residency in my head, so the commute has certainly been shorter. My practice has become more internal … researching, reading, writing, and then sketching new work, all of which I’ve very much enjoyed. Breaking the established rhythm of everyday life has certainly reinforced the preciousness of present time. I was thinking about the virus being spread through our breath and having to cover our mouths, which is also how we communicate. So I created a facemask with sacred text that speaks to the power of what we spread through our words. I created it as a digital work and shared it on social media, and also as a limited edition work on paper.

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VIBHA GALHOTRA Born in Chandigarh, India. Lives and works in New Delhi.

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I have to say that living in isolation isn’t quite easy. In the beginning, it evoked many highs and lows and helped me reflect on many aspects of my life, not just as an artist, but as a whole. Reading an d se ein g visuals ab out th e reverse migration of laborers, some of

sketching and making doodles at home. However, since I started going to my studio again, I have been working on some commissioned works which are taking a relatively longer period of time due to the COVID-related precautions of social distancing that my studio staff

need for our planet and our uninhibited abuse of the same continues to widen. I wanted to create this series of photo works, then, to express this augmented fear of new-age viruses and the isolation that, while is considered forced in the present times, might just be the

whom were walking up to 400 kilometers to reach their hometowns, the sight of their misery, hunger, mistreatment, and even death in some cases was not only heartbreaking, but induced a sense of loss and led me to question the fragile structures of the society we live in. I have also been attending numerous webinars and Zoom conversations as well as giving virtual presentations about my practice. The first 45 days of the COVID lockdown in India was a complete shutdown due to which I did not have access to my studio at all. During [this] period I was

and I try to maintain. IN .... TIMES is a series of staged photo works conceived in response to the unimaginable period brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and is in some respects a continuation of the work I am creating for the Asia Society Triennial. The work exudes a forced sense of social distancing in fear of contracting the virus that has massively changed the world order, questioning the very meaning of what was previously considered normal. Despite being pushed towards surreal boundaries and lifestyles, the gap between our indispensable

new normal of the future. I don’t know if the pandemic has changed my perspective as an artist, but it definitely has, as a human being, forced me to notice and reflect upon the fragility of our world and the structures we hide behind. The experience is d ef inite ly d a u ntin g e sp e cia lly for people living in this part of the world with limited means of resources and health care services.

THE YEAR NO ONE SAW COMING

VIB HA GALH OTR A , I N .... TI M ES, SE T O F 15 PERFORMANCE PHOTOS, 2020. COLLABORAT I O N O N D R E SS D E S I G N , RO H I T G A N D H I + R AHUL KHANNA . PHOTOGR APHER, R A JESH KUMAR SINGH.


ART & CREATIVITY UNDER LOCKDOWN

KIMSOOJA Born in Daegu, South Korea. Lives and works in New York City, Paris, and Seoul, South Korea. Fortunately, I am used to working remotely from traveling all the time, so it is not a problem working long-distance on large-scale, site-specific projects, albeit with great support from each institution and my studio members who are located in Paris, New York, and Seoul — it is not an issue to not have a physical studio and meetings regularly. And I am not an artist who makes things in the studio unless there is a conceptual necessity. We’ve worked efficiently from each of our homes on different continents. I think installation via video call has been working great, so far. KIMSOOJA, TO BREATHE – THE FLAGS, 2012. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.

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ART & CREATIVITY UNDER LOCKDOWN

MINOUK LIM Born in Daejeon, South Korea. Lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. The pandemic is another war. These days we talk about [the] “new normal” and are getting used to it. Because of [the] “new normal,” things are constantly dissipating, and as an artist, I came to think more about the problems of memory and records. Innovation for change and urgency of the task (vocation) have made us reflect more on the meanings of equality, creation, and extinction of civilization, and broader solidarity for not only human beings but ultimately, for all things. INSTALL ATION VIE W OF ASIA SO CIET Y TRIENNIAL: “ WE D O N OT DREAM ALONE” AT ASIA SOCIETY MUSEUM, NEW YORK, OCTOBER 27, 2020 –JUNE 27, 2021. FROM LEF T TO RIG HT: MINOUK LIM, HYDR A, 2015; L’HOMME À LA CAMÉRA, 2015; COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND TINA KIM GALLERY.PHOTOGRAPH: BRUCE M. WHITE, 2020.

KEVORK MOURAD Born in Qamishli, Syria. Lives and works in New York City. At the beginning of the quarantine, when all my upcoming projects were canceled, I decided to reach out to musician friends for musical compositions to which to set short animations inspired by their music. I called it the Quarantine Series, [and it was] done from home before I was able to return to the studio. I would post them on social media to show that we were still alive and active. I also pasted a large piece of paper to my living room wall and worked on it continuously, as well as [in] a small sketchbook, a quarantine diary.

I was fortunate enough to be asked by the Spurlock Museum to create a sculptural piece. I took the idea of being communally isolated in lockdown and created a piece called A World Through Windows for the museum. More than ever, as artists, we’re responsible for creating work related to social justice and supporting organizations in need. There is more urgency to the artist’s message in these times. Especially now that so many people are in more dire need than ever.

INSTALLATION VIEW, ASIA SOCIETY TRIENNIAL: “WE DO NOT DREAM ALONE,” ASIA SOCIETY MUSEUM, NEW YORK, 2020. KEVORK MOURAD, SEEING THROUGH BABEL, 2019, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST. PHOTOGRAPH: BRUCE M. WHITE, 2020.

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JORDAN NASSAR Born in New York City. Lives and works in New York City. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced shifts in our perception of life and our priorities — I certainly have. I am feeling more urgency in taking action to solve the many problems of this world — and not just because we want to “solve problems,” but because it’s people’s lives we’re talking about when we say that. I think, especially in politics, we get so wrapped up in concepts and intellectual arguments that it becomes easy to lose sight of real people’s actual needs at this very moment, and I think I’ve been spending a lot of time accessing how to incorporate a variety of forms of activism into my way of life — not necessarily into my artwork specifically, but into my daily life. JORDAN NASSAR, I AM WAITING FOR YOU, 2018. COLLECTION OF GIORA KAPLAN. IMAGE COURTESY THE ARTIST, ANAT EBGI, AND JAMES COHAN, NEW YORK.

XU BING Born in Chongqing, China. Lives and works in Beijing and New York City. It came to me that my works from the past are neither personal nor emotional. However, my current practice is so personal and highly relevant to what has happened to my life during the pandemic. The pandemic makes me reflect on why some art has values while other [art] does not. What are the differences? In my opinion, the art that has values resembles coronavirus in so many ways. If there is something called “contemporary art,” it is like an “unknown virus” from outside of the body if XU BING, SILKWORM BOOK: THE ANALECTS OF CONFUCIUS, 2019. we compare the human body to our civilizaCOURTESY OF THE ARTIST. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF XU BING STUDIO. tion, lurking inside the biological system, grabbing the blind spot of the existing art critics, etc., to categorize and analyze improving the body’s health at the right system, and breaking such a mature and these things (artworks), and, as a result, time. All are “viruses,” the difference is complete system with something that was produce new knowledge. While these “unknown” or “regular.” A healthy body not available in the past. Its nature is “unknown viruses” are being studied and needs the attachment of some “bad” cells unknown, its origin is undetected, and it un d e rsto o d, th ey a re m utatin g into to cooperate with the “good” ones. As a has never been classified or categorized by conventional viruses (such as influenza) in group of “bad” cells, contemporary art is any knowledge from the past. order to adapt themselves to the environ- acting as a trigger point for the cleansing Then the balance is broken, it has to rely ment; they turn into long-term service vi- and reconstruction of human civilization on philosophers, art historians, theorists, ruses and do the work of regulating and through a seemingly naughty way.

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Why Fatima Bhutto Is Panicked by ‘Pandemic Literature’ Since publishing her first book at the tender age of 15, Fatima Bhutto — whose grandfather and aunt both served as Pakistani prime ministers — has become a prolific, versatile chronicler of modern life, equally adept at fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. Her most recent book, New Kings of the World: Dispatches From Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop, explores the rising global impact of Asian pop culture. She recently spoke to Asia Society’s Matt Schiavenza.

MATT SCHIAVENZA: What have you been up to over the last several months? FATIMA BHUTTO: It’s been an unusual experience! My book The Runaways came out in paperback in England just at the start of the lockdown, and it came out in the United States in August. That kind of bookended the whole thing for me in a weird way, because I should have been on the road and I should have been out on tour. And instead, I haven’t been. I’ve been in a strange state of limbo, where I just finished a book and haven’t started a new one yet. I’ve used the pandemic to do small things, little projects that I didn’t do when I was busy working on books. I did little pieces of writing, some speeches, and, really, just reading a lot. How have you been managing the anxiety, uncertainty, and various emotions that this period has engendered? How has it shaped your creative process? The pandemic has been a great reminder of how we control absolutely nothing. We walk around imagining ourselves to be these powerful beings. But, of course, we are really just specks of dust. And so all we can do is rejoice in every moment and celebrate every possible good fortune that we have because no one really knows what will happen from moment to moment. In terms of creativity, I’ve found it disturbing, I have to say. I think everyone expects that all writers will just be in their element during a global lockdown because finally, everyone has time and space. But the thing I missed very much was the world. I draw a lot of sustenance and energy from

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people, from strangers, from travel, from movement. And I missed that very much, especially in the early phase where we were really locked down and all human interaction became fraught and frightening. I’ve tried to observe my own reaction to it since I’ve been cut off from other things. But I think it’s probably too early to say how my work has been affected by it. What do you see as the role of artists, writers, painters, musicians, etc., in a time of global crisis? Do you think artists have a social responsibility to lift people’s spirits? No. I think the role of the artist is always to sift — to be an observer, as true an observer as they can be, of the world around them. With the global pandemic, suddenly the world around them is not just their own small, intimate world — it becomes The World, in capital letters. I don’t see it as a big burden. I think it’s a big exercise, a big task. But it’s an important one, at the same time. I’m interested not just in what writers make of the larger situation, but also in the minutiae — the flicker of tension between families, the fear and uncertainty. I’m more curious about those ordinary moments and how writers will capture them and how they look at them. But I’m also slightly panicked about pandemic literature. What panics you about it? Because it will be overwhelming to have to live through the pandemic, and then to have to watch it, hear it, listen to it, and read it. I think we’ve all gone through a peak of pandemic obsession, where we all just collated news, stories, and evidence. And with all

writing, the best writing is always what the writer has spent a lot of time and thought on. So I guess I’m panicked about the fact that we’re going to have a rash of books about the pandemic. I’d be very happy to wait a year for a really good one. I say this as a reader who wants to know what a sustained examination of this period will look like. I’m less interested in reading, say, a daily diary of this time period. When we look back on this period in the future, what do you think its legacy will be? Well, I think it’s hard to say what the legacy will be 50 years from now. What occurred to me, in the beginning, was, as we isolated ourselves and removed physical contact from our daily life, was how much kinder we’d have to be with our language. We‘d lose those cues like smiling at people or holding a door open for someone or petting a dog. We’re going to have to convey warmth, friendship, solidarity, and congeniality with language, and we’re going to have to be somewhat better doing it than we have been. The question that interested me is whether we have it in us to expand this language of kindness and friendship and openness — or whether we will lose that? That’s something I felt a little bit taken by. In the long term, I wonder if we’ll just forget about all this the moment it’s over. Of course, I say this optimistically — maybe the pandemic never ends! But I think we have a great capacity for amnesia. I wonder if we will remember all these terrible lessons we had to learn, such as our responsibility for destroying the environment. I slightly suspect that when it’s over, we’ll forget all the lessons we’ve learned.


ART & CREATIVITY UNDER LOCKDOWN

D PA P I C T U R E A L L I A N C E / A L A M Y

Author Min Jin Lee on Finding ‘Order and Peace’ in Fiction Because my emotional state has been so parabolic during this shelter-in-place period, I find that my work really saves me. I tend to retreat from my personal relationships the more upset that I get. I don’t know how to explain that I’m feeling sad. I don’t necessarily feel entitled to say that I’m sad or upset and I can’t always pinpoint why. So I tend to just work more. I find that in my work, I really feel safe. I think initially I was really distracted. I couldn’t work at all in the first month. All I could do was hang onto every word of Andrew Cuomo. For me, fiction has always been the place where I find order and peace. Especially order. I’m such an anxious person that it takes all of my effort to not seem so anxious. Writing fiction gives me an enormous sense of control. I’m a writer. I take this blank page and turn nothing into something. And I always think, “Can I do that again? Can I keep turning nothing into something?” And I realized that the material is actually all around us. It’s kind of like yeast particles. I just have to pull it in and then I can bake bread. I think it is incumbent on us to make art. I don’t think it’s a luxury. I think we need it like we need water. I certainly do, and I think other people feel this way. Art has become a very expansive definition of what falls into that category. I’m a very political person. I like it. It’s what keeps me on the straight and narrow. That said, I don’t think most people want to read politics in a straight form. So I’m constantly thinking, “What’s my good-looking Trojan horse?” And my good-looking Trojan horse will come along and convey this message that I want to say. There are people who say, “As a novelist, I write based on emotion or image.” I write very much on the notion that I have something to say. This is what I really want you to listen to, and how do I get you to hang out with me for 14 to 16 hours? That’s not an easy thing! If I really think about the novels I read that are 500-600 pages long that I actually stay with, I always feel a sense of completion. I always think: I really wanted to listen to her. I really wanted to listen to him. I wanted to be in a world where they have that sense of order. And I think because right now I feel so much disorder that I want to create order; and that I probably feel more disorder now than I have at any other point in my life.

‘We Need Human Interaction’ PEI-YAO WANG, TAIWANESE PIANIST For any performer, when we’re at the piano, we really forget about our surroundings. We’re nursing our music. Performing through an iPad does feel a little odd, but you only wake up from that moment when there’s no applause. From the audience’s point of view, the energy from a live performance is irreplaceable. When a performer sings to a live audience, there’s intensity. There’s love. There’s energy, which goes both ways. The audience provides us with an aura that we need to generate ideas. Performing in front of a live audience is what we train for as professional musicians. For us to perform or play or sing or act or dance, we need human interaction. All of my international shows have been canceled, and I’m not able to leave the country and perform elsewhere. But the silver lining is that now every country will support local artists more. I think what will change in the near future is that local artists will have more opportunities, but will also have to be creative with their programming. For example, smaller venues and shorter programs. I think it will be different, but it will be exciting. Excerpted from a July 23, 2020, Asia Society Museum virtual salon.

Excerpted from a May 14, 2020, Asia Society virtual conversation.

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A visitor wears a mask as he walks past Matisse’s bronze head statues on September 1, 2020, at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), which reopened its doors to the public after being closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A Wake-Up Call for Museums 2020 was a devastating year for art museums in the United States. But amid the chaos, opportunities exist to ensure the field’s long-term relevance to an increasingly diverse population. BY MICHELLE YU N MAPPLETHORPE

S I PA U S A /A L A M Y L I V E N E W S

TH E COVID -19 PAN DEMIC that has upended life around the world has had an especially consequential impact on art museums. A study released in July 2020 by the American Alliance of Museums estimates that one in six museums in the U.S. risks permanent closure before fall 2021, due to prolonged economic difficulties related to the pandemic. Since the shutdown that was put into effect across the U.S. in midMarch, thousands of arts workers across the country — including, heartbreakingly, at Asia Society Museum, where I have worked for more than eight years — have been laid off or furloughed, with an estimated 42 percent representing permanent job losses in the field. Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which boasts an endowment of $3.3 billion, has been forced to trim its staff by 20 percent. The job losses are being felt most keenly by junior staff and communities of color, increasing calls for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field. For mu seums, t his mand ator y pause forced many difficult issues to the surface regarding long-term financial health, work culture, and audience engagement. But while the months and

years ahead will present many grave challenges, the pandemic also represents a rare opportunity for museums to identify and implement the f u nd amenta l changes need ed to ensure the field’s enduring relevance. Embracing diversity is crucial to bringing museums back. The field cannot expect to thrive if it excludes, subconsciously or consciously, large swaths of the population. Historically, the visual art field in the U.S. has been a rarified domain for the privileged, and driven largely by a Eurocentric perspective. Institutions including the Frick, Getty, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney, and Asia Society Museum, among others, were initially founded, supported, managed, and frequented by individuals from a certain social and cultural milieu. For years this determined the scope and tenor of their missions and collections. Likewise, the education and professional training necessary to excel as a museum professional, years accompanied by little or no pay, enabled only those with other economic means — and of course the knowledge that these types of jobs even existed — to pursue a career in the field. For historic reasons, this has largely excluded minori-

ties and communities of color. Accordingly, many museums have historically presented narratives implicitly catered to the wealthy white establishment, perpetuating the idea of the art museum as an elitist and inaccessible space. While these inequities are not new, the pandemic, along with the recent wave of racial justice protests, have brought them to the fore. And, as with virtually every other sector in American life, calls for systemic change have arrived at the doorstep of art museums. Art workers have created virtual platforms like @Art + Museum Transparency, @ChangeTheMuseum, #ForTheCulture, and #MuseumsAreNotNeutral to address issues relating to systemic racism and sexism, best practices, income equality, and the need for more inclusive representation and engagement. Among the Asian American arts community, coalitions like the Los Angeles-based GYOPO and the recently formed Stop DiscriminAsian have addressed these concerns while also providing resources and support against anti-Asian harassment and discrimination amplified by the pandemic. While the near-term picture for arts organizations seems bleak, the moment is here for museums and arts

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institutions to come back stronger and more focused in their mandates. By 2045, the white population will become a minority in the U.S. for the first time in history. Thus, it is imperative for museums and cultural institutions to address their own standing relating to the diversity, equity, access, and inclusion of their programming and staffing, to ensure they remain vital contributors to contemporary society going forward. The soul-searching necessary for this kind of transition will entail recognizing uncomfortable truths and having the courage to transcend comfort zones in order to realign institutional missions and goals. It will not be alleviated by a quick fix. But there are steps museums can take right now that will build a bridge to the future. A renewed focus on youth education programs is key not only to instilling greater empathy through the content being communicated, but will also cultivate the next generation of museum patrons. Creative partnerships with artists that benefit the larger community could also be a compelling means to activate the museum experience. Cultivating deep and ongoing relationships with local communities will ensure steady visitorship and alleviate a reli-

on aligning museum programming to engage with current events. Mu s e u m pr o g r a m m i n g mu s t encompass more inclusive curatorial narratives for temporary exhibitions and permanent collecting practices that consider previously under-recognized peoples. It must elucidate timely social issues to meaningfully include, integrate, and unite disparate perspectives. Asia Society Museum has long sought to champion the marginalized voices of Asian and Asian American artists since the inauguration of its first contemporary art exhibition in 1994 and continuing most boldly with We Do Not Dream Alone, the inaugural edition of the Asia Society Triennial, which launched in October with strict social-distancing in place and will run through June 2021.

ance on tourism in light of the foreseeable limitations of travel. The creation of a more inclusive and welcoming environment entails a reassessment of visitor accessibility, both physical and virtual. Making multilingual didactics and interpretive materials available both in the galleries and online has the potential to provide more equitable access and outreach to a broader and more diverse audience. One positive trend that the shutdown has sparked is improving the breadth and quality of online resources for virtual audiences, such as greater contextualization of museum collections and an emphasis

ity, identity, and cultural representation as an antidote to the rising xenophobia and racism against these communities and illustrates the uniquely transformative power of artists to inspire empathy and mutual understanding across perceived differences. Looking inward, museums can improve their respective work cultures through real efforts toward salary equity and the creation of paid internships, fel lowship progra ms, a nd mentoring programs to provide professional opportunities for a more diverse workforce. Greater diversity throughout the ranks from the most junior

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staff roles to senior leadership must be attained. Diversity at the top, through trustee oversight, is also key to ensuring equal representation. Given the current financial and social climate, the period of offering spectacle-driven entertainment has g i v e n w a y t o a m o r e s o b e r a nd thoughtful moment in which museums must once again redefine their pu r p ose a nd mea ning. We mu st continue to push boundaries and promote difficult discussions both inside and outside our respective institutions w i t h e mp a t h y a n d c o mp a s s i o n . As with all crises, this moment, as painful as it is, provides a rare opportunity for self-reflection and meaningful change, a moment that has the potential to amplify the role museums

IT IS IMPERATIVE FOR MUSEUMS AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS TO ADDRESS THEIR OWN STANDING RELATING TO THE DIVERSITY, EQUITY, ACCESS, AND INCLUSION OF THEIR PROGRAMMING AND STAFFING, TO ENSURE THEY REMAIN VITAL CONTRIBUTORS TO CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY GOING FORWARD.

The Triennial, a recurring exhibition and other non-profit arts organizafeaturing Asian and Asian American tions play within the continuing quest artists, tackles issues relating to ethnic- for equity and justice. Museums are integral to the fabric of society. They are receptacles of ideas and dreams that provide opportunities for discovery, empowerment, and inspiration. It is our moral obligation as champions of these sacred spaces to preserve their integrity for future generat ions, a nd to ensu re t he y further our collective desire for a more humane and just world. Michelle Yun Mapple thor pe i s A s ia Society’s vice president for global artistic programs and director of Asia Society Museum in New York. She is ar t ist ic director of the Asia Society Triennial.


WE DO NOT DREAM ALONE ASIA SOCIETY TRIENNIAL

NEW YORK CITY

2020-2021

The first initiative of its kind in the United States, the Asia Society Triennial is slated to run in two installments from October 27, 2020, through February 7, 2021, followed by March 16, 2021, through June 27, 2021. The inaugural edition We Do Not Dream Alone is composed of a multi-venue exhibition, panels, and performances focusing on contemporary art from and about Asia and the diaspora. Entry to Asia Society Museum is by advance timed ticket only and capacity is limited. Book your free timed tickets now.

More than 40 artists and collectives from 20 countries have been selected to participate in this historic event. Book your free timed tickets at AsiaSociety.org/TriennialTickets

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S I PA U S A / A L A M Y

A health worker at a makeshift COVID-19 clinic at Jianghan Hospital in Wuhan, China, wears an illustration with instructions for how to avoid catching the virus on March 9, 2020.


WUHAN MEDICAL WORKERS OFFER A GRIM GLIMPSE INTO LIFE ON THE FRONTLINES DURING THE VIRUS’ EARLY DAYS. BY T R AC Y W E N L I U

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on April 3, 2020, by ChinaFile, the online magazine from Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. By then, COVID-19 was well on its way to infecting every corner of the globe. The Chinese government now touts its coronavirus response as an unmitigated success. Indeed, aside from a handful of localized outbreaks, official data show China has largely suppressed the virus. But, as this story documents, the doctors and nurses who cared for the sick in Wuhan in those early days told a story of nightmarish conditions and limited help from their government.

DR. LI, A HEART SPECIALIST at Wuhan No. 4 Hospital, spent the third week of March preparing for the reopening of the hospital’s general clinics, which closed on January 22, when No. 4 became a key facility for treating COVID-19 patients. After working for two months on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, Li was mentally and psychologically at a loss about what to do next. He couldn’t sleep or eat, he often felt dazed, and sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, he would weep.

Li’s trauma stood in stark contrast to the image projected by China’s media, filled with articles and broadcasts glorifying the government’s response to the epidemic. Amid so much exultation, Li was increasingly reluctant to express fears or concerns to others around him. He had become a different man — one who understood that “life is fragile and weak.” I met Li (his name has been changed to protect his privacy) online on January 23, the day the city of Wuhan was locked down. I am based in Texas, and my friends and I had set up a

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group on WeChat, the popular Chinese social messaging platform, to donate masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals in and around Wuhan. As we all now know, COVID-19 would go on to spread into a devastating global pandemic, impacting millions the world over. But I still feel it is important that the rest of the world understand what the doctors and nurses in Wuhan — several of whom I now call friends — experienced in those early days when the virus was still considered a Chinese problem. Insofar as China achieved a “victory” over the coronavirus, it came at a massive and lasting human cost.

T H E COV I D WA R D MY COMMUNICATIONS WITH Li were initially impersonal and focused on the logistics of getting PPE delivered to his hospital. But late on January 27, Li suddenly sent a message to the WeChat group saying that he needed to blow off some steam. I was still online, so I stayed to hear him describe the situation in Wuhan in vivid, heart-breaking detail. That morning, after passing through several stages of disinfection, Li had walked into the hospital’s contamination zone, where he immediately encountered a man sprawled on the floor, masked, covered in a quilt, with a yellow-green complexion. Two steps away, another person lay prone on a bench, seriously ill and hardly breathing. A young man sitting next to him was yelling into a phone, seeking help. And many other patients were lying on the ground in the clinic hallway, gasping for breath. All around, patients and their family members stood, sat, or simply lay on the floor. According to Li, they had no expressions on their faces, as if they had become accustomed — or at least resigned — to their misery.

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The floor was covered in garbage, blood, vomit, and sputum. The patients far outnumbered the medical personnel. Li saw two nurses in charge of intake and registration surrounded by patients’ family members, some of whom knelt at their feet begging for help. Occasionally an ambulance arrived with still more patients. Looking outside, Li saw a seemingly endless line of people waiting at the hospital door, many of whom could support themselves only by leaning against the wall. In the early days of the lockdown, Li told me, the number of outpatients coming to the clinic each day was in the thousands. People waited four or five hours just to sign in, then waited another four or five hours either to receive take-home medicine or to be admitted to an infusion room on the second floor, where they joined several hundred others waiting for available beds. Some people collapsed while waiting; some, clearly, were near death. The hospital’s wards were so full that the corridors and doctors’ lounges had to be used for additional beds. All of these were filled, and remained so, because no one seemed to be recovering. “There’s insufficient manpower, limited treatment, and scarce PPE,” Li told me. He struggled to explain why he couldn’t help these people. “I’m doing my best,” he said over and over. “What more could I have done?” I stayed chatting with him until it was time for him to go back to work.

DAYS O F PA N I C TWO DAYS LATER, on January 29, Li

called me in a frenzy. While on duty that day, the family members of a recently deceased patient had attacked one of Li’s colleagues, ripping off his mask and shouting, “If we’re sick, we’ll be sick to-

Head nurse Sun Chun, center, assigns tasks to nurses before receiving patients infected with COVID-19 at Leishenshan (Thunder God Mountain) Hospital, a temporary emergency clinic in Wuhan, China, on Feb. 8, 2020.


XINHUA / AL AMY

gether! If we have to die, we’ll die together!” (The Chinese news outlet Caixin later reported on the incident.) Li was furious — his messages to the group bristled with exclamation marks. But he was also exhausted. He told us that he almost couldn’t take any more. “For a long time, I have been psychologically prepared to be infected,” he told me,

referring again to the lack of adequate PPE. But what he was not prepared for was the trauma of having to fend off patients who had been pushed to the edge of panic and despair. He had witnessed fellow doctors being cursed at, beaten, and dragged around the hospital hallways. He feared it was only a matter of time before he experienced the same treatment.

Li’s messages depicted a scene of continuing deterioration. More and more people were dying. But because PPE was so scarce, there were times when medical staff would not enter the wards even to carry away dead bodies. Li, sitting beside the corpses, tried to distract himself by mechanically writing prescriptions for those who were still alive. It was a living hell.

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In the early days of the lockdown, the local funeral home had gotten by with a van to transport corpses from the hospital. But soon enough, it needed a cargo truck. One day, after his shift, Li witnessed hospital workers putting dead bodies — he counted as many as seven or eight — into body bags and throwing them onto the truck bed. The s cene s t ayed w it h h i m . He couldn’t get it out of his head when he was awake. When he managed to sleep, he had nightmares. He was overcome by a sense of helplessness. While the state media was portraying healthcare workers as heroes, he was devoting his time and energy to treating patients who would not recover. “We’re hardly heroic,” he said. Li continued to message and call me about once a week since our first long conversation. “I’ve been slowly improving,” he told me on March 11. Still, he continued to suffer from insomnia, and was reluctant to tell friends and family in China how he’s really feeling. The situation at work took another demoralizing turn. When the outbreak was raging, he explained, some of the hospital’s administrators cowered in their offices, too afraid to venture out into the wards. But when commendations were being handed out, the bosses were the first in line for bonuses. “It’s much more profitable to work in the fi na nc ia l i nd u s t r y,” he l a mente d . “Do you think I might still have an opportunity to work in that profession?”

the hospital’s “fever clinic” when the outbreak began. From the beginning, she recounted, everything was in short supply, including not just PPE and medicine but even cafeteria provisions. She had to work, with little food or water, 12-hour shifts that started at 6 or 7 in the morning. When fatigue overcame her, she didn’t dare take off her protective gear. She simply leaned against a wall and slept with it on. When the cit y shut dow n, Wang couldn’t get to work by bus, so she used a bike-share. But one morning, she rose at 5 and couldn’t find an available bike, so she walked to the hospital instead. On the way, feeling more desperate and frustrated than ever, she called me and asked, “Can you help us put out an appeal to give the frontline doctors and healthcare workers a way out of this?”

Wang is optimistic and kind, but she does not hide her emotions. When a patient’s family gave her a small gift of tea and snacks, she was deeply moved. She also speaks her mind and is unafraid of people in authority. At the beginning of the epidemic, when Wuhan residents had yet to come to grips with the scale of the crisis, Wang bought Tamiflu — an antiviral used to treat influenza that has been administered to patients in Wuhan even though there is no scientific evid ence t h at it is ef fec t i ve a ga ins t COVID-19 — and gave it to relatives and friends, counseling them not to go out. Then, when China’s State Council set up a hotline for reporting incidents of negligence in combating the outbreak, Wang immediately reported that her hospital’s leaders had concealed infections among the medical staff. Her best

I N T H E T R EN CH E S LI WAS NOT alone in considering a career change. Another of my contacts, a 30-year-old nurse at Wuhan Changhang General Hospital, also asked herself if she could keep going. Ms. Wang, as I’ll call her, was among the first to work in

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A COVID-19 patient weeps at a temporary clinic at Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, China, on March 10, 2020.


friend was among the earliest to contract COVID-19 and had been put into intensive care with respiratory and heart failure on January 23. In an attempt to ease Wang’s worries, the friend sent a photo of herself smiling behind her ventilator. But the gesture had the opposite effect. After seeing it, Wang told me, she felt even more terrified and desperate to avoid infection. Even so, Wang continued to work, and just two days later — on January 25 — she started to cough. In a text message, she told me that a CT scan had identified a shadow on her right lung. I told her to rest. She said she couldn’t, because her hospital was short of nurses as it was.

H E A L T H YSEL F ?

XINHUA / AL AMY

WHILE SERVING ON the front lines,

Wang saw many of her colleagues break down and cry in the hospital’s lounge. She sent me a video of a nurse curled up in a corner weeping and proclaiming hysterically that she wanted to quit. I asked Wang what had happened to that nurse, but she told me that such episodes were common. As soon as a patient rang a call button, the nurses would pick themselves up and hurry back to the ward. On January 27, Wang was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. That judgment was based solely on her CT scan, even though the standard for confirming a coronavirus case at the time was to use a test kit. Within two weeks, China would formally loosen its criteria for counting cases, allowing for more diagnoses based on characteristic symptoms. Wang and other infected colleagues were told to self-isolate at home. By late January, hundreds of her colleagues were in home-quarantine or had been hospitalized. She and her husband sequestered themselves in separate bedrooms of their

apartment. For weeks, Wang lived in fear, both for herself and for her loved ones, not least her four-year-old son, whom she had left with her in-laws. Wang’s supervisor instructed her not to tell anyone she was infected. If someone asked, she was supposed to say “no,” to avoid sowing panic. By then, many hospitals and media outlets had received orders not to talk about the epidemic. On January 27, Wang told me that medical staff had been ordered to remain calm and collected in front of anyone who did not work at the hospital. During her quarantine at home, Wang kept busy by connecting with various online volunteer organizations that were trying to deliver more PPE to her hospital. When her symptoms finally abated on February 27, she was given two diagnostic tests 24 hours apart, as protocol required. When they both came back negative, she immediately returned to work. “I was really scared this time,” she told me. “I didn’t know if I could do it again. I have a son. Now I realize I want a safer job.” In March, the Chinese tech firm ByteDance (the parent company of the popular social-media app TikTok), offered 100,000 renminbi (US$14,100) to every medical worker who had been infected. Yet because Wang’s COVID-19 infection had never been confirmed by a test, she assumed that she would be ineligible for the reward. In any case, she told me that she was not interested in that kind of compensation. What she really wants is a post mortem investigation into “the government and hospital officials who covered up the outbreak.” A final account of the COVID-19 crisis came from a longtime friend whom I’ll call Jing. An anesthesiologist in the city of Shiyan, near Wuhan, Jing had never imagined that she would be working on the front lines of an epidemic. But by late

February, she had no choice. The first wave of medical personnel had pushed themselves physically and psychologically to the limit, but the number of patients being admitted continued to rise. In response, Jing’s hospital launched a training program to teach medical specialists in other fields how to treat coronavirus patients in a clinical setting. After her crash course, Jing was sent into the trenches. When I spoke to her on February 22, she admitted that when she first witnessed an ambulance bringing in a new COVID-19 patient, her immediate instinct was to turn and run. But she fought that impulse. As a healthcare provider, her job was to help people, so she got to work. After her first day in the clinic, she cried long and hard. By early April, the epidemic appeared to have been mostly contained in China. But Jing was war y of letting down her guard. She worried that discharge standards would be set too low, and she wondered if adequate testing had been conducted in places like prisons and nursing homes. Given the spread of the coronavirus globally, she also feared that a wave of new cases would be imported from overseas. When I spoke to Jing on March 8, she told me that the higher-ups in her hospital did not share her sense of vigilance. On the contrary, they had been acting as if the battle already had been won. “ While we are grateful to the people across the country, medical teams that came to support our Hubei, overseas Chinese, and civil society for their supplies,” she told me, “we have no thanks for our leaders or the government. This still isn’t over, and they’re already rushing to collect rewards for merit.” Tr a c y We n Li u i s an a war d-w inning f r e e l a n c e w r i t e r, r e p o r t e r, a n d t r a n s l a t o r f rom China.

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COVID IN...

Dispatches on the virus from across the Asia-Pacific.

SOUTH KOREA

The Dark Side of a COVID Success Story BY JEONGMIN KIM

L

IFE IN SOUTH KOREA , as is the

case around the globe, has been upended by COVID-19. Each day begins with a face mask and hand sanitizer. Friday nights are no longer spent hanging out at crowded bars with friends and colleagues. Public announcements on the street and on public transportation remind us every few minutes to keep six feet apart from each other. But over the past months, the country has emerged as a global role model for how to handle the pandemic. Since dealing with an outbreak tied to the secretive Shincheonji Church of Jesus in February, the South Korean government has won praise for implementing testing and contact tracing programs on a national scale. These efforts are, by any standard, impressive: Throughout the day, I get at least a dozen text messages from the government alerting me to newly confirmed cases nea rb y. These messa ges u su a l l y include links to a website detailing past movements of the newly-infected. Health authorities use data from credit cards and cell phone usage — as well as patients’ own testimony — to gather this information. This type of tracing might be considered an invasion of privacy in some

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countries. But South Koreans are quite comfortable giving out their personal information and even using personal QR codes when visiting cafes or restaurants. Most of the state-level measures on virus containment were “recommendations,” not orders — but people still voluntarily complied. The social cohesion exhibited in South Korea reveals a population that prioritizes communal safety over individual freedom in times of emergency. The results speak for themselves. As of early October, just over 400 people in South Korea had died from the virus — a figure roughly half that of a typical day in the United States.

luxury vehicles spiked. Meanwhile, part-time workers and small business owners increasingly suffered as the government closed down high-risk places like restaurants and karaoke parlors. Government assistance to the poor helped cushion some of these losse s , b u t r a mp a nt i ne qu a l it y h a s remained. In one example reported by national news, a delivery driver who did not have the luxury to stay home died of overwork. COVID-19 cases that allegedly started from racial or religious minorities sparked violent online reprisals and offline discrimination. Following the Shincheonji outbreak in late winter, an-

South Korea should be proud of its success in handling the pandemic. But it should also not ignore the decades-old problems that surfaced in the past year. But South Korea’s success at containing the coronavirus belies a polarized society still afflicted with widespread inequality. For t he cou nt r y ’s wea lt hy, t he COVID-induced economic shutdown barely registered as a blip: The richest 20 percent in South Korea earned more this spring than they had during the same period in 2019, and purchases for

gry South Koreans used KakaoTalk, a messenger app, to harass the religious group’s adherents and release their personal information to the public. Following the initial reports of the virus’ spread from China, Chinese residents in Seoul reported being afraid to speak Mandarin in the city due to ethnic discrimination from Koreans. And, as in the U.S., many South Koreans fell for


UNITED STATES

ASIA VS. THE VIRUS 200

D ATA V I S U A L I Z AT I O N B Y G R A C E M A R T I N E Z

Jeongmin Kim is Seoul cor respondent for NK News.

150

COVID -19 CASES PER MILLION PEOPLE*

irrational messages that contradicted the scientific consensus. In August, an anti-government protest led by an outspoken religious leader who said “COVID-19 is not contracted outdoors” sparked a mass outbreak. The religious figure, who contracted the virus himself, was touted as a “martyr” in the ultra-right-wing communities after alleging that his infection resulted from North Korean bioterrorism. South Korea should be proud of its success in handling the pandemic. But it shou ld also not ignore the decades-old problems that surfaced in the past year, including residual sympathy for authoritarianism, the gap between the haves and have-nots, and ethnic discrimination. In addition, the muchpraised contact tracing technology implemented to halt the spread of COVID could, in the wrong hands, be used as a tool for targeting political opponents and weakening democracy. As a South Korean citizen, I hope the light and shade we’ve seen during COVID-19 might make us a more mature democracy: high-functioning, but also inclusive and humane.

As cases surged in the U.S., many nations in Asia were able to stem the rise, if not flatten the curve.

100

IRAN

INDIA PHILIPPINES JAPAN

50

SOUTH KOREA AUSTRALIA TAIWAN VIETNAM CHINA

0 FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

*SHOWN IS THE ROLLING 7-DAY AVERAGE. THE NUMBER OF CONFIRMED CASES IS LOWER THAN THE NUMBER OF ACTUAL CASES; THE MAIN REASON FOR THAT IS LIMITED TESTING. SOURCE: EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL (ECDC) VIA OURWORLDINDATA.ORG


NEW ZEAL AND

Digital Divide Laid Bare by Disease BY MITCHELL PH A M

IN

LATE FEBRUARY, New Zealand reported its first case of the coronavirus. Within a month, we had introduced a four-level alert system. By 11:59 p.m. on March 25, the country was in lockdown. It wasn’t until June 8 that we fully emerged from our homes. Life hasn’t completely returned to normal. Months after the pandemic began, we were still required to trace our whereabouts using a government app and get tested for COVID-19 if we were feeling unwell. Hand sanitizing, of course, is part of the daily routine. Tourism has all but dried up with our borders so seriously restricted. I think I speak for all my fellow Kiwis when I say it is tragic to have lost, as of October, 25 lives to the virus — even if this figure is far below that of most other industrialized countries. But at the same time, we feel relieved that we acted early, we acted together, and the pandemic did not get away from us like it has elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong. We are not complacent. In August, we experienced a second outbreak — of some 150 cases — in Auckland, our biggest city. We have our eyes open to the economic consequences. However, in New Zealand, at least for now, we are feeling a little safer. Not that it’s always been easy. Like many people around the world, I have been cut off from loved ones. My parents still live in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and I have family all over the country. For years, I have traveled a lot for both family and work. The enforced break from overseas colleagues is hard.

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In the absence of travel, I have increasingly felt claustrophobic. New Zealand feels small now. But if I think about what I have observed as chair of New Zealand’s Digital Council, a government advisory group focused on digital and data-driven technologies, and as someone with extensive networks in the business, government, and not-for-profit worlds, I would say New Zealanders learned a lot about ourselves during lockdown. The first major lesson was coming to grips with the scale of the digital divide in the country, and what we might do to address it. Overnight, COVID-19 made us all reliant on technology for work, education, and social connection. This proved to be a challenge: Evidence suggests one in five

getting more than 300 Māori communities connected. COVID-19 also taught us important business lessons. Talking to our industry and communit y networks, the digital council learned that Kiwi firms needed a better e-commerce infrastructure to do business online, including a serious skills boost, and incentives to adopt cloud-based technologies. Small to medium enterprises are the lifeblood of the New Zealand economy, but we found big business needed help too. Our government is responding to these challenges. New Zealand is steadily adopting 5G and cloud-based technologies. New digital skills training for small business and digitally excluded communities is being rolled out.

Overnight, COVID-19 made us all reliant on technology for work, education, and social connection. This proved to be a challenge: Evidence suggests one in five Kiwis lacks access to devices or the internet. Kiwis lacks access to devices or the internet — or lacks the skills, motivation, and trust needed to go online. Some of our most vulnerable really struggled. But the country rallied. We saw people from all walks of life collaborate in new ways to get others online. Telecommunication companies joined forces with charities and the government to get devices into children’s hands for online education. Data caps were removed. The ministry of education is on track to getting 80,000 new households online. Other agencies are putting their efforts into

How will New Zealand take the opportunities offered by digital and data-driven technologies as we continue forward? As a country, how will we build on what was started during lockdown and not simply return to the pre-COVID norms? What is our role in assisting other nations to do the same? Perhaps, these are the burning questions for countries the world over. Mitchell Pham is chair of the Digital Council of Aotearoa Ne w Zealand and an A sia 21 Young Leader.


AFGHANISTAN

‘These Numbers Are Simply Not True’ BY LOTFULL AH NAJAFIZADA

I

BEGAN TO feel sick in mid-April — I

had a fever and couldn’t stop shaking. I took a COVID-19 test and it came back positive. Soon, my mother, father, and 1-year-old son were sick, as well. I informed colleagues at TOLOnews TV, where I work in Kabul, Afghanistan. Before long, 70 people at the network tested positive, too.

difficult — even our national population is just an estimate. So when the government reports that we’ve had a relatively modest number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities, these numbers are simply not true. In fact, I believe that many millions may have ultimately been infected. And you can assume that a proportional number of people have

People began to develop a fatalistic attitude about the virus. After all, it is far from the only thing that can kill you in Afghanistan, when you consider the war and other threats to our health. My illness lasted about two weeks — but it was particularly bad for four or five days. I felt pain throughout my body, lost my sense of smell and taste, and lost my appetite; fortunately, though, I never experienced breathing difficulties. I was wracked with anxiety throughout, worried about what would happen to my family. Fortunately, all of us survived and have recovered. And in something of a miracle, the doctor treating my family never got sick at all. Neither did a friend who kept coming by to visit. When the first reports of the coronavirus’ spread in Iran came through, I knew it was only a matter of time before it would arrive in Afghanistan. Thousands of people travel each day between the two countries and, sure enough, our first outbreak occurred in Herat, the part of Afghanistan that borders Iran. Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, and our public health infrastructure is sparse. Our testing capacity was limited to around 2,000 per day — this in a country with a population of some 30 million. Compiling accurate statistics in a country like Afghanistan is notoriously

died. I suspect that it’s possible that we have already reached herd immunity. The government made some effort to promote social distancing, and President Ashraf Ghani walked around with a mask. But enforcing any sort of a lockdown in Afghanistan was virtually impossible. Much of the population works outdoors, as day laborers, and if they do not work, they do not get paid — there is no way for them to make a living indoors and away from their families. People began to develop a fatalistic attitude about the virus. After all, it is far from the only thing that can kill you in Afghanistan, when you consider the war and other threats to our health. Even in Kabul, people have continued to embrace each other when they meet. I’ve personally tried to avoid handshakes, but haven’t always been successful. The damage to our national economy, which was already weak, has been substantial. Revenue is down for our company and for many others, as well. But we are happy to be alive. Lotfullah Najaf izada is head of TOLOnews TV in Afghanistan and an Asia 21 Young Leader.

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TA I WA N

A 2020 ‘Alternate Reality’ — Featuring Baseball Fans in Seats BY HILTON Y IP

W

HEN I MOVED back to Taiwan from Hong Kong in February, during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, the difference between the two was stark. There was none of the frantic mask hoarding or panic-buying of toilet paper that I left behind. People carried on in a calm, controlled manner — neatly spaced six feet apart. In April, as the outbreak forced the delay of the Major League Baseball season in the United States, Taiwan’s own league began its games on time. A month later, fans were back in the seats. This summer, with international travel all but prohibited, Taiwanese people flocked to the island’s rugged eastern coast and packed offshore inlets. And in early August, music lovers attended shows performed by a local singer — the first arena concerts to occur in Asia since COVID-19 began its spread. Taiwan’s success at managing the COVID-19 pandemic has stood out — even in Asia. As of the end of summer, a total of seven people there had died from the disease. (By contrast, at that time one American was dying of coronavirus, on average, every 80 seconds.) But none of this came easily. Taiwan suppressed the virus through a combination of several factors: early vigilance, proactive measures, transparency, and technology. The fight against COVID-19 began on December 31, 2019, when officials started inspecting flight passengers arriving from Wuhan, China — likely the earliest pre vention mea sure implemented anywhere in the world. Taiwanese authorities acted despite having learned only earlier that same day, from social media, of a mysterious illness spreading in Wuhan. They acted on the assumption

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that the illness was transmissible among humans, something that China would only acknowledge in mid-January. Later in January, Taiwan barred its nationals from going to Wuhan; then, it enacted a ban on arrivals from China and Hong Kong in early February. Large events such as Taipei’s annual book fair, which is held every February, were postponed. International visitors and returning locals, initially from certain countries b u t t he n f r om e ve r y w he r e, we r e required to quarantine for 14 days at their homes or hotels. Authorities implemented phone tracking through cellular signals to ensure people in quarantine followed the rules while also making daily calls and providing care packages that included food and masks.

The Taiwanese government released data that enabled apps directing the public to stores where masks were available. These measures have ensured that, throughout the pandemic, Taiwan has never really had a domestic outbreak. In March and April, cases from Taiwanese residents returning from overseas created a scare. In May, a small cluster of cases occurred among sailors on a three-ship flotilla that had returned from a tour in the Pacific. Authorities were quick to test everyone the sailors had encountered, and the cluster was quickly resolved. Taiwan’s success at suppressing the virus hasn’t spared its economy, which, like everywhere else in the world, has endured significant pain. But the government acted to mitigate the damage, providing over

None of this came easily. Taiwan suppressed the virus through a combination of several factors: early vigilance, proactive measures, transparency, and technology. To ensure a coordinated response to COVID-19, the Taiwanese government set up the Central Epidemic Command Center, led by Health Minister Chen Shihchung, which managed policies, resources, and communication with the public. In January, Taiwan’s government secured domestic face mask supplies by mandating that local companies ramp up production and ban mask exports. Authorities then implemented a rationing purchase system in early February that allowed every resident to buy masks at a subsidized price every two weeks. This system was extended to the end of 2020. Masks were made mandatory on public transit, as well as in hospitals and places of worship. Finding them wasn’t hard:

$2 billion in subsidies to businesses and workers, over $25 billion in loans, and in July, issuing shopping vouchers in order to stimulate consumption. As of the fall, life in Taiwan wasn’t yet completely back to normal. Precautionary measures were still being undertaken: hospitals, public transportation, and libraries maintain mandatory mask usage, while name registration and temperature checks are routine for visitors at museums and other public buildings. But living in Taiwan during the year of the pandemic was like experiencing an alternate reality — one that, in the context of how the rest of the world was faring, felt almost perverse. Hilton Yip is a writer based in Taipei.


A think — and do — tank tackling the major policy challenges confronting the Asia-Pacific. Ranked in the top 2% of think tanks in the U.S. and globally, according to the University of Pennsylvania.

Learn More Website: AsiaSociety.org/ASPI Twitter: @asiapolicy Facebook: facebook.com/asiapolicy

Clockwise from top lef t: Then IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at ASPI; Then Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and ASPI President Kevin Rudd; CNN’s Fareed Zakaria interviews Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani for ASPI; ASPI Vice President Daniel Russel and Ambassador Wendy Sherman; ASPI Vice President Wendy Cutler; Then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at ASPI.

Asia 21 \ ˈā-zhə twen-tē-ˈwən \ n. 1 . an unparalleled global network of Asia-Pacific influencers

under the age of 40; 2 . a highly collaborative group of young leaders, from all walks of life, who are changing the world

For more on how Asia 21 is defining the future visit AsiaSociety.org/Asia21

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The pandemic bodes ill for both U.S. and Chinese power — and for the global order. 34

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IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY OF 2020, there was audible popping of champagne corks in certain quarters of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. What some observers had long seen as this era’s giant geopolitical bubble had finally begun to deflate. China’s Communist Party leadership, the thinking went, was at last coming apart, a result of its obsession with official secrecy, its initial missteps in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, and the unfolding economic carnage across the country.

A ver s ion of thi s s tor y wa s or ig inally publi shed by Foreign A f fairs.

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Then, as China began to recover and the virus migrated to the West in March and April, irrational jubilation turned to irrational despair. The commentariat greeted with outrage any possibility that the pandemic might in fact help China emerge triumphant in the ongoing geopolitical contest with the United States. This concern was a product of China’s seemingly cunning remolding of the narrative on the origins of the virus, the brutal efficiency of the Chinese authoritarian model in containing it, and Beijing’s global COVID-aid campaign. China’s own nationalist commentariat happily piled on, delighting in the United States’ distress and noting the supposed contrast between Chinese largesse and American indifference: the “people’s war” against COVID-19 had been won, and the virtues of China’s political model had been vindicated. Yet despite the best efforts of ideological warriors in Beijing and Washington, the uncomfortable truth is that China and the United States are both likely to emerge from this crisis significantly diminished. Neither a new Pax Sinica nor a renewed Pax Americana will rise from the ruins.


Rather, both powers will be weakened, at home and abroad. And the result will be a continued slow but steady drift toward international anarchy across everything from international security to trade to pandemic management. With nobody directing traffic, various forms of rampant nationalism are taking the place of order and cooperation. The chaotic nature of national and global responses to the pandemic thus stands as a warning of what could come on an even broader scale.

OF POWER AND PERCEPTION AS WITH OTHER historical inflection points, three factors will shape the

future of the global order: changes in the relative military and economic strength of the great powers, how those changes are perceived around the world, and what strategies the great powers deploy. Based on all three factors, China and the United States have reason to worry about their global influence in the post-pandemic world. Contrary to the common trope, China’s national power has taken a hit from this crisis on multiple levels. The outbreak has opened up significant political dissension within the Chinese Communist Party, even prompting thinly veiled criticism of President Xi Jinping’s highly centralized leadership style. This has been reflected in a number of semi-official commentaries that have mysteriously found their way into the public domain. Xi’s draconian lockdown of half the country for months to suppress the virus has been widely hailed, but he has not emerged unscathed. Internal debate rages on the precise number of the dead and the infected, and on the future direction of economic and foreign policy. The economic damage has been massive. Despite China’s published return-to-work rates, no amount of domestic stimulus in the second half of 2020 will make up for the loss in economic activity in the first and second

quarters. Drastic economic retrenchment among China’s principal trading partners will further impede economic recovery plans, given that pre-crisis, the traded sector of the economy represented 38 percent of GDP. Overall, 2020 growth is likely to be less than two percent — the worst performance since the Cultural Revolution five decades ago. China’s debt-to-GDP ratio already exceeds 310 percent, acting as a drag on other Chinese spending priorities, including education, technology, defense, and foreign aid. And all of this comes on the eve of the Party’s centenary celebrations in 2021, by which point the leadership had committed to double China’s GDP over a decade. The pandemic now makes that impossible. As for the United States’ power, the Trump administration’s chaotic management has left an indelible impression around the world of a country incapable of handling its own crises, let alone anybody else’s. More important, the United States seems set to emerge from this period as a more divided polity rather than a more united one, as would normally be

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the case following a national crisis of this magnitude; this continued fracturing of the American political establishment adds a further constraint on U.S. global leadership. Meanwhile, conservative estimates see the U.S. economy shrinking by least three and five percent, the largest single contraction in decades. Washington’s fiscal interventions meant to arrest the slide already amount to 10 percent of GDP, pushing the United States’ ratio of public debt to GDP toward 100 percent — near the wartime record of 106 percent. The U.S. dollar’s global reserve currency status enables the government to continue selling U.S. treasuries to fund the deficit. Nonetheless, large-scale debt sooner or later will constrain post-recovery spending, including on the military. And there’s also risk that the current economic crisis will metastasize into a broader

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financial crisis, although the Federal Reserve, other G-20 central banks, and the International Monetary Fund have so far managed to mitigate that risk. Chinese leaders have a simple Leninist view of the United States’ power. It rests on two fundamentals: the U.S. military and the U.S. dollar (including the depth and liquidity of the U.S. financial markets that underpin it). Everything else is detail. All states are mindful of what Leninists call “objective power” and the willingness of the great powers to deploy it. But the perception of power is equally important. China has been working overtime to repair the enormous damage to its global standing that resulted from the geographical origin of the virus and Beijing’s failure to contain the epidemic in the critical early months. Whatever China’s new generation of “wolf-warrior” diplomats may report back to Beijing, the reality is that China’s standing took a huge hit (the irony is that these wolf-warriors are adding


A F T E R E N G AG E M E N T THE CRISIS ALSO appears to have shredded

to this damage, not ameliorating it). Anti-Chinese reaction over the spread of the virus, often racially charged, has been seen in countries as disparate as India, Indonesia, and Iran. Chinese soft power runs the risk of being shredded. For different reasons, the United States does not come out of the crisis much better. The world watched in horror as an American president acted not as the leader of the free world but as a quack apothecary recommending unproven “treatments.” It has seen what “America First” means in practice: Don’t look to the United States for help in a genuine global crisis, because it can’t even look after itself. Once there was the United States of the Berlin airlift. Now there is the image of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crippled by the virus, reports of the administration trying to take exclusive control of a vaccine being developed in Germany, and federal intervention to stop the commercial sale of personal protective equipment to Canada. The world has been turned on its head.

much of what was left of the U.S.-China relationship. In Washington, any return to a pre-2017 world of “strategic engagement” with Beijing is no longer politically tenable — even with Joseph Biden’s victor y in November’s presidential election. In the incoming Biden administration, strategic competition (and decoupling in some areas) will continue, likely to be executed on a more systematic basis and leaving some scope for cooperation in defined areas, such as climate, pandemics, and global financial stability. On balance, Beijing would have preferred Trump’s re-election over the alternative, because it saw value in his tendency to fracture traditional alliances, to withdraw from multilateral leadership, and episodically to derail

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the United States’ China strategy. Even with him gone, the U.S. relationship with Beijing will become more confrontational. In Beijing, China’s response to the United States’ ever-hardening posture is now under intense review. This process began in 2018, during the first full year of the U.S.-Chinese trade war. It has now been intensified, because of the pandemic and its international consequences. The review is part of a broader internal debate in Beijing about whether China’s national strategy, at this stage of its economic and military development, has in recent years become insufficiently reformist at home and excessively assertive abroad. Prior to Xi, the strategy was to wait until the correlation of economic and military forces shifted in China’s favor before seeking any major adjustments to the regional and international order — including on Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the U.S. presence in Asia. Under Xi, Beijing has become significantly more assertive, taking calculated — and so far successful — risks to bring about changes on the ground, as demonstrated by island reclamation in the South China Sea and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The United States’ reaction to this approach has been deemed to be manageable, but that calculation could change in a post-trade war, post-pandemic world.

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Xi could seek to ameliorate tensions with the United States until the pandemic is lost to political memory; or facing internal challenges, he could take a more nationalist approach abroad. Both of these tendencies will likely appear in Chinese policy behavior until China’s internal policy review process concludes, which may not happen until shortly before the 20th Communist Party Congress in 2022. But if Xi’s style thus far is any indication, he is likely to double down in the face of any internal dissent. That would mean hardening China’s posture toward the United States, including on issues such as Taiwan, the single most destabilizing element in the U.S.-Chinese relationship. Beijing is likely to sharpen its strategy of shrinking Taiwan’s international space, even as the U.S. attempted to secure Taiwan’s readmission to the World Health Organization. Given that this comes on the heels of other recent U.S. efforts to upgrade official-level engagement between Washington and Taipei, the understandings of the “one China policy” that underpinned the normalization of U.S.-Chinese relations in 1979 could begin to unravel. If these understandings collapse, the prospect of some form of military confrontation over Taiwan, even as the inadvertent result of failed crisis management, suddenly moves from abstraction to reality. Prior to the current crisis, the postwar liberal international order was already beginning to fragment. The United States’ military and economic power, the geopolitical fulcrum on which the order rested, was being challenged by China, first regionally and more recently, globally. The Trump administration was adding to the order’s problems by weakening the U.S.


alliance structure (which in conventional strategic logic would have been central to maintaining a balance of power against Beijing) and systematically delegitimizing multilateral institutions (effectively creating a political and diplomatic vacuum for China to fill). The result has been an increasingly dysfunctional and chaotic world. The current crisis is likely to reinforce such trends. Strategic rivalry will now define the entire spectrum of the U.S.-Chinese relationship — military, economic, financial, technological, ideological — and increasingly shape Beijing’s and Washington’s relationships with third countries. Until the current crisis, the notion that the world had entered a new cold war, or Cold War 2.0, seemed premature at best; the two countries’ financial systems were so intertwined that true decoupling was unlikely, and there seemed to be little prospect of geopolitical or ideological proxy wars in third countries, a defining feature of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry. But the new threats that both sides are making as COVID-related tensions grow could change all that. A decision in Washington to end U.S. pension-fund investments in China, restrict future Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds, or start a new currency war (exacerbated by the recent launch of China’s new digital currency) would quickly remove the financial glue that has held the two economies together; a decision in Beijing to increasingly militarize the BRI would raise the risk of proxy wars. Moreover, as U.S.-Chinese confrontation grows, the multilateral system and the norms and institutions underpinning it are beginning to falter. Many institutions are themselves becoming arenas for rivalry. And with a damaged United States and a damaged China, there is no “system manager,” to borrow Joseph Nye’s phrase, to keep the international system in functioning order. It may not yet be Cold War 2.0, but it is starting to look like Cold War 1.5.

There are better alternatives to this scenario. They depend, however, on significant political and policy change in Washington; a reformist and internationalist readjustment in Beijing; the development of a new architecture of détente between the United States and China (drawing on the U.S.-Soviet experience), which places clear parameters around competition in order to avoid military disaster; and efforts by other countries to pool political and financial resources to preserve the essential multilateral institutions of the current system as a form of institutional triage until there is a return to geopolitical stability. History is not predetermined. But none of this will come about unless political leaders in multiple capitals decide to change course. With the wrong decisions, the 2020s will look like a mindless rerun of the 1930s; the right decisions, however, could pull us back from the abyss. Ke vin Rudd, for mer pr ime minister of Aust r ali a , i s pr e s i d e nt of the A s i a So c i e t y Poli c y Inst it ute and, star t ing Januar y 2021, p r e s i d e n t a n d CEO o f A s i a S o c i e t y.

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HOW A

TRADE WAR AND

A PA N D E M I C HAVE MADE

CO M PA N I E S THINK TWICE

ABOUT WHERE

THEIR PRODUCTS ARE MADE

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THE EMERGENCE OF COVID-19

in Wuhan, China, in early 2020 not only sparked a humanitarian disaster but also exposed major supply chain vulnerabilities for companies based around the world. As the global economy climbs out of its pandemic-sized hole, will companies reassess how and where their key components are made? In this interview with Asia Society Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski, Wendy Cutler, a leading trade expert who serves as vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, provides insights into why supply chains matter — and how they’re poised to change in a post-pandemic world. TOM NAGORSKI: Let’s start before the pandemic arrived, when global supply chains were functioning well. How does a good, seamless supply chain operate? And why is it so important for companies, consumers, and the whole global economy that they work well? WENDY CUTLER: Supply chains are

the way companies organize their production. They’re driven by a desire to promote low costs and efficiency. Companies find suppliers all over the world who can provide inputs on a timely basis that can be put into a finished product and forwarded to the consumer — whether it be someone at a store or an industrial consumer — as quickly as possible. We know that supply chains are working when we hear nothing about them. Even before COVID, they were beginning to come under stress, largely du e to t he U. S.- China t rad e w ar. But COVID has exposed new vulnerabilities, leading many companies to rethink their current supply chains in a variety of sectors.

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Global supply chains have contributed enormously to low consumer prices in the United States. One of the problems with “reshoring” — the drive to bring production back to the United States — is that prices on those products will likely go up because costs will go up.

electronics, and electronic parts, among other products. The virus hit production lines very quickly. One of the first companies outside of China that felt the implications of COVID-19 was Hyundai in South Korea. Hyundai couldn’t get one of the thousands of parts it needed for its auto China is usually involved in any production, and actually had to shut major global economic news story — down some plants. This shows the vulas well as in any complex global nerabilities that were exposed when a supply chain. What advantages company is reliant on one source of does China have that puts it in the production for a key input. middle of so many of these systems Hyundai was not alone. In fact, many and networks? auto companies either had to scale back China has become the central force or delay production until Chinese inin so many global supply chains for a puts could be provided. But by then, range of manufact ured products, COVID was moving to Europe, so it bewhether it’s electronics or cars or toys or came even more complicated. textiles. It has so many advantages compared to other countries, including just When you have an efficient supply its sheer size. Moreover, it has a skilled chain, a company like Hyundai can’t workforce and an efficient and exten- just say: “Fine, we’ll just go and get sive infrastructure that allows products those parts we need from another to move very quickly within and out of part of the world.” the country. For the sake of a cost-effective supply There are also other factors that com- chain, ideally you don’t want to have panies take under consideration, in- three different manufacturers of the cluding — though this has changed over same part because that’s just more time — China’s low-cost, low-wage expensive. But indeed, that’s what’s workforce. As the wages for Chinese going to happen. Compa nies are workers have gone up in recent years, realizing their vulnerabilities and we’ve seen companies move more of recognizing that just being cost effitheir production to Southeast Asia and cient is not enough. They also need to South Asia, even before the U.S.-China diversify and build resilient supply trade war and COVID-19. Companies chains. If their source for an input can are adjusting their supply chains all no longer get their part to them quickly the time. They need to balance all of — because of a pandemic, another natuthese factors as they strive to be as cost ral disaster, or some political event in efficient as possible. that country — then they can turn elsewhere and not have to shut down their The pandemic hit China first, causing entire production. a near-total shutdown of its manufacturing capacity. What were the ef- In the United States, there was alfects of this — and how quickly did it ready a push from the Trump adminimpact these global supply chains? istration to “reshore” production — Wuhan, where the virus started, or bring more manufacturing back to is a central manufacturing hub for Chi- this country. What are other counna. Companies in Wuhan produce tries planning to do to respond to automotive parts, pharmaceuticals, this broken global system?


P R E V I O U S PA G E : C A L E B R U S S E L L / U N S P L A S H

We’re seeing a trend where governments are trying to encourage their companies either to come home (as in the U.S.), or in the case of Japan, to leave China and go to Southeast Asia. Governments are providing incentives, such as tax breaks, to make their countries more attractive investment destinations. But we also may see penalties, particularly in the trade area, against companies that don’t reshore to the United States. The president mentioned that he may even try and impose tariffs against companies that don’t come back to the United States. His administration has also announced a policy of not awarding government contracts to companies that don’t reshore. With other countries, it ’s not so much about ret urning production to their country — it’s about building more resilient, secure, and trustworthy supply chains. So, if there’s another pandemic or emergency, they’ll be better prepared. How are companies coping with these disruptions, especially if China is a link in their global supply chain? How do you build a trusted or a secure supply chain in this day and age? When companies make supply chain decisions — do they want to stay in China? Do they want to come back to the United States? Do we want to expand production in Southeast Asia? There are a lot of considerations. These include the economic growth rate of these countries, the level and types of regulations in place, tax rates, the quality of the infrastructure, and the sophistication and flexibility and cost of the workforce. I think one thing though is clear: If you look at the recent survey of over 100 companies issued by the U.S.-China Business Council this past summer, 70 or 80 percent of U.S. companies in China responded that they don’t have any plans to exit China. Now, many of these companies are producing goods for con-

sumption in China, so they’re not there to export inputs into a broader supply chain. That said, China still has enormous advantages over other countries, even though places like Vietnam are implementing policies that will attract production from companies that are looking to diversify their supply chains.

cho ose to st ay in Ch ina b ecau se of the advantages that China provides with respect to supply chains.

Can what China’s done be replicated in other countries? Practically speaking, what would happen if a lot of companies moved to Vietnam, Bangladesh, or even Mexico for supply needs that are currently met by China? I think certain companies will move, but many others won’t. This will depend not only on the culture of the company and the kinds of risks they want to take, but also on the sector and which conditions they think are most important for the production of their product. Even if companies stay in China, many will still aim to diversify their supply chains, so if something else happens in China, like what we saw in Wuhan, they will have alternative sources for key inputs. I think that’s one lesson that companies have learned. They don’t want to shut down complete production lines, and they’re going to have to incur more costs for that diversification. But many will think that is well worth it, because shutting down a production line means no money’s coming in from that line, and it means the workers that they need for that line’s jobs are jeopardized. Diversification and resilience is important, even for companies that

Some of the things you’ve spent your career working on — like free trade and globalization — have become, in some places, dirty words. I assume, though, that you’d argue that global supply chains aren’t going anywhere. They’re just ripe for change. Right. I think we’re going to see important adjustments to supply chains, but globalization and intricate supply chains will continue. But we’re not going back to where we were. And in fact, based on many studies, globalization peaked in 2008 and, since that time, you’ve seen supply chains start to move out of China. So again, adjustments have and will continue to be made, and they can be viewed as healthy adjustments in many cases. What I worry about though is that in this push for reshoring, the U.S. government doesn’t think through which sectors are critical to have here at home and the impact on consumer prices. We have many allies and partners around the world that we could work with to set up trusted supply chains, as we advocated in our most recent ASPI paper entitled Reengaging the Asia-Pacific on Trade: A TPP Roadmap for the Next Administration.

And that’s good news, right? It might mean we pay slightly higher prices, but the reduction of those shocks and vulnerabilities would, I assume, be a good thing. Is it possible that these recent supply Absolutely. I think many companies chain movements away from China got so fixated on efficiency and low have just been just a blip? costs that they didn’t plan sufficiently Many companies still look at the large for risks. They didn’t fully think through and growing market in China and want their vulnerabilities, so this is a useful to be there. They’re willing to incur the lesson. And frankly, in looking ahead, cost and unpredictability and perhaps due to either climate change or other the over-dependence on the Chinese pandemics or unexpected weather ocmarket because they think it outweighs currences, we can expect futher stresses the cost of moving to other destinations. to supply chains.

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THE

REAL

PIVOT TO ASIA H O W C OV I D -1 9 F O R C E D T H E W O R L D T O S E E A K E Y R E G I O N I N A N E W WAY

BY ISHA AN THAROOR ILLUSTRATIONS BY RYAN INZANA

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I N TH E F I R S T M O NT H S of the pandemic, some American commentators deployed an epochal metaphor: The spread of the coronavirus in China was Beijing’s Chernobyl, a hideous disaster made worse by the opacity and cynicism of the country’s authoritarian system. The city of Wuhan fell under a draconian lockdown that, in its own way, seemed to capture the lurking dread behind the Soviet response in 1986. Panicked governments elsewhere shut down travel to and from China. An information blackhole settled over the outbreak’s epicenter. A whistleblower was punished, only to be awkwardly rehabilitated after succumbing to the disease.

Now, though, the story is astonishingly different. The Chinese coronavirus death toll — at least the officially-sanctioned statistic — is a fraction of that of some major countries in the West, and dwarfed by that of the United States. As lockdowns and social distancing measures continued to define life on both sides of the Atlantic, a kind of normalcy had returned in China by the late summer. Wuhan’s night markets were once again packed, its residents waltzed by the Yangtze, and young people crammed in close quarters at music festivals. If the shadow of Chernobyl loomed anywhere, it was in the United States. A thousand Americans were still dying every day from the virus in the first weeks of November, and even the president himself had tested positive. More Americans were killed by coronavirus in the space of less than a year than over a half century of U.S.-led war efforts, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq. Tens of millions of Americans

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lost their jobs, with U.S. unemployment reaching levels not East and Southeast Asian countries that for seen since the Great Depression. While other countries decades looked to Washington for guidance and dealt with the arrival of a “second wave” as the weather protection set precedents impossible for an overcooled in the fall, the United States has had to acknowlwhelmed United States to follow. A decade after edge that, for all intents and purposes, it had never seen Barack Obama declared that the United States would the ebb of the first. “pivot to Asia” — only to resume the more distracted staChina’s COVID turnaround would contrast even more tus quo ante — its moment has finally arrived. Just not notably from the United States if much of the rest of East on Washington’s terms. and Southeast Asia hadn’t handled the pandemic so Responsibility for all this, of course, could be laid at the adeptly. Wealthy countries like South Korea and developfeet of Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, a political leading states like Vietnam alike acted early in the crisis to er uniquely unfit to reckon with his nation’s public health implement sound public health measures, such as estabcalamity and singularly obsessed with his own bid to keep lishing contact tracing and mandating face masks. power. At the onset of the crisis, the White House’s shambolAsian countries not only demonstrated competent govic performance and slowness to act saw the virus spread ernance throughout the crisis but also a sense of social through metropolitan centers, virtually undetected. Its uncohesion that, to an American living through our diviwillingness to muster a major federal-level response led to sive present, seemed inconceivable. states fending for themselves and, at times, competing against

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each other for desperately needed medical supplies and equipment. Its skepticism about the scale of the threat — and suspicion of the alarms raised by myriad scientists — meant critical delays in the country’s ability to launch a regime of mass testing and contact tracing, pivotal to nations elsewhere that were able to keep the virus in check. And its aversion to multilateralism and constant axe-grinding against China saw it withdraw from the U.N.’s World Health Organization at a time when global coordination was vital for both curtailing the virus’s spread and developing a vaccine. But the pandemic also exposed the troubling co-morbidities of the world’s sole superpower. It revealed how toxic political polarization in the U.S. has become, with the country’s rival camps unable to agree even on the same set of facts over a viral pandemic. It showed how lethal America’s inequities can be, with the virus disproportionately hitting minority communities and the poor. And it underscored the foolhardiness of certain myths of American individualism: A glaring lack of national solidarity defined the crisis as local authorities struggled even to convince citizens to wear masks. Countries elsewhere demonstrated a resilience and competence the United States could not. In Germany and other wealthy northern European nations, robust worker protections and social spending meant fewer working people were forced into jobs and environments where they risked spreading or contracting the virus. Even in hard-hit France, workers sidelined by the pandemic enjoyed access to government financial support that all too quickly elapsed in the United States. Yet it was in Asia where the starkest contrasts could be drawn. Trump’s supporters often point out that, no matter the toll of suffering during the crisis, the U.S.’s per capita death rate is actually lower than a number of European countries. But that argument falls apart further east: Japan’s death rate was one-50th as large as the United States’; South Korea’s was roughly one-80th. Around the same time that makeshift morgues were parked outside New York City hospitals in April, Taiwan’s baseball season started on time — with fans in the seats. These rich, developed nations are hardly free from political turbulence: South Korea’s president, after all, was impeached following mass protests in 2017; Taiwan’s hurly-burly democracy lives forever with the looming specter of a Chinese invasion. But elected leaders across Asia allowed public health officials to lead the response — and with a transparency and openness that stood in stark contrast to Beijing’s opacity. It didn’t hurt, either, that a number of wealthier East Asian countries had systems of

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universal healthcare and recent traumatic experience in dealing with dangerous viral epidemics like SARS. No global event since World War II, arguably, has had as cataclysmic an effect — across such a wide swath of the globe — as the coronavirus. But in the months since COVID-19 first entered our lives, East and Southeast Asian countries have found themselves better equipped to manage the pandemic than any other part of the world. At a time when the Sino-American rivalry consumes much of the oxygen in geopolitical debates, the region as a whole has quietly emerged as a model for the rest of the globe.

A NEW COLD WAR? Throughout the pandemic, Trump has shown little interest in course correction. Instead, he has pinned America’s woes on rival governors and mayors at home and the great enemy abroad — China. No longer the bungling architect of a 21st century Chernobyl, China was cast by many in Washington as something worse: A new evil empire guilty of fomenting a world-spanning disease and then capable of flexing its geopolitical muscles to cover up its perfidy. Sino-U.S. relations hit a new nadir. A trade war already gripped the world’s two biggest economies, but that was supplanted by an all the more alarming narrative: The advent of a new Cold War, an ideological and perhaps even civilizational clash between two great powers. On both sides, there seemed eager combatants. Trump and his Republican allies have raged against the “China virus” and inserted condemnation of the Communist Party into their electoral politicking. The Democrats have tried to one-up them, painting the White House as quiescent to China’s autocratic President Xi Jinping and soft on human rights. In Congress, the U.S.’s bickering factions found a degree of rare bipartisan consensus, slapping sanctions on senior Chinese officials, while sounding the alarm on Beijing’s assault on civil liberties in Hong Kong and its dystopian repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.


IN THE MONTHS SINCE COVID-19 FIRST ENTERED OUR LIVES, EAST AND SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES HAVE FOUND THEMSELVES BETTER EQUIPPED TO MANAGE THE PANDEMIC THAN ANY OTHER PART OF THE WORLD.

In Beijing, officials bemoaned a bullying America that was It is entirely possible to imagine that the United out of step with international norms and conventions. They States, following the chaotic Trump years, will behave derided Trump’s “Cold War mentality” and pleaded that like a more conventional power, seeking to re-establish China had no intention of contesting power with the accommodation with public health institutions both United States. But that belied a perceptible shift in tone: domestically and internationally. But President Trump’s Chinese diplomats abroad became “wolf warriors” in the leadership alone cannot solely explain the sheer breadth shadow of the pandemic, sparring with local governments of vulnerabilities in American governance and society and foreign press over any perceived slight. Under Xi, what that the pandemic exposed. Nor does China, under the faint belief there had been in the possibility of the “liberalindefinite leadership of Xi Jinping, appear poised to ization” of China’s one-party state vanished. His regime dis- reorient its internal and external policies in response missed criticism over Xinjiang as “fake news” and then ruthto the pandemic. lessly moved to silence criticism in Hong Kong with a And so Asian countries, long tugged between the near sweeping national security law. These moves were but- and far giants, may emerge as forces in their own rights. tressed by a new intellectual vanguard that had swapped The region, after all, boasts the majority of the world’s Marx and the rhetoric of revolution for a reactionary population and soon the largest share of its economic philosophy of order that could be traced to thinkers like output. In Europe, leaders long accustomed to looking conservative German legal theorist Carl Schmitt, infamous west when talking about the continent’s political future for his intellectual contribution to the Nazi movement. now can only look east. In the United States, strategists The hardening divide between the two powers may who once believed Washington could set and reinforce provide greater opportunities for some countries capable the terms of a hemispheric “Pa x A mericana” in the of exploiting the tensions, but it’s also a source of disquiet Asia-Pacific now find themselves adjusting to new realities for many Asian leaders. forged elsewhere. “The strategic choices that the United States and China Since the late 20th century — dubbed by Time magazine’s make will shape the contours of the emerging global founder as the “American Century” — there has been talk of order,” wrote Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien the 21st century as the Asian one. It took several geopolitical Loong in an essay for Foreign Af fairs. “It is natural for big shocks for the vision of the “American” century to take hold, powers to compete. But it is their capacity for cooperation including the bloodiest war in human history. The pandemic that is the true test of statecraft, and it will determine may represent the latest epochal jolt to the system, reshaping whether humanity makes progress on global problems how we think about the course of global affairs. such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, and the spread of infectious diseases.” Ishaan Tharoor is a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post.

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PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH THE VIRUS

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TH E VIRUS IS G O N E . TH E PAIN LIVES O N . Sur vivo r ’s re m o rse is just o n e of th e lin g e rin g af te ref fe c ts . BY MICHELLE FLORCRUZ

left my apartment and started walking down the stairs. You can do this, I thought. But I immediately felt weak and shaky. I gripped the banister and told myself I’d be fine once I was walking on flat ground — I had to make it to urgent care, and soon. But, even though it was only 10 minutes away, the walk to the clinic was extremely difficult. I was moving very slowly, but still felt like I didn’t have any balance, like I was dragging my own body forward.

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This was March 24, the early, uncertain days of the COVID-19 takeover of New York City. I had already been working from home for more than a week. And, from what I could tell between shallow breaths for air, so too had most of my neighbors. The streets were eerily quiet.

and chair occupied with sick patients, patients on gurneys waiting in hallways, dozens of pairs of feet sticking out of curtains. The sounds of coughing and the whirring of machines overwhelmed my senses. The security guard, my EMTs, and the ER nurse checking me in all had walkie talkies that were going off non-stop. I ended up spending three days in the “I have bad news,” she told me. “You have pneumonia in your lungs in three hospital. The day after I arrived in the ER, different places.” She told me that I a doctor came in early in the morning and needed to go to the emergency room informed me that I had tested positive for right away, where I’d be tested for the virus. After my first round of antibiotcoronavirus. She called an ambulance ics seemed totally ineffective, he told me for me. I think I just responded “Okay.” that if my condition didn’t improve, I would need to be put on a ventilator. He And I started crying. In the ambulance, I began to cry hard- took down the phone numbers of my er as they asked me questions about my emergency contacts so he could update insurance. I felt even weaker than I had them if I was incapacitated. After he left, I mustered up the energy just an hour earlier. When we arrived at the hospital, I could immediately sense to grab my phone. I found a couple of arthe chaos as they checked me in and seat- ticles explaining that ventilator survival ed me in a wheelchair. On the way to my rates were very low. I opened the Notes room, I took in the grim scene: every bed app and started writing messages — to

my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my niece, my best friends. I imagine that the messages were mostly professions of love and gratitude, but honestly, I don’t remember what I wrote. Later, while I was recovering at home, I didn’t have the heart to re-read what saying goodbye looked like, so I just deleted them. After a second round of antibiotics and other medicine, my pneumonia improved, and I never had to be put on a ventilator. I was able to go home three days later. When I was discharged, my body was wrapped in a blanket and placed on a gurney to be taken by ambulance to go home. I was so weak — I had lost about nine pounds while in the hospital. My hospitalization, while serious, was not anything particularly special or newsworthy. I am simply one of more than 25 million people worldwide to have survived COVID-19. Whether I’ve fully recovered, though, is a more complicated question. While the physical symptoms of the virus are gone, I continue to struggle with lingering mental health issues. When I returned home from the hospital, I needed to remain isolated in my bedroom for two weeks. Without the normal distractions of life or any other human interaction, I was left with my dark thoughts amid the catastrophic daily news. My emotions never felt so out of my control. A news article, something a coworker said, or a song would send me into a tailspin for hours. I had what I would later realize were panic attacks, something I had never experienced before. I would sob uncontrollably for 20 minutes, the kind of crying that makes you struggle to catch your breath, and then I’d enter a catatonic state where I’d stare at the ceiling for up to an hour. I felt like a live wire, simultaneously highly emotional and closed off from family and friends. I had trouble sleeping. →

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I felt immense survivor’s guilt. That somehow my small and inconsequential life was spared instead of that belonging to a front line doctor, or the father of three young children that I would read about in the news. That I put medical professionals in danger by having to treat me amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment. That I was able to have a bed in a hospital, while friends of friends struggled to get an ambulance to help their elderly family members. I hated myself for getting sick and for inflicting this on other people. Even though I was recovering from the physical toll of my sickness, the virus was still ravaging the world — making it difficult to move on. But I learned to cope. I started speaking to a mental health professional who pre-diagnosed me with a form of shortterm Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) based on a questionnaire I took and a conversation we had. Frequent conversations with her, new cognitive techniques to keep intrusive thoughts at bay, candid conversations with my family, and distractions from friends have all been helpful. I am now nine months past my diagnosis. I still struggle with intrusive memories of my sickness. These episodes happen out of nowhere. Recently, when I was walking on the streets of New York City and passed an urgent care clinic, I started crying silently as my heart started to race. I sped up to look for a place to sit. I found a bench in Washington Square Park and cried behind my sunglasses and mask for about 30 minutes. The coronavirus pandemic has touched every aspect of society, and has greatly harmed the lives of many who have not been infected. Still, the coronavirus struggle is individual and personal. I am told I have acute PTSD. This implies that it won’t be something I will struggle with forever, and I am feeling better as time goes on. But my existence post-healing continues to be difficult. The sickness weakened my spirit, and that’s something I still am hoping to recover from.

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Michelle FlorCruz is social media and digital content manager at Asia Society in New York.

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In August, three global figures — an international opera star, the president of Asia Society, and a renowned microbiologist who has spent his career chasing viruses — reflected on their personal experiences contracting and recovering from COVID-19 during an Asia Society Hong Kong virtual event. Their stories of resilience and resolve are excerpted below.

WARRE N M O K WORLD-RENOWNED TENOR H o n g Ko n g

spent eight days in New York on a business trip right before the outbreak. I went everywhere — a show at the Metropolitan Opera, Broadway shows, bars, restaurants. I didn’t wear a mask because no one was wearing a mask.

I

The nightmare began when I flew to Bangkok for a vacation. At the airport, they took my temperature and found that it was over 100. “You can’t go anywhere until we test you for coronavirus,” they said. I waited 10 hours for results to come back. They confirmed I was positive for COVID, so I was taken directly to the hospital. In the end, I didn’t end up spending any time enjoying my vacation in Bangkok.

For two days, I didn’t have any symptoms, so the doctor didn’t give me any medicine. But on the third day, my temperature surpassed 101, and I had a headache — but no fever, no sore throat, no coughing, nothing like that, thank God. I was put on seven different kinds of medication, including Chinese medicine. It’s interesting: Even in Bangkok, you can find Chinese doctors that prescribe Chinese medicine. After two weeks, my symptoms were gone and I felt fine. But then another nightmare started. I kept testing positive for coronavirus, which meant that I was stuck at the hospital in Bangkok — I couldn’t fly back to Hong Kong. Finally, I got a negative test and was able to go home. But then, I got yet another positive COVID result, so I was forced to spend 10 days in the hospital in Hong Kong! It was very strange and ironic. I took no medication but just kept taking COVID tests until I was negative. All in all, I think I’ve been tested for COVID-19 more than 20 times. I was lucky that my case wasn’t more severe, and that COVID never affected my voice. So after I came out of the hospital in Hong Kong, I sang a song for reporters there.

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PETE R PIOT DIRECTOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE Lo n d o n

O

n the 17th of March, my colleagues and I at the university decided to work remotely because we were aware that the virus was spreading. Two days later, I developed a high fever — 101 — with a splitting headache. I felt very, very exhausted, and my muscles and joints were in a lot of pain. But, at the onset, I experienced no coughing or shortness of breath, so I didn’t really meet the case definition for COVID. I’ve been very lucky. I’m 71, and have basically never been ill my whole life. But for some reason, I thought, “this is it.” Because of my age, I’m in a high-risk category, which is a strange feeling. I’m kind of a workaholic, so I kept working, moving our classes to online. But I felt worse every day. In London, it

V

JOSET TE SH E E R AN

ASIA SOCIETY PRESIDENT AND CEO N ew Yo rk

was total chaos — just everything was badly organized. I couldn’t get a test through the National Health Service because my symptoms didn’t meet the case definition. So about a week after my symptoms began, I got tested at a private clinic and the results came back positive. Things kept getting worse. I had a splitting headache, and in the end I could hardly move my head or sleep. I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. But by then, I was already testing negative for COVID — which is quite common, actually. The doctors told me I didn’t have it! But they checked the oxygen saturation level of my blood, and it was 83 percent. Normally, most people are at 98 or 99 — certainly over 95 percent. The doctor looked at me and said, “How can you breathe?” I said I wasn’t short of breath. We live in an old Georgian house with four floors and I go up and down the stairs all the time. They immediately put me on an oxygen mask and, for seven days, I was isolated in a COVID ward with three other men. My symptoms didn’t get better, but after a week my oxygen levels, fortunately, rose to 90, 93 percent. I got antibiotics for my pneumonia and anticoagulants and a high-f low of ox ygen. I was happy that I wasn’t put on a ventilator, because that was my biggest fear. We know today that even if you’re totally healthy, there’s a mortality risk to being put on a ventilator. But the oxygen and anticoagulants saved my life.

ery early on, my family and I left New York to work remotely from a small town out west in the mountains that we love. By the middle of May, I’d take a hike every day, in a place where we’d have no exposure to anyone. One day, I felt like I had a flu; an annoying little cough. I developed a terrible headache and my muscles felt very weak. I joked, “Oh, I have COVID,” because it didn’t seem like a possibility — we really had been quite careful. But I felt really exhausted. I couldn’t do my usual hike. A couple of days later, I went out for a walk — just to get a little fresh air. About a half-block in, I knew I was going to collapse. I felt that I was going to crack my head open on some rocks. Every inch of my body was shaking like a leaf, and I couldn’t get oxygen. I went back to the house and told

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my son, “I don’t know what’s happening. I think I’m having a heart attack.” I had no underlying conditions. But my body was trembling, from head to toe, from just the slightest exertion. People talk about a COVID cliff of 13 days. When I hit that mark, I told my family that I wanted to have a cup of coffee — that I felt like I was coming back. A half-hour later, I was doubled up in pain. I felt like someone had stabbed me with a 10-inch knife in the chest. My son said, “Get in the car. We’re going to the emergency room.” And lo and behold, I had a pulmonary embolism. The doctors put me on blood thinners — which, again, wasn’t standard protocol, as they were flying blind at this point — and within two days I felt like I was coming around. I’ve been steadily improving since then.

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This woman had a cellphone that she gripped in her hand. I encouraged her to call her daughter, even though she was short of breath. I stepped out of the room to give them privacy, but I know that she said things to her daughter that she’d always wanted to. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending: Even though we put the lady on a A d o c to r ’s disp atch fro m th e fro ntlin es . ventilator, she recovered and is now doing well. I felt so grateful that I could give her the time to talk to her daughter because I knew what direction she was going in. I wish I could give more patients the ability to do that. The second story is more tragic. I met a woman in her 40s who had lost her father to COVID-19 in my hospital’s ICU. Two weeks after he died, her mother was he first thing you learn is how fast people seem to fall there on a ventilator and not doing well. We’d implemented some strict visiting apart. They come in short of breath, requiring a little rules, but it was confusing because they bit of oxygen, and then take a turn for the worse were changing on a day-to-day basis. very quickly. Not all of them do this, and that’s another Rules sometimes lag behind data. It took thing: COVID-19 is difficult to predict. We don’t know which us a while to realize that rules prohibitpatients will decompensate. But when they decompensate, they ing visitation were very restrictive and inconsiderate of the human soul. do it very quickly. The woman on the ventilator wasn’t I’m going to take away many stories doing well. I realized that I couldn’t preWe still don’t know why certain patients are able to fight off coronavirus. Some from this experience. But for now, I’ll dict what would happen to her in the get mildly ill, some get very ill, and some share two. I treated an asthmatic lady next couple of hours — much less whethwhose boyfriend had been exposed to er she’d survive the day. Despite the rules, require hospitalization and intubation. At first, I didn’t think too much about a COVID-19 patient. She came into I felt very strongly that the woman’s the risk to myself. When you’re a doctor, my hospital, on the general floor. At first, daughter, who had already lost her father, you’re always at some risk of contracting a she wasn’t that sick — she was comfort- should at least be called and given the disease. But that changed after I was able — but then she began to feel much option to visit. We were able to make this exposed to a COVID-19-positive patient worse. I was called into the ICU at two in happen. And, a half-hour after she arwithout personal protective equipment for the morning to see her. She was in rived, this woman saw her mother die. Even though it was a poor outcome, it a considerable period of time. I questioned distress and rapidly declining. I decided would have been a lot worse if we had just whether I was reckless in examining the to intubate her. I’d seen on social media how other followed the “no visitors allowed” rule. patient, who did not exhibit any symptoms, and worried about my ability to infect my physicians helped their patients use Face- We’re glad that we were able to bring her family and other patients. I felt guilty and Time to speak to their loved ones. We daughter to her bedside. These human stofoolish for putting myself and my family were so uncertain about the trajectory of ries, ultimately, are what I’ll take from this in such a position. It was not a good day. the disease, and patients on ventilators experience of treating the coronavirus. But I’m not the only one who’s felt this way. had such poor outcomes, that people One of my colleagues had even written a often didn’t get a chance to say goodbye Dr. Avinesh Bhar is a pulmonologist in Macon, Georgia, and an Asia 21 Young Leader. before they died. living will — just in case.

‘I DID N ’ T TH IN K TOO M U CH ABO UT TH E RISK TO MYSE LF ’

BY DR . AV INE SH BHAR

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KEEP UP WITH CHINA. Read ChinaFile.

ChinaFile is an online magazine from Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. ChinaFile.com

PHOTO: WANG HE FOR CHINAFILE

“ TH E A SIA GAM E CHAN G ER AWARDS ARE D ESIG N ED TO FILL A VITAL GAP — ID ENTIF YIN G AN D H O N O RIN G TRU E LE AD ERS MAKIN G A P OSITIVE CO NTRIB UTIO N TO TH E FUTU RE O F A SIA .” J O S E T T E S H E E R A N , A S I A S O C I E T Y P R E S I D E N T A N D C EO

Since launching in 2014, the Asia Game Changer Awards ceremony has emerged as the premier event honoring individuals, organizations, and movements that have inspired, enlightened, and shown true leadership in Asia and beyond.

Learn more about the awards at AsiaSociety.org/GameChangers

ASIA

GAME CHANGER AWARDS

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Percent change in human movement by country

*Normal

RETAIL & RECREATION

When the World Came to a Halt

Restaurants, cafes, shopping centers, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theaters

▶▶

-50%

India and the Philippines,, which implemented nationwide lockdowns, saw a huge decrease in mobility in contrast to countries that imposed more limited restrictions.

Normal

How COVID-19 changed the way we live — and move

BY GRACE MARTINEZ

In early 2020, as the coronavirus began to spread, governments around the world implemented a series of policies designed to slow the virus — in ef fect, by slowing the movement of people, too. Using Google’s “community mobility” data, the following visualizations showcase movement trends to and from dif ferent locations in the United States and eight Asian countries since mid-February.

TRANSIT STATIONS

Subway, bus, and train stations

-50%

Normal

WORKPLACES The Global Cliff RETAIL & RECREATION GROCERY & PHARMACY

-50%

TRANSIT STATIONS WORKPLACES

0%

GROCERY & PHARMACY

Grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops, drug stores, and pharmacies

-40%

Feb 17

Oct 16

Nor-

▲▲▲▲

The relative stability of Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in this category has been attributed to widespread mask-wearing and clear governmental communication to the public.

mal -50%

Feb 19

Mar 20

PHOTO BY: IMAGEDEPOTPRO/ISTOCK

Apr 19


HONG KONG INDIA JAPAN

PHILIPPINES SINGAPORE SOUTH KOREA

TAIWAN UNITED STATES VIETNAM

Vietnam’s drop in August was due to a positive case after 99 days of no infections. Within weeks, there were almost 600 infections and over 25 deaths.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, celebrated in South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, accounted for a pronounced dip.

▼▼▼

May 19

Jun 18

Jul 18

Aug 17

Sep 16

*”BASELINE DAYS” BASED ON THE MEDIAN VALUE FOR THE FIVE-WEEK PERIOD JAN. 3-FEB. 6, 2020. GOOGLE’S COMMUNITY MOBILITY REPORTS CHART HUMAN MOVEMENT TRENDS OVER TIME BY GEOGRAPHY, ACROSS DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF PLACES. POST COVID-19 VISITS TO AND TIME SPENT IN SPECIFIC KINDS OF LOCATIONS ARE COMPARED TO BASELINE DAYS. THIS GRAPH IS GENERATED FROM DATA THAT WAS SMOOTHED TO THE ROLLING SEVEN-DAY AVERAGE. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS DATA SET VISIT GOOGLE.COM/COVID19/MOBILITY.

Oct 16

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FROM THE ASIA SOCIETY POLICY INSTITUTE

by KEVIN RUDD

There is a temptation to always view a crisis as snapback to normality. Instead, a new abnormality unique. But in reality, history is paved by a series of will take its place. inflection points, each of which leaves its mark on The purpose of Asia Society Policy Institute’s the world and changes our concept of “normality.” COVID New (Ab)Normal project is to bring together COVID-19 is undoubtedly one of these moments insights from thought leaders, policymakers, and in time. Tens of millions of people have contracted experts throughout Asia in an effort to explain what the virus, over a million have died, more than a bil- this new abnormal will mean and what it will entail. lion people’s livelihoods are in danger of being de- Rather than Westerners reflecting on Asia’s future, stroyed, and — in Asia alone — many tens of millions our emphasis is on voices from the region itself have been ploughed into poverty. Amidst all this, grappling with their own countries’ futures. That’s we’ve seen existing great power cleavages deepen, what makes it different, significant, and impactful. newfound cooperative partnerships emerge, inOn the following pages you will find three stitutions implode or evolve, and our humanity and selections from our series — covering economic societies tested. challenges in Southeast Asia; human rights While we all hold out hope of defeating the virus, it imperatives in ASEAN; and India’s complicated is naive to think that if and when we do, the experi- U.S.-China relationship — and I strongly encourage ence of COVID-19 will not redefine many of the you to explore the entire collection online at things we take for granted. There will not simply be a AsiaSociety.org/NewAbnormal.

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How COVID-19 Sharpened India’s Twin Challenges ECONOMIC DISRUPTION AND A TENSE RIVALRY WITH BEIJING HAVE LED DELHI TO CONSIDER CLOSER TIES WITH WASHINGTON

T S O PA I M A G E S L I M I T E D /A L A M Y

THE COVID-19 CRISIS sharpened

A member of India’s border security force stands guard inside a bunker next to the national highway leading toward Ladakh in Ganderbal, India, on June 18, 2020.

India’s two major strategic challenges. One was the economic slowdown of recent years, and the other was the gathering military tension on its long and contested frontiers with China. The economic contraction imposed by the pandemic and China’s recent aggression in the high Himalayas compelled India to embark on a major reorientation of its economic and foreign policies. Delhi’s new policy approach promises to be quite consequential for the evolution of India’s domestic and international policies. The massive economic disruption triggered by the coronavirus has

by C. RAJA MOHAN compelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi to unveil a series of economic reforms and a broad political framework under which they could be pursued. India’s economic restructuring has also tied in closely with the reordering of India’s great power relations, which has been hastened by Chinese aggression in the eastern Ladakh border region. India’s retaliat ion fo c u sed on hor i zont a l economic escalation rather than a vertical military one. Delhi has threatened commercial dissociation from China in order to persuade Beijing to restore the territorial status quo in eastern Ladakh that was obtained prior to the People’s Liber-

ation Army aggression in May. The confrontation with China has also encouraged India to intensify its growing security partnership with the United States. If Beijing has been the source of many recent economic and foreign policy changes in Delhi, Washington has increasingly become central to India’s answers. Although there is much uncertainty in America’s own future direction and its relationship with China, the prospects for deeper strategic partnership between Delhi and Washington have improved significantly. These forces have brought India’s strategic policies to an important inflection point.

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DECOUPLING FROM CHINA The Indian economy was slowing down through the 2010s after reaching unprecedented growth rates of close to 9 percent in the mid-2000s. The expectation that Modi, elected as prime minister in 2014 with an impressive mandate, would give a fresh impetus to India’s growth trajectory was quickly belied by reality. Modi was the first Indian prime minister to enjoy a majority in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, after Rajiv Gandhi’s massive electoral victory in the 1984 elections that followed the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi. Modi also came to Delhi with the reputation of being a big reformer. But Modi surprised most observers with his unwillingness to promote s weeping change during his first term. The two major actions he did take — demonetization and the goods and services tax — only seemed to harm the economy. Modi also signaled his opposition to trade liberalization by asking his government to review all previous trade agreements. The pandemic, which came on top of this economic crisis, left Delhi with no option but to undertake serious reform and consider opening up further. In the summer of 2020, the Modi government announced a number of reforms. These included lowering taxes, ending a state monopoly on agricultural trade, privatizing stateowned enterprises, lifting caps on foreign direct investment, and opening up additional sectors for

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private enterprise. The government also created a new scheme of production-linked-incentives to promote manufacturing in India. In September, Modi got parliamentary approval for laws that make it easier for farmers to sell their produce directly to non-state entities and liberalize labor rules. Some state governments led by his Bharatiya Janata Party also announced the temporary suspension of labor laws to attract investments. Tying all these initiatives together was a new framework for promoting economic self-reliance under the new political campaign Atmanirbhar Bharat, or “self-sufficient India.” Unsurprisingly, Modi’s invocation of this phrase triggered many questions among India’s economic partners. Is Modi walking India back from the strategy of globalization adopted in the early 1990s? Senior ministers and officials in Delhi were at pains to emphasize that the focus was on strengthening India’s participation in the global economy rather than retreating from it. The government underlined its special commitment to India becoming a part of global value chains. The emphasis on self-reliance seemed to offer a new and interesting political framework for India’s reforms. Unlike in the past, when India was seen to be responding to external pressures to adapt, here Modi was framing the reforms in nationalist terms that were acceptable to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling party. The new campaign for self-reliance includes a special commitment to restore India’s manufac-

turing capabilities that were seen as losing out to India’s embrace of free trade since the 1990s. The problems with India’s rapidly expanding commercial relationship with China came into view in the 2010s as the bilateral trade deficit steadily rose to nearly $55 billion in 2019. Even more important was the fact that the import of cheap manufactured goods from China was wiping out India’s industrial base. Modi ended Delhi’s inaction when he pulled India out of an Asia-wide free trade arrangement called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in late 2019. Delhi had concluded that a China-led economic order in Asia will permanently doom India’s prospects. Then, Beijing’s Ladakh aggression forced India to go from passive commercial withdrawal to active economic decoupling from China. India took a series of steps to limit imports from China, constrain Chinese investments, limit India’s exposure to China’s digital companies, and signal the likelihood of blocking Huawei and ZTE from India’s rollout of the fifth generation cellular technology.

ALIGNING WITH AMERICA As Delhi begins to delink its economy from China’s, the post-pandemic environment has opened the door for a more intensive commercial engagement with the United States, already India’s largest trade partner (bilateral trade between the two nations stood at $160 billion in 2019). While there are multiple disputes in the economic


partnership, there is a new force binding them together. India is trying to attract U.S. companies, such as Apple, that are currently manufacturing in China but are looking to diversify their supply chains amid the trade war between Washington and Beijing. Since the COVID-19 crisis enveloped the world, India has been part of talks initiated by the Trump administration to reduce excessive dependence on China and reorient global supply chains towards a network of trusted partners. As the Unit-

come the traditional nativist opposition to the United States in his own Bharatiya Janata Party. From inviting an American president — Barack Obama — for the first time as the honored guest at India’s annual Republic Day celebrations to flipping India’s position on climate change to work with the United States, and from reviving the “quad” framework with the United States, Japan, and Australia to signing the so-called foundational military agreements w ith Washing ton, Modi took steps that had become

TH E P OST- PAN D EMIC ENVIRO N M ENT AN D CHINA’S AGGRESSION IN INDIA’S EASTERN L ADAKH REGION HAVE ONLY SHARPENED THE CASE IN DELHI FOR A STRONGER SECURIT Y PARTNERSHIP WITH WASHINGTON.

ed States takes a fresh look at its China policy and explores new ways of dealing with the challenges being posed by Beijing, Delhi figures prominently in the new Washington discourse in multiple ways — from new supply chain networks to a coalition of democracies and stronger Indo-Pacific security partnerships. Meanwhile, India under Modi has slowly shed many of the historic hesitations about drawing closer to the United States, especially in the security domain. If his predecessor Manmohan Singh was tied down by the ideological reservations of the Indian National Congress against a strategic embrace of the United States, Modi was determined to transform the partnership with America and found ways to over-

which barely touches $3 trillion), the traditional perception in Delhi of a broad parity with China had become unsustainable. It is replaced by the recognition that China was and is rapidly expanding its strategic influence in India’s near and extended neighborhood at Delhi’s expense. This was reinforced by China’s brazen efforts to block India’s larger international aspirations — whether it was a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council or the membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Delhi also discovered that the wider the gap in comprehensive national power, the less sensitive China was to India’s concerns. Even during Modi’s first term, however, the realists could not overcome Delhi’s entrenched ambivalence towards Beijing. China’s aggression in Ladakh has ended India’s reluctance to confront the military and economic challenges posed by China. Like all major interlocutors of China, Delhi would prefer managing the difficulties through dialogue with Beijing rather than embark on a confrontation. But Beijing has left Delhi with no other choice but to respond vigorously. Delhi is also acutely aware that U.S. policy towards China has entered a period of unpredictability and that it cannot rely on Washington to resolve its problems with Beijing. Nevertheless, Delhi is preparing to stand up to the China challenge with or without American support in this definitive moment of its national evolution.

quite inconceivable during the Singh-led United Progressive Alliance decade. The post-pandemic environment and China’s aggression in India’s eastern Ladakh region have only sharpened the case in Delhi for a stronger security partnership with Washington. For more than a decade, realists in Delhi were pointing to India’s mounting China challenge. Although India had a long record of befriending China, Beijing has been unresponsive to India’s concerns — whether it is the boundary dispute or the trade deficit. And as the gap in their comprehensive national power widened in favor of Beijing (China’s Professor C. Raja Mohan is the director of the GDP of $14 trillion is nearly five Institute of South Asian Studies at the Natimes larger than that of India’s, tional University of Singapore.

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ASEAN’s Human Rights Imperative IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD, SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES MUST REAFFIRM A BASIC COMMITMENT TO PROTECTING MARGINALIZED PEOPLE

T

by CHARLES SANTIAGO

THE LATEST ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian

Nations Summit, the 36th of its kind, was organized under the theme of a “cohesive and responsive ASEAN.” In a 27-page statement published at the end of the June event — which was conducted online due to the coronavirus pandemic — this year ’s chair, Vietnam, said that the leaders of the 10-member bloc had made commitments to upholding “ASEAN unity, solidarity and centrality.” On the eve of the summit, fishermen off the coast of Aceh, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, rescued about 100 stranded Rohingya refugees. They were compelled to intervene after officials had said they were planning to push the refugees’ boat back out to sea. Here was a prime example of ASEAN’s citizens displaying unity and solidarity, while its leaders’ claims of such ran hollow. It is not only the Indonesian government that has consistently let down the Rohingya in ASEAN. Myanmar in particular, as well as Thailand and Malaysia, have also directly contributed to the Rohingya’s suf-

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fering through various inhumane actions in recent years, and the situation has grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only have governments pushed back Rohingya boats under the guise of protecting their citizens against the spread of the coronavirus, but countries like Malaysia have witnessed a surge in hateful rhetoric against the group. All other ASEAN member states deserve their fair share of scrutiny for failing to speak up, or act, on behalf of the Rohingya and other groups in vulnerable situations. With Myanmar still unwilling to take meaningful steps to address the root causes of this crisis, the issue has become a regional shame. It is not only the Rohingya, of course. For many people who call this region home, ASEAN is increasingly coming to be viewed as a rich man’s club, one that pursues lucrative business opportunities at the expense of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people. The coronavirus pandemic has further strengthened this viewpoint. Although case numbers in

Acehnese fishermen help Rohingya migrants disembark from a boat as they arrive at Lancok Beach in North Aceh, Indonesia, on June 25, 2020.


Z I K R I M A U L A N A / Z U M A W I R E /A L A M Y

Southeast Asia have remained relatively low compared to other parts of the world, the virus has exposed major flaws and inequalities in our region’s governance. Measures introduced by governments to combat the virus have ignored the concerns of those already in vulnerable situations, including informal and migrant workers. For those relying on a daily wage for their work self-isolation was not an option. The Malaysian government particularly has used the crisis as an excuse to crack down on migrants and refugees and detain them. In addition, lockdowns may have triggered higher numbers of incidents of domestic violence due to increased stress and difficult living conditions. Not only have authorities failed to protect those in the most vulnerable situations, but ASEAN has remained silent as some leaders use the pandemic to strengthen their hold on power and continue to silence dissenting voices. Cambodia, under the increasingly despotic rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has been one of the region’s worst performers. In April, his government enacted a state of emergency law ostensibly to deal with COVID-19 that grants authorities overly-broad powers to restrict freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Hun Sen has also used the virus as an excuse to arrest dozens of critics, including members of the now-dissolved opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. Things aren’t looking much better in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte — another leader hardly renowned for his commitment to democratic values — has adopted a state of emergency, granted the state security apparatus permission to behave as they wish, cracked down on critical media, and enacted further repressive legislation. Meanwhile, Thailand keeps extending its emergency decree, despite coronavirus cases being at a negligible level, as student-led pro-democracy protests grow. In my own country, Malaysia, a back-door government that came to power in March has tried to limit parliamentary oversight on its activities by only convening in May, months after the outbreak began. With ASEAN’s leaders being directly responsible for the dismal state of human rights in the region, clearly their claims of regional unity and solidarity do not ring true. The challenges and inequalities the pandemic has highlighted however also present an opportunity for the region’s leaders to reflect on past mistakes and,

ultimately, change course toward an ASEAN that is people-centered. An effective starting point would be to improve regional cooperation and assistance, to ensure that everyone in the region has access to basic services and social protection measures. This includes those working in the informal sector and migrant workers, who have been heavily affected by the current situation. Strong social protections across the region will help mitigate the impact of the economic crisis, and help our region recover faster. ASEAN must also focus on greater environmental sustainability. Economic recovery plans for postCOVID-19 must move its economies away from a reliance on fossil fuels and coal, and towards renewable energy projects that reduce contributions to climate change. Shifting toward a greener economy that boosts decent employment, offers social protection to all, and creates sustainable food supplies, will not only help the region absorb the immediate impact of the recession more quickly, but also help avoid and be better prepared for future similar shocks. Sustainable and fair economies will also enhance public safety and guarantee the long-term economic prosperity of the region. The rise in xenophobic and hateful rhetoric in recent months has also been concerning and risks increasing in a time of economic hardship. ASEAN leaders must therefore play a crucial preventative role in ensuring unity and peace by speaking out against hate speech of all kinds. Finally, the COVID-19 crisis has showcased what liberties authoritarians will take when presented with an opportunity to strengthen their hold on power. To safeguard against the rise of authoritarianism, we must strengthen parliamentary oversight, especially when it comes to human rights, and find ways for citizens to better participate in democracies. The expected increased embrace of technology could create new opportunities for governments and lawmakers to improve people’s involvement in democracies. Until now, the region’s leaders have not put their people at the forefront of their priorities, but COVID-19 presents an opportunity to change course. Let’s learn from the mistakes of the past, and ensure an ASEAN that is inclusive, sustainable, and that benefits everyone. Charles Santiago is chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights Group.

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The Economic Challenge for the Philippines and Southeast Asia AN INTERVIEW WITH FERNANDO ZOBEL DE AYALA

A

AS IN THE REST OF THE WORLD, COVID-19 has had

a profound impact on the Philippines, whose economy has endured its largest crisis in over two decades. The pandemic’s devastation, though, may have consequences that reshape the country and region for years to come. In this interview with Daniel Russel, ASPI vice president for international security and diplomacy, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Ayala Corporation in the Philippines Fernando Zobel de Ayala discusses the impact of the coronavirus on the Philippines and Southeast Asia, the implications for digital banking and fintech in the region, and what lessons could be learned from this experience. DANIEL RUSSEL: WHAT ARE LIKELY TO BE THE LONGER-TERM ECONOMIC AFTER-EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON THE PHILIPPINES AND THE REST OF SOUTHEAST ASIA? FERNANDO ZOBEL DE AYALA: COVID-19 has had a very significant impact on the Philippine economy and Southeast Asia as a whole. Economic results across Asia through the first half of the year showed contractions in several economies — for some, the first such contraction in gross domestic product since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis. As we have already seen, I believe that there will be a significant reduction in the amount of travel that we do. However, beyond this, I believe there will be major changes in the way we work, the way we interact with people, and the way we transact. On this last point, this is something we have already seen, given the rapid transformation in digital banking and payments systems, which we believe will only accelerate in the coming months. Regarding the global supply chain and the manufacturing industry, these sectors have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. However, we are steadily seeing signs of revival as economies and distribution channels are gradually reopening. We are fortunate that supply

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chains concentrated within Asia have seen less of an impact than elsewhere. There is greater disruption in Asian supply chains that need transpacific or transatlantic links. This has been unfortunately caused by the global reduction of trade and movement of goods, which require ships and planes to wait longer to consolidate their cargo before leaving for their destination. With all these shifts and the many others, I believe that there will now be noteworthy changes in national economic priorities. First, most governments around the world did not have adequate healthcare facilities to handle this pandemic. I believe that governments will have learned much from the crisis and will increase their attention to this sector. Second, education will have to evolve to be ready for online learning. While we recognize infrastructure challenges, the shift to online education has the potential to improve the accessibility of learning at a massive scale. Admittedly, it is hard to predict how long it will take for Southeast Asian economies to recover to preCOVID levels. However, the early recovery of the Chinese economy, the increasing trade within the region, and the decreasing dependence on Europe or the U.S. gives me much hope that Asia will bounce back faster compared to other parts of the world. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR DIGITAL I N I T I AT I V E S I N B A N K I N G A N D F I N A N C I A L TECHNOLOGY IN THE REGION?

Digital initiatives in banking and fintech have been growing quite fast in the last few years. The COVID-19 crisis further accelerated this transformation as the need to access financial services in a safe and secure manner became a high priority. Here in the Philippines, over the past months of quarantine, we have seen Filipinos embrace the safety and convenience of digital financial services. From our experience at the Ayala Group, our Bank of the Philippine Islands now sees digital transactions comprising 87 percent of all its total transactions. Our


e-wallet and payments platform GCash, meanwhile, has grown to over 20 million users and a 75,000-strong merchant network. Its daily active users and daily active transactions have jumped by 138 percent and 157 percent, respectively, since the start of the quarantine. These are encouraging numbers that came from just a few months of quarantine. We believe we are at a major inflection point leading to greater financial inclusion through digital finance. This will be a significant development, especially for the 66 percent of Filipinos who are part of the unbanked population. This COVID-accelerated shift to digital financial services is also happening in other parts of Asia. Digital financial services, particularly in Southeast Asia, have become mainstream as banks, insurers, telecommunications companies, e-commerce platforms, and even governments move into this sector. Some 300 million Southeast Asian adults today are either financially underserved or totally unbanked. Financial inclusion through digital solutions can enable these segments to enjoy an improved quality of life. Use cases are becoming more ubiquitous, with transactions, bills payments, investments, loans, peerto-peer transfers, high-yield savings accounts, and insurance just being the tip of the iceberg. The challenge now is to continue growing this sector and make it as frictionless, accessible, and ubiquitous as possible. This will require massive investments in telecom infrastructure. Trust is also a critical cornerstone for these efforts and will need to be built between businesses, regulators, and the general public. China has largely become a cashless society with an 83 percent digital adoption rate. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand are normalizing digital payments, and adopting digital touchpoints, ranging from national payment gateways to standardized QR codes. I am optimistic that these developments point to an Asia that may lead the way in inclusive digital finance for years to come. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEEL YOU LEARNED FROM THE COVID-19 EXPERIENCE?

This crisis has shown me the incredible resilience and adaptability of people in the face of new challenges. For instance, our shift to a work-from-home program happened right after the country went on strict quarantine. While productivity was initially not as high as

in an office environment, the time saved from exhausting daily commutes gave our colleagues the flexibility to accomplish their work and spend more time with their families. We see productivity steadily improving as everyone is now starting to get comfortable with online meetings. We recognize that there are advantages to having an office environment and face-to-face meetings. However, the risk of COVID infection has forced us to adjust to this new reality, and it is fortunate that our organization adapted well to these new demands. We have also seen rapid innovation within our organization to improve how we interact with our customers and serve their needs. As mentioned earlier, transactions with our banking clients are now predominantly digital and online, which is much more efficient compared to branch-based transactions. At the same time, our real estate business improved their digital experiences for prospective buyers. We have been able to still sell real estate products online, which

THIS CRISIS HAS SHOWN ME THE INCREDIBLE R ESI LI E N CE A N D A DA P TA B I LIT Y O F PEO PLE IN THE FACE OF NEW CHALLENGES.

is now at 70 percent of our pre-COVID sales level. Our telecommunications business has also been able to develop a whole range of fintech products and has given many unbanked individuals access to very competitive financial products. At a broad level, I have also seen the speed and scale at which the private sector in our country has stepped up in upgrading our medical facilities and expanding essential services to help deal with this crisis. As we worked closely with our government counterparts, we have seen a renewed appreciation of the strong benefits that coordinated public-private initiatives can bring. Finally, on a personal level, I feel healthier and have enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with my family. The foreign studies of my children and my travel schedules pre-COVID made it very difficult for us to be together. The last months that I have spent with them have certainly been very special.

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AFTER THE PANDEMIC How Will COVID-19 Change the World? Predicting the consequences of an event as major as the coronavirus pandemic is a risky enterprise; the future has seldom felt so uncertain. Nonetheless, we asked experts across a wide range of ages, geographies, and professions to answer one fundamental question: How will this virus change our lives?

IAN BREMMER President and founder, Eurasia Group; founder, GZERO Media

MOHSIN HAMID Author, Exit West I can’t speculate about the future other than to say that, for me, the pandemic is likely to continue to reshape how I will see the past. Our planet and our lives on it will seem to have been more fragile than I previously recognized, their wonders more contingent, but their horrors less insurmountable, too.

ANDREW YANG Entrepreneur and philanthropist; 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate The pandemic will accelerate many of the trends we were already seeing: automation of jobs, rampant inequality, and decline of faith in institutions. This will lead to a m ore aggressive role for governments to either rebuild or manage the disintegration.

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COVID-19 will shape the future by bringing it about faster, accelerating three key geopolitical trends already underway: The uncoordinated shutdown (and subsequent start-and-stop reopenings) of our global economy means that income inequality will grow far greater. The disruptions from technology companies, which has already transformed our lives and our politics, will become only more critical to the continued functioning of the world, and will be increasingly treated as a “strategic” sector — something that has serious implications for liberty vs. security trade-offs going forward (and the technological decoupling of the U.S. and China, with global geopolitical implications). Then there’s the delegitimization of institutions; international ones, like WHO, have already taken a critical hit following early missteps to the coronavirus response, but as the pandemic continues to rage, representative democracies that continue to suffer the worst effects of the pandemic will feel increased strains to their political systems. In short, rather than using this universal crisis to overcome global divisions, the world’s response to COVID-19 has only served to deepen our g-zero world.

PICO IYER Essayist and novelist However fearful, distracted, or over-busy we have been during this long, dark season of the virus, it’s given some of us a chance to reflect on what we’ve been missing in recent years, what really sustains us, deep down — and how to remake our priorities in the light of all we’ve suffered. As a writer, I’m grateful if this time of uncertainty and stillness has reminded us how essential our inner resources are, especially when so much of the external world is beyond our control. And as someone based in Asia, convinced that climate change remains our greatest challenge, I’m happy if it moves some of us to live a little more simply, to travel a little less, and to recall that the smallest act can have global consequences — and no land can afford to be an island.

BING CHEN Creator and entrepreneur; Asia 21 Young Leader We’ll continue spending more time with fewer people. Most convenings outside of our intimate family and friend groups will be tentpole-only. Traditional institutions like churches, media and entertainment outlets, and more will find ways to accelerate these larger convenings by distributi n g p ro d u c t s t h at re m o te l y re c re a te and personalize them (think in-home movie premieres) schedule them ritualistically so they achieve the similar luxury-scarcity of past live events, and enhance them beyond their live forms through interactive te c h n o l o g i e s (e . g . crowd-sourced brightened screens to mimic flashes on physical stages).


MIN JIN LEE Author, Pachinko

DAVID HENRY HWANG Tony Award-winning playwright, M. Butterf ly The optimistic scenario to COVID-19’s end is this: Similar to the post-flu 1920s and post-Vietnam 1970s, people will want to celebrate, have a good time, and gather together. Arts and live entertainment will come roaring back. Broadway will no longer enjoy the massive profits it has seen over the past couple of decades, which means ticket prices may have to come down. Theaters may have to appeal to local and younger audiences more than tourists, as they did prior to the 1990s. Ideally, this will allow for more challenging work and stories from the full range of our communities and cultures. The pessimistic scenario: These benefits will likely be short-circuited as our nation continues to descend into chaos and authoritarianism.

It’s safe to say that Asians around the world will continue to invest in education for our children, but the pandemic has changed everything. The tough advice is that unless Asians encourage novel entrepreneurship in the arts, technology, media, entertainment, transportation, environment, healthcare, eldercare, hospitality ... and develop far greater openness to non-traditional jobs and creative organizations for a quickly changing global economy vulnerable to paradigm-shifting shocks, we will not appreciate our greatest assets — a well-educated and adaptive workforce and the possibility of a growing middle class. We must not lose the next generation to high unemployment and the ensuing despair of working toward a goal line and finding little to reward them. From now until 2040, governments and the populace must encourage radical innovation, allowing for failure, dead ends, and odd experiments in order to foster growth of intellectual property and nurture entrepreneurship.

EIKO OTAKE Interdisciplinary artist and teacher

BOBBY GHOSH Journalist and member, Bloomberg Opinion editorial board The COVID-19 pandemic will force countries that export labor and depend heavily on remittances to recalibrate their economies. As states that rely on foreign workers accelerate efforts toward self-reliance, the so-called “remittance economies” will struggle to accommodate returning prodigals as well as new generations ente rin g th e wo rk fo rce. T his represents a major challenge for Asian countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, as well as pockets like the Indian state of Kerala.

XYZA CRUZ BACANI Documentary photographer; Asia 21 Young Leader The COVID-19 pandemic will change how we report stories as there is a new danger in covering an invisible enemy, and there is a whole landscape of misinformation spread across news with a singular focus. There will be more under-reported stories that need to be told, but these stories will be suffocated by political coverage and virus fall-out. There needs to be equal space for both stories, so we don’t miss out on the realities of the new world.

We will be affected for sure, but the bottom line is our humanity will remain the same. T h is is w h at I l e a r n e d by teaching students who are 50 years younger than me and by having friends in countries t h at o p e rate i n d if f e re nt modes than ours. We will still reach out and help friends, and we will still create art w o r k s a n d a r ti c u l a te o u r thoughts. Whether we can turn around the environmental damage humans have created is another matter I am not too optimistic about, but we cannot afford to be completely pessimistic.

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ANAM ZAKARIA

PAUL RIVERA

Author; Asia 21 Young Leader I remain concerned that emergency policies and measures implemented to combat th e COVI D -19 p a n demic will continue even as we return to som e sem blan ce of normalcy. Digital surveillance, which currently has legal and moral legitimacy in m a ny p a r t s o f t h e wo rl d a n d is b ein g used for contact-tracing and controlling the spread of the pandemic, is likely to emboden authoritarian impulses, with the politic s of e m e rg e n c y transcending into the politics of every day.

Entrepreneur; Asia 21 Young Leader I think the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated, within a matter of months, forces that would have taken years to reach critical mass. Work — who it’s done by, where it’s done from, and the skills you need to thrive in a digital workplace — has been the fastest adapter. The future of work we’ve been talking about in conferences over the last few years is here.

JIAYANG FAN Staf f writer, The New Yorker The pandemic is like that exam that the world should have been expecting but like a high schooler, had procrastinated on for far too long. The tragedy that it has wrought has caused many a country to fundamentally re-examine not only its healthcare system but the way its political structure shapes its treatment of the most vulnerable, least protected members of its society. The countries that fail to undertake such reflection probably shouldn’t expect to graduate to the status of a mature and humane society.

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SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker; Asia Game Changer Award winner COVID-19 is already having a fundamental impact on the way we live. Most of us now live in co n crete ju n gl e s . In citie s packed like sardines. Sequestered in our tiny apartments and homes, many of us are questioning whether we should go back to the kinds of lives our parents and grandparents lived. To move to areas where we have access to green spaces and fresh water and produce. A chance for us to pause and reset our buttons and our lives.

RANA FOROOHAR

Civil rights activist; Asia 21 Young Leader

Columnist, The Financial Times

The pandemic will shape the future by rewritin g h ow movement building takes place. Efforts to make advocacy work more inclusive and accessible will be the primary objective as people adapt to a new approach for grassroots campaigning.

The pandemic will speed up a shift towards regionalism that was already underway before COVID-19. I expect we’ll see a move towards a tripolar world, in which the U.S., Europe, and China have somewhat different rules of the road for trade and the digital economy. We will also see a dramatic shift away from a tangible economy towards a more intangible, virtual one, which will have massive impacts on labor markets, stock valuations, and monetary policy. The risk is a winner-take-all economy on steroids. The opportunity is that decentralized technologies can help us share the pie more evenly.

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SAM SO Professor of surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine There will be less stigma attached to mask wearing. I won’t be surprised if during future cold and flu seasons, public health agencies advocate that people who feel sick wear a mask. This will be in addition to the traditional recommendations for good hand washing and getting flu shots. Video telemedicine visits will become more common and an acceptable form of outpatient care. They may even become the preferred method for some patients to see their primary care doctors for routine visits since they won’t have to incur the expenses and hassle of taking time off — or risking illness by seeing doctors in clinics full of sick patients. People also won’t have to wait a long time in the clinic to see the doctor since the doctor will always be on time with telemedicine visits. Teaching classes online on Zoom or similar technology will become more common and an accepted alternative to in-person instruction.

DORIS HO President and chief executive of ficer, Magsaysay Group; Asia Society trustee The pandemic has allowed the pentup fear, distrust, anger, and prejudice felt by so many to erupt in societies across the world. Instead of coming together to help each other, we have retreated into our own tribes. I hope that the pandemic will be the impetus for political and business leaders to adopt an enlightened approach to create a more inclusive social and economic order. And what is left to each of us will be the choice we make to live as kinder human beings.

ERNESTINE FU Venture capitalist; Asia 21 Young Leader

BARBARA DEMICK Journalist and author, Nothing To Envy I sadly predict an advance for the techno-autocracy. The Chinese Communist Party will emerge from the pandemic with upgraded technology of control. The same apps used for contact tracing can be deployed post-pandemic to track who is meeting with whom or attending a protest or perhaps visiting a house of worship — a prac tice discouraged for Muslims. Combined with the use of closed-circuit cameras, facial recognition, and biometric technology, the government will be able to maintain order almost seamlessly. If there is a silver lining, it is that the security services might become less brutal since they won’t need physical coercion to extract information.

We are entering into a new era where telecommuting is the norm. COVID-19 has forced exponential adoption of cloud-based collaboration tools. We will continue to see the rise of tools to enable people — people who have never met each other and likely never will — to seamlessly work together.

ALEX AND MAIA SHIBUTANI Olympic ice skaters The pandemic has already had a major impact on live events and storytelling landscapes in sports, entertainment, and business. Repercussions will continue to be widespread and long-lasting as the social and behavioral tendencies of viewers and consumers may be forever impacted. Innovation will come from those individuals who adjust and problem solve the limitations presented by our circumstances. Great art, talent, and creativity will always prevail.

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A new approach to education is essential to address systemic racism. BY DR. ANTHONY JACKSON

W A S

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Los Angeles, driving to a concert in my father’s aging but well-kept Chevy Impala, my friend Chip in the passenger seat. Our afros were picked to perfection. And then the distinctive blue-red strobe of an LAPD squad car appeared in my rearview mirror. While I handed over my driver’s license to the officer hovering outside my window, another policeman standing several feet behind the passenger’s door began shouting at Chip: “Get your hands where I can see them — now!” Chip did not realize the officer, whose voice had become increasingly menacing, was shouting at him. I whispered, “Chip, he’s freaking. Put your hands on the dash!” Chip did, and fortunately we were treated to nothing more life-changing than the public humiliation of being roughly frisked, legs spread and hands on the hood in the middle of Crenshaw Boulevard. When the cop finally said, “Alright, get going,” my initial panic transformed into indignation. I asked why we’d been pulled over. “You look like someone we are looking for,” he shot back. In that African American neighborhood near L.A. High School, everyone looked like someone the police were looking for. That we were all suspects spoke not of lawlessness, but rather of a mindset among police, the sharp tip of the dominant culture’s spear. This mindset automatically categorizes differences among people in appearance and culture as threats against which to be protected or leveraged for exploitation. Too harsh a verdict? Tell that to the families of Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, and the countless other Black people assaulted and killed by police, including George Floyd. In a supreme act of white supremacy, police off icer Derek Chauvin stopped the breath and the life of George Floyd last May, never for a moment thinking

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that he was not in full compliance with the law and the norms of our culture — a culture that sanctions dominance of white people over all others. How can we understand the throughline of American racism that stretches from the Virginia colonies in the 1500s to Minneapolis in 2020, with daily stops across the country? What must happen to change its course? Evolution provides a useful lens from which to begin. D O M I N A N C E

V S .

E G A L I T A R I A N I S M

From an e volutionar y perspective, all that matters is survival. Whether or not a species survives and thrives depends on how it adapts to the context in which it exists. For humans, the locus of adaptability has shifted over time from physical characteristics to mental capacities. Put simply, nowadays, human survival depends on how we act based on how we think. At the risk of oversimplification, how we as humans think can be dichotomized into two competing worldviews. At the core of one view is the understanding that in the natural order of things, there are winners and losers. Some people are stronger, smarter, faster, or in myriad other ways capable of achieving hegemony over others. In this view, it is legitimate for them to do so — it’s just the way things are and always have been. We can call this “the dominance paradigm.”

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The competing worldview, which we can call “the egalitarian paradigm,” recognizes that people and societies differ in profound ways. But these differences do not require or legitimize dominance of one person over another or one group over another. Instead, the way to think and act toward others is to consider them on a level with ourselves, equally deserving of that which enables anyone to survive and thrive. Globally, we find ourselves in an age defined by the dominance paradigm. As in the past, inequities in power and privilege today lead to gross disparities in the resources required if not to survive, then to live with some semblance of well-being. These growing excesses in inequality are justified by a view that it’s just the natural order of things for some to have more than others, be it wealth or power or both. The Black Lives Matter uprising is, at its heart, the unleashing of the pent-up rage against the dominance paradigm, manifested in America as white supremacy, by Black people who have been systematically subjugated for hundreds of years. The literally heart-stopping terror George Floyd experienced in his last seconds of consciousness is shared across centuries with those Black boys and men hung from cottonwood trees in full public display. Floyd’s murder, undeniable through the ubiquity of iPhones, YouTube, and police body cameras, has catalyzed a rebellion against the norm of white dominion.

Another example can be seen through one of the most disturbing aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are literally millions of people in the United States for whom the reality of this threat cannot penetrate their psychological defense mechanisms. These people seem to believe it is impossible for there to be something that supersedes their individual right to act as they see fit. They seem unwilling to comprehend a situation in which their own survival requires acting for the common good, and calls into question their ability to manipulate the world as they desire. So that thing — the virus — must be a hoax. At the root of both systemic racism and denial of the pandemic is a willingness to jeopardize the lives of millions upon millions of human beings. As with denial of the urgency of climate change, at work is a worldview which left unchecked could lead to our extinction. If there is no change in this mindset, where will we be at the dawn of the 22nd century? Will we “be” at all? E D U C A T I O N T H E

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C E N T U R Y

If there is to be a 22nd century worth living in, we have to both think and act differently. Our survival requires the ascendency of an egalitarian world view and the subordination of the dominance paradigm. We must act to enable human beings from the earliest stages of devel-


opment, as their minds are forming, to construct reality from a more egalitarian than dominant perspective. The way to do that is through education, although done very differently than in the past and at present. What’s needed is education for a 22nd century. Not to prepare for the 22nd century, but to get us there. What will differentiate 22nd century education is its intention to develop in all youth an egalitarian mindset. If we are to survive as a species, education on a global scale must develop in youth the disposition to act more toward the common good than toward individual gain or group hegemony. What does education for a 22nd century look like? For nearly two decades, the Center for Global Education at Asia Society has advanced education for global competence as an approach to student learning that connects rigorous disciplinary and interdisciplinary study to the development of cultural humility and understanding. It provides at least a start toward education for a 22nd century. Education for global competence requires learning and applying critical reasoning, curiosity, and problem-solving skills to understand the world in its full complexity; to see how the local roots of issues like racism and the pandemic are sown by broader global forces. It requires engaging children in experiences designed to develop empathy and to counter the innate psychological mecha-

IT’S HOW WE ENSU RE T H AT G E O R G E F L O Y D A N D ALL THOSE VICTIMIZED BEFORE AND AFTER HIM D I D N O T D I E I N VA I N .

nism of “othering” that is at the heart of the dominance paradigm. It’s developing the abilit y to recognize and respect cultural norms that may require shifts in how we relate to and communicate with people from different backgrounds. Education for global competence develops a disposition in youth to take action and to apply cognitive and social-emotional skills in ways that balance the value of achieving goals with the cost of achieving them, for people and the planet. If we could look inside classrooms practicing education for global competence, we would see students learning about the roots of American racism in 15th century global economics and understanding the civil rights movement of the 1960s by comparing it to the fight against apartheid in South Africa and the struggle for nationhood in India. Students could address the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of provid-

ing affordable and clean energy in science class by creating a solar oven using everyday household materials, and comparing designs with students in another country through virtual interactions. We would see courageous teachers organizing safe spaces for students to tell the story of when they f irst became aware of differences among people based on skin color, dress, language, or religion, and facilitating their reflection through writing or the arts: What have they learned? How will it change their future interactions? Education for global competence is the vanguard of how we think about education and organize students’ learning ecosystems. This goes far beyond just schools — it also includes local communities and global virtual interactions. It is not just another kind of education reform. It is a new kind of social movement. Arguably, developing in children a mindset not bent on domination but on the common good is the social movement required in these times. It’s about creating the underlying foundation that motivates specif ic actions toward environmental and social justice. It’s how we evolve. It’s how we ensure that George Floyd and all those victimized before and after him did not die in vain. D r. Anthony Ja ck son i s v i c e pr e s i d e nt f or education and director of the Center f or Global Educat ion at A s ia Soc iet y.

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An Asian American photographer documents New York City’s tumultuous year

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Flames engulf a New York Police Department (NYPD) vehicle in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on May 30, 2020, during protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose May 25 murder by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked weeks of demonstrations across the globe.

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Even in New York City, perhaps especially in New York City, I’ve grown used to feeling invisible. When I started working as a photographer, I realized that this was, actually, an advantage. My work takes me all over the city, and I interact with a huge range of people. No matter what first impression people have of me based on my appearance, no one views me as a threat. I could be a tourist or even just a kid taking pictures for fun. That moment of uncertainty comes in handy when I only have a moment to get a shot; when lingering too long would get me questioned, stared at, or confronted. When the coronavirus began slamming New York in early March, you could feel a low-level sense of unease spreading across the city. In supermarkets, people piled items into their carts as if a hurricane was approaching. Politeness began to evaporate. My wife started asking me to wear a mask when I went outside, but because no one else was, I felt self-conscious. I didn’t want to play into the stereotype of the overcautious Asian. On trips outside in early spring, there was a beautiful emptiness in the city. For weeks, Midtown Manhattan was inhabited only by bored cops, hungry-looking homeless people, and drunks slouched on street corners. The ecosystem that normally supports office workers and tourists — the food carts, delis, restaurants, and retail stores — closed down in their absence. Cars rolled through red lights with impunity. I felt as if I had the city all to myself. The protests that followed the death of George Floyd shattered the city’s eerie calm. I initially contemplated going to Minneapolis, where Floyd was murdered, but soon realized that I didn’t need to leave New York

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to cover what had become a nationwide movement. I loaded my car with a helmet, gas mask, backup cameras, and a second set of clothes. I have covered violent protests in Baltimore, North Dakota, Cairo, and Hong Kong — but never here, in my own backyard. Police vehicles were destroyed, set on fire, and graffitied. Heavily-armored cops struggled to keep up with the protesters who had taken over the streets. As thousands peacefully marched to bring attention to police brutality and racial justice, opportunists looted stores. I could feel the energy of the people pumping through the streets, both electric and angry. Even observers, like myself, were not spared: One looter punched me in the face and took one of my cameras. It was difficult to resist involving myself in this moment of history, to be a part of the story. But as a photographer, I know to be quiet, patient, and watchful. I’ve seen my colleagues get confronted and threatened for doing their jobs, and sometimes I escape merely because of the way I look. The months since the protests have sparked a lot of intense discussion on Facebook groups and journalism listservs that I subscribe to. There’s been a lot of talk about privilege — but it often comes down to white people lecturing each other about people of color. They may be well-intentioned, but still, I’ve never been comfortable lumping all minorities together. If I’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that “Asian invisibility” is another form of privilege. And I wrestle with that fact every day. St e ph e n Ya ng i s a ph o t o j o u r n a li s t b a s e d i n Ne w Yo r k , Ne w Yo r k.


A man is detained by NYPD officers on May 29, 2020, during a protest near Foley Square in Manhattan.

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Left: NYPD officers climb atop a car during protests in the South Bronx on June 4, 2020. Top: Azzedine Selmane prays in Midtown Manhattan on April 22, 2020, during a break from operating his Halal Guys food cart, which was frequented by essential workers during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City. Bottom: A man has milk poured into his eyes after being pepper sprayed by police during a protest in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on May 30, 2020.

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A hospital employee stands in a refrigerated truck outside Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn on April 8, 2020, alongside bodies of patients who died from COVID-19.

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A woman displays her protest sign on 8th Avenue near Columbus Circle in Manhattan on June 6, 2020.

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Lef t: Sarah Raske, a registered nurse, adjusts her face mask outside Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on May 2, 2020. The tag on her mask reads, “NOT TODAY COVID.” Right: A COVID-19 patient is moved from an ambulance to Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn on April 7, 2020.

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A protester stands in front of a group of NYPD officers in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on May 30, 2020.

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ASIAN AMERICAN GHOSTS Six decades after a landmark law brought millions of Asians to the United States, the events of 2020 reaffirm how tenuous the population’s status is.

BY J I A LY N N YA N G

I L L U S T R AT I O N BY C H R I S T I N A C H U N G

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N

early 100 years ago, a Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa stood before the highest court in the United States and asked the nine justices before him to determine something peculiar: Was he white? Ozawa was 40 years old, a father and a salesman for one of Hawaii’s large sugar companies. He had lived in this country since he was 19. Now he wanted to become a citizen.

Ozawa presented a quandary for the jurists. The country’s first naturalization law from 1790 decreed that only “free white” people could become citizens. Later, after the Civil War, those of African descent were added. Ozawa was clearly not from Africa, and the law said nothing of those from Asia. After some discussion, the Supreme Court came to a decision. On November 13, 1922, Justice George Sutherland wrote in the majority opinion that Ozawa was “well qualified by character and education for citizenship.” But there was no getting around the fact that he was “of a race which is not Caucasian.” His bid for citizenship was rejected. He was not white. He was not Black. He was not an American.

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FOR A BRIEF PERIOD, in the early weeks of the pandemic, I began to wonder what it might feel like to be seen for what I am, to be acknowledged in public as an Asian American. The possibility of confronting xenophobia each time I left the house terrified me, but even more, it was the prospect of becoming hyper-visible — after a lifetime spent wandering a society with no clear place for me, a ghost taking on a different hue depending on the light, sometimes “white,” sometimes “a person of color.” At least I’d be called out for what I was: “Chinese,” albeit with the word “virus” attached. It is hard to know what space to take up when the racial category of “Asian American” eludes simple delineation. Sometimes it is the ignorance of others drawing the boundaries, like the bigots blaming Chinese, Korean, and Hmong alike for the coronavirus. Other times it is we who are marking the outlines, asserting that recently arrived Indian immigrants possess inherent solidarity with


Japanese Americans whose families have been here for more than a century. Often we are best described by what we are not. We are not white. We are not Black. This haziness can feel like insignificance — an invitation to drift along the currents of race in America, hoping that eventually the tides alone will carry us to where we need to go. But just as the events of 2020 have disrupted so many aspects of life, so too have they disturbed the status quo of Asian American identity. A global pandemic originating in China is now associated with us, and the Black Lives Matter movement has triggered a nationwide conversation about race. It is time to look anew at who we are — and for that we must start with why we are here. For many of us, that story begins not with the building of the railroads out West or the sugar farms of Hawaii but the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, one of the least understood and most influential laws in modern American history. The law transformed the American immigration system by opening its doors to immigrants from outside Europe, allowing many Asian American families to be here. And the story behind it offers us a powerful political and ideological heritage: a roadmap to understanding ourselves and our place in this country. Never in history have there been nearly this many people from Asia in the United States. Before 1960, no more than one million people of Asian descent had ever been in this country at one time. Now there are more than 20 million, two-thirds of them foreign-born. Between 2000

and 2015, this population grew 72 percent, faster than any other major racial or ethnic group. Together with larger numbers of migrants from Central and South America, the Middle East, and Africa, the number of non-white Americans is projected to surpass the number of white Americans within a century. THIS IS THE extraordinary legacy of the 1965 Immigra-

tion and Nationality Act. Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the law abolished a system of ethnic quotas from the 1920s based on an elaborate white supremacist fiction that Anglo-Saxon Protestants from northern and western Europe were inherently superior to people from eastern and southern Europe, Africa, and Asia. These quotas banned nearly all immigration from Asia, a dramatic expansion of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. The lawmakers who implemented the quota system believed they had safely returned America to its true ethnic roots as a nation. The removal of these quotas, after 40 years of struggle, was a watershed triumph of civil rights — a forceful denunciation of white supremacy in American law. It also set in motion a demographic fate that few anticipated. Because the old quotas were replaced with a reunification clause that prioritized immigration approval for family members of immigrants already in America, chains of extended families began to arrive in this country and set down roots.

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Unlike the wave of mass immigration that America experienced in the early 20th century, these new citizens were not coming from Europe, but the rest of the world. And yet the story behind the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act does not offer a simple moral parable of liberationist triumph over racist oppressors. And it does not fit easily into our existing narratives around civil rights. To the extent that the law has been discussed at all in recent years, it is assumed to have been swept into existence by the undertow of Black activists fighting to dismantle Jim Crow. This is a powerful narrative for young Asian Americans eager to shout their support for Black Lives Matter. This spring, Eileen Huang, an English major at Yale University, wrote an open letter to the Chinese American communit y to address anti-Black racism among Asians. “It is because of Black Americans, who pushed back against racist naturalization laws, that Asian Americans have gained official citizenship and are officially recognized under the law,” she wrote, later adding that Asian Americans would still be “illegal aliens” if not for Black activism.

E V EN IF WE HAV E T R AV EL ED V ER Y DIF F EREN T PAT HS F ROM BL ACK AMERIC ANS , AND FACED DIF F EREN T CHAL L ENGE S , MAN Y NOT NE ARLY A S SEVERE, WE SHARE A COMMON ENEMY: A DEFINITION OF NATIONAL IDENTIT Y BASED ON RACE, NOT IDEALS.

WHILE IT’S TRUE that the Black civil rights movement of

the 1950s and 1960s popularized a moral framework and established political momentum that created a favorable legislative climate for immigration reform advocates, the 1965 act was in fact the culmination of a distinct, decades-long struggle with its own set of players: the descendants of Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Asian immigrants who saw the country’s immigration system as a painful symbol of nativist prejudice. Further complicating the narrative that the law represented a full-throated cry for multiracial pluralism, many supporters of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act never imagined, or even hoped, that it would lead to much non-white migration at all.

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The law’s advocates envisioned American immigration continuing as it had always been, largely from Europe. Their fight was predicated on an American past when being Jewish or Italian meant being considered alien and ineligible for membership in the white American elite. The Jews and Italians who came to America at the turn of the 20th century, like the non-European immigrants who are here now, transformed cities like New York. In 1880, only 12,000 foreign-born Italians and 14,000 Russian Jews lived in the city. By 1910, those numbers had soared to 341,000 and 484,000. These immigrants and children found themselves out of place in their new land, caught between preserving the traditions of their family’s cultures and desperate to assimilate in order to enjoy American — white — success. But by 1965, these Jewish and Italian immigrants and their children were firmly in the American mainstream. And so the ethnic quotas seemed an anathema and an insult. As Robert F. Kennedy, himself the scion of an Irish-Catholic family that had conquered the highest echelons of American society, said on the Senate floor as the 1965 law was headed to a final vote, “We are past the


period in the history of the United States when we judge a person by his last name or his place of birth or where his grandfather or grandmother came from.” When asked about where the law might lead the country, supporters downplayed the possibility that future migration streams would be non-white. A year earlier, when he was still attorney general, Kennedy had testified that the law would scarcely increase the number of immigrants from Asia. He estimated there would be an influx of about 5,000 Asian immigrants in the first year, “after which immigration from that source would virtually disappear.” Perhaps even more surprising, the very family reunification clause that has enabled so many Asian families to grow here was designed as an explicit tool to help keep America white. During negotiations with President Johnson, nativist lawmakers insisted that giving priority to family ties would help limit the law’s demographic changes. So low were the numbers of immigrants in the country at the time, especially from outside Europe, that family priority would tend to encourage white immigration — or so the thinking went. TO STUDY HISTORY is to be continuously reintroduced

to the power of contingency. The outcome of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act accentuated a long-standing sense of ambivalence about the presence of Asian Americans and highlighted a project that is not only unfinished but has barely begun: establishing a genuinely multicultural, pluralist society in which the newest arrivals to this country — those who are neither white nor Black — knit themselves into this country’s fabric.

This heritage is as perilous as it is promising. Just as many Jewish and Italian Americans ultimately were accepted into mainstream white society, many Asian Americans today have such a road open to us as well. The 1965 law not only granted favorable status for family members of previous immigrants, but for prospective immigrants with advanced science degrees. The children of many of these well-educated, upper-middle-class Asian immigrants have attended the country’s premier educational institutions themselves and found places within some of America’s most powerful institutions. Even if we do not run the country, we are more likely to be in the rooms where power resides. All of this has led to Asians now having provisional membership in the category known as “people of color.” It is a reason why “Black and brown” does not include East Asians. But this success does not present a comprehensive picture of Asian American economic success. For instance, in New York — the city with the country’s largest population of Asian Americans — nearly one in four live in poverty. To celebrate the elite status and wealth in our community — and to make these elements representative of an entire racial group, as the 2017 movie Crazy Rich Asians attempted to do — is to abandon those who are struggling. It also fails to acknowledge what we have been bequeathed through the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. This law allowed many of us to be here by abolishing an explicitly white supremacist legal regime, a system that codified the same racist ideology that justified the oppression of Black and Indigenous Americans for generations. Our presence as Asian Americans, even if not fully intended, is the legacy of this law. And so even if we have traveled very different paths from Black Americans, and faced different challenges, many not nearly as severe, we share a common enemy: a definition of national identity based on race, not ideals — one that would look in the face of a person like Takao Ozawa and tell him he could not be an American. Jia Lynn Yang is a deputy national editor at The New York Times and author of One Mighty And Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965.

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MEET 2020’S ASIA

Honoring those who made a difference in a most trying year. Asia Society’s 2020 Asia Game Changer Award winners were chosen for their responses to the year’s twin traumas of COVID-19 and racially motivated violence. In partnership with Citi, Asia Society annually honors game-changing leaders from a broad geographic range and varied backgrounds; this year’s awardees have saved lives, changed lives, and lifted spirits all across the globe.

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GAME CHANGERS BTS

Global superstars SOUTH KOREA

B I G H I T E N T E R TA I N M E N T

For raising their voices and inspiring their huge global audience to stand against any form of discrimination

IF YOU ARE not obsessed with the K-pop group BTS, you likely know someone who is. The Korean boy band has topped music charts, sold out worldwide stadium tours, and been included in Time magazine’s annual list of influencers. BTS has also mobilized a passionate global fanbase — known as the “ARMY” — that is millions strong. Earlier this year, when the BTS song “Dynamite” debuted on YouTube, it reached 100 million views in just 24 hours. But BTS, and their followers, are about much more than just the music. Since 2017, BTS has carried out the LOVE MYSELF campaign to convey the message of “having true love for others and the world requires loving myself first.” The campaign supports UNICEF’s #ENDviolence youth manifesto that aims to protect children and young people across the world from violence. In 2020, the band also donated $1 million to the Crew Nation campaign supporting concert crews who have been impacted by COVID-19. Later, as racial justice protests took hold in cities throughout the world, related hashtags such as #BlackoutTuesday began to trend on social media. When racist counter movements like #WhiteLivesMatter and #WhiteoutWednesday emerged, the ARMY swept into action, posting countless K-pop memes and videos using those hashtags to drown out the negative voices. And when BTS, in June, generously donated $1 million to the movement, its fans rallied to match that amount in little more than a day. “We stand against racial discrimination,” the band tweeted. “We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together.”

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VIKAS KHANNA Michelin-starred chef; Filmmaker; Philanthropist INDIA For dropping everything to feed millions in India at a time of great need and suffering

INDIA-BORN MICHELIN-STARRED chef Vikas Khanna has been feeding people since he was a child. But not until 2020 did it become a matter of life or death. In April, while quarantining in his Manhattan apartment, Khanna, host of MasterChef India, monitored news out of his homeland and watched, with horror and helplessness, as a virus-fueled humanitarian crisis unfolded. Millions of Indians needed food. Khanna desperately wanted to help, but how? Khanna turned to Twitter, where he has more than 2.3 million followers, and issued a heartfelt plea for information on communities in need. “I wanted to show that solidarity still exists,” he said. Khanna received a torrent of responses, and #FeedIndia was born. Khanna partnered with India’s National Disaster Relief Force for logistical and on-the-ground support and his movement soon received aid from grain companies, tech firms, and offers of industrial kitchen space in Mumbai. By late August #FeedIndia had delivered more than 30 million dry food packets and cooked meals to hundreds of cities throughout India. “I feel like the past 30 years … have prepared me for this moment,” said Khanna, an Asia 21 Young Leader. “This has been the most gratifying [time] in my culinary career.”

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Miky Lee

Entertainment impresario; Producer of Parasite SOUTH KOREA For shining a light on inequality and blazing a trail for Korea on the global stage

WHEN SOUTH KOREA’S Parasite became the first foreign-lan-

guage film to win an Oscar for best picture, it wasn’t just a triumph for global cinema. It marked the realization of executive producer Miky Lee’s long-held dream: to turn the world on to Korean culture. A vice-chair at Samsung’s CJ Group, Lee initially found getting Hollywood interested in Korean cinema to be a tough sell. “I used to carry DVDs and go to Warners, Universal, Fox, anybody I had a chance with, and pitch Korean film, Korean film, Korean film,” she recalled. “No one thought [they] were good enough.” Later, after experiencing a breakthrough with Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer, Lee ran into further obstacles: The film’s unflinching look at inequality in South Korea led the country’s conservative government to deny her funding. But her persistence has since paid off: Parasite — Bong’s riotous examination of class divides in Seoul — is one of over 140 Korean films CJ Group has distributed in the United States. Cinema is just a part of what she does. Lee created KCon, a convention promoting Korean pop music, and produces the country’s largest K-pop awards show. For Lee, facilitating the worldwide explosion of Korean pop culture is a role she was born to play. “I’m happy to be the bridge,” she said. “Just walk over me.”


IN THIS TIME OF PROFOUND GLOBAL CHALLENGE , OUR 2020 GAME CHANGERS SHINE A BEACON OF LOVE AND COURAGE ACROSS OUR DIVIDED GLOBE .

J A S O N B E L L ( Y O -Y O M A )

— JOSET TE SHEERAN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ASIA SOCIET Y

YO-YO MA Preeminent cellist; Founder, Silk Road Project UNITED STATES For a lifetime of achievement, and providing ‘songs of comfort’ to millions when the world needed it the most

THE CELLIST YO-YO MA hardly

needs an introduction. A global icon for decades, he has received countless awards and performed for eight U.S. presidents. He has recorded over 100 albums and won 19 Grammys. But Yo-Yo Ma has never been in it for the accolades — he considers himself a “citizen musician,” always looking for ways to help others. As the coronavirus crisis deepened, Ma found himself, like so many others, unsure what to do. So he sat and recorded a video of himself performing the song “Going Home” by Dvorak and posted it on Twitter. “In these days of anxiety, I wanted to find a way to

continue to share some of the music that gives me comfort,” he tweeted, using the hashtag “#songsofcomfort.” The post garnered millions of views — so Ma added more. Days later, he recorded another performance, dedicating it to health workers on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic. Before long, #songsofcomfort had elicited an outpouring of contributions from across the classical music world as well as from musicians including James Taylor and The Indigo Girls. “It’s really an invitation for everybody to join in,” Ma said. “This is what we can do for one another and be more communal.”


Naomi Osaka Barrier-shattering tennis star JAPAN/UNITED STATES For using her large global platform to call for racial justice and social change

AT JUST 23, Naomi Osaka has already solidified her

place in tennis history. Born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, Osaka became the first Asian player — woman or man — to be ranked number one in the world, and her tournament winnings and lucrative endorsement deals have made her the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Frequently described as “shy” by the media, Osaka found her voice in 2020 when, after the killing of George Floyd, she flew to Minneapolis without telling her agent or coach in order to join the city’s racial justice protests. Her schedule had been lightened by the pandemic. “I’ve always watched protests on TV, and I never had the chance to go because I was always playing tennis,” she explained. But when she encouraged her more than 500,000 Twitter followers to join a protest in Osaka, her mother’s hometown, she encountered resistance from fans in Japan, where conservative racial attitudes remain deeply entrenched. Many of her fans warned her to keep her views to herself. But Osaka has refused to remain silenced. In August, she withdrew from a semifinal match in order to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. And on her way to winning the U.S. Open in September, she wore masks bearing the names of Black victims of police violence — earning praise from their families. “I hate when random people say athletes shouldn’t get involved with politics and just entertain,” she said, in response to criticism. “Firstly, this is a human rights issue. Secondly, what gives you more right to speak than me?”


JOE AND CLARA TSAI Business leaders and philanthropists CANADA/HONG KONG/TAIWAN/UNITED STATES For philanthropy that built bridges between Asia and the U.S. — and saved lives — during a pandemic

JOE AND CL AR A TSAI may not be

household names in America, but the couple have long been groundbreaking leaders in the worlds of philanthropy and business. In 2016, the Tsais made a substantial gift to Yale University, Joe Tsai’s alma mater, to establish a new center on innovative thinking, one that placed diversity at the core of its mission. In 2018, they also made a gift to Clara’s alma mater in supporting the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute at Stanford University to advance discovery about the human brain. And in 2020 the duo’s generosity played a critical life-saving role at the height of the country’s coronavirus crisis. As COVID-19 tightened its grip on New York, and the severe shortage of medical supplies and personal protective

equipment (PPE) in the U.S. became apparent, the Tsais swept into action. American hospitals desperately needed PPE manufactured in China to protect their front-line workers. Who better to help? As co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant A libaba Group, sourcing from China was in Joe Tsai’s DNA. Through their eponymous foundation, the Tsais donated millions of masks, goggles, and ventilators to hospitals and nursing homes in New York, then the epicenter of the virus. “As soon as the pandemic reached crisis proportions, we really wanted to help,” Clara Wu Tsai said. “The frontline workers are heroes and their health and safety are really the most important.” Later, the Tsais spent millions more to bring PPE to San Diego and

Detroit. Joe Tsai, owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the WNBA’s New York Liberty, also pledged to pay employees at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, where the teams play their games, their normal event rates while the city was in lockdown. Barclays Center also worked with food banks to use the venue to distribute meals to thousands of needy residents in the Brooklyn community. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Joe and Clara Tsai were one of the first professional spor ts team ow ners to speak out publicly on social justice with the following words: “We stand up and speak up against all forms of racism — overt or subconscious — especially against the Black community. We want to say enough is enough.”

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ALAMY

A Chinese propaganda poster from 1997 entitled, “Enthusiastically Celebrate the Return of Hong Kong.”

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p U g n i k Wa From th e g n o K g Hon Dream Did 2020 mark an end to ‘one country, two systems’? A look back at the 1997 handover suggests the writing was already on the wall. BY ORVILLE SCHELL ASIA SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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N E E B S A WHAT H HAPPENING in Hong Kong these past few years has not surprised me. I still remember with perfect vividness gazing out my hotel on July 1, 1997, looking down on the parade ground dock where the Britannia was berthed as torrential rain fell and the British Union Jack was lowered for the final time. The Prince of Wales was in military whites and Chris Patten, the last British governor, looked on lugubriously as he waved goodbye and boarded the Britannia to leave this Crown Colony to the People’s Republic of China. Under Deng Xiaoping’s creative “one country, two systems” formula, the people of Hong Kong had been promised a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years. But as the Britannia steamed out into Hong Kong Harbor and the night sky erupted in a spectacular array of fireworks, I felt far from certain that the next half century would hew so neatly to Deng’s very pragmatic and reasonable roadmap. Two factors left me skeptical. First, having studied Chinese history for many decades and been in and out of the PRC many times a year since 1975 — when Mao still ruled and the Cultural Revolution still raged — I knew how sensitive issues related to colonialism, imperialism, and territorial sovereignty were for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After all, since its founding in 1921, the Party had woven an elaborate tapestry of grievance against just such foreign predations. Moreover, I also knew how deeply, if surreptitiously, Beijing having been involved in Hong Kong life even when it was under British administration. If the CCP was anything it was well organized, tenacious, took umbrage easily at any criticism or slur, and was always inclined to retaliate, sooner or later, when it felt itself wronged. I had participated in endless panels in Hong Kong before the handover, in which I invariably expressed doubts that Beijing would be able to keep its hands off of the former colony for a full 50 years, much less ever actually allow it to elect its own chief executive

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and legislative council by direct popular vote. What I had not expected was that Hong Kong, as a special administrative region of China, would be able to maintain as much independence as it did for as long as it did — 23 years — not quite half the time Deng had allotted for the process before a complete “return to the motherland’s” (回归祖国) control. In writing the piece that follows for Newsweek before the handover, I was trying to divine the future of Hong Kong under Deng’s very unusual arrangement by using history as a way to look at how China had treated its other great treaty port, Shanghai — which with its “foreign concessions” had been a quasi-colony — upon taking it over in 1949. Steeped in a Leninist ideology that had long made it deeply neuralgic about any situation in which it had less than complete political control, especially under circumstances where foreigners might be involved, I could not imagine that the Party would long be able to resist interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. After all, its free press, public protests, and open universities were viewed as patent insults to one-party control. And, just as in Shanghai in the 1940s, the Party already had a substantial underground network in Hong Kong that made responding to such insults all the more irresistible. With two such different political systems in collision, it seemed a foregone conclusion that at some point the Party would feel the call to react when challenged. And now, it has. “One country, two systems” was a nice dream we were all allowed to dream that rainy night in 1997 as the Union Jack came down over Hong Kong for the final time. Alas, it was a dream allowed a much shorter life span than Deng and British negotiators had set forth when they signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984.• Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York.


A young girl in Hong Kong celebrates the handover on June 30, 1997.

The Hidden Hand BY ORVILLE SCHELL | JULY 7, 1997 THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY NEWSWEEK. REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION.

RICHARD BAKER / ALAMY

A

NALOGIES BETWEEN Shanghai’s “liberation” in 1949 and Hong Kong’s “return to the motherland” this July are not perfect, but the Shanghai precedent does have an intriguing historical resonance. Hong Kong and Shanghai were both “treaty ports,” born of the Opium Wars and ultimately decolonialized and integrated into the People’s Republic of China. Although Shanghai was not an outright colony like Hong Kong, its heart was its waiguo zujie, or “foreign concessions.” These were governed “extraterritorially” by Western powers, meaning that Chinese law and China’s constabulary exercised no jurisdiction there. Shanghai’s special status (along with that of 14 other treaty ports)

ended in 1945, thus concluding one of modern China’s deepest humiliations. When the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched in and “liberated” Shanghai in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party completed the process of expunging foreign control and influence from this once cosmopolitan, if decadent, city. Almost 50 years later the Communist Party does not dare speak of “liberating” Hong Kong. But the same nationalist sentiment that made Shanghai’s transformation such an emotional watershed for ethnic Chinese now animates the huigui, or “return” of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. Just as in the case of Shanghai, the transition will be marked by the PLA’s highly symbolic entrance

into the city. The bulk of the elite, 10,000man “joint force” from the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Force has been recruited from what one official source describes as “remote farming communities” of Shandong province, whose people are known for their naiveté and obedience. China and Britain worked out the basic procedures for the handover during 15 years of formal negotiations. But to help assure its grip on Hong Kong, Beijing also has engaged in secret dixia gongzuo, or “underground work,” at which it became skilled while struggling against the Nationalist government and the Japanese occupation forces earlier in the century. That it often involves duplicitousness and ruthlessness goes without

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British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang exchange documents in Beijing during the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on December 19, 1984, as Deng Xiaoping and others look on.

Kong, with a staff of more than 500) and from state-owned Chinese enterprises. Mainland companies, such as the China Resources trading firm, have been assigned to provide cover for Party operatives. The Hong Kong magazine Meng Ming reported in April that Beijing recently appropriated some $150 million to set up front companies as potential cover for 900 new emissaries to be infiltrated into the colony before July 1. To date, the Chinese Communist Party has had no official, aboveground presence in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, it is reported to have upward of 8,000 members coordinated by the Hong Kong-Macau Work Committee at the New China News Agency. Last March, legislator member Christine Loh decried “the official silence” about the Party’s existence. She pointed out that if the Party operated as a parallel structure to the government, as it does in China, it would be “fundamentally subversive to our way of life” and “disastrous for Hong Kong.” When Loh

sought a formal “clarification” of the Party’s future status and role, however, her motion was defeated — by one vote. LIKE WATCHING MOUNTAINS slowly emerge from the mist, we have begun to see hints of how widespread China’s underground networking efforts have been. The case of Immigration Department chief Lawrence Leung highlights how difficult it may be for Hong Kong officials to maintain independence as Beijing steps up the pressure. Appointed in 1989, Leung was key in carrying out a British plan to offer 50,000 British passports to prominent Hong Kong Chinese as “insurance” against the uncertain future of the colony. But since Leung abruptly resigned last July, rumors have circulated that he was fired for behind-the-scenes contacts with Chinese officials. Chief Secretary Anson Chan refused legislators’ demands that she reveal the reasons for Leung’s resignation, claiming that it would be “injurious to the public interest.”

PETER JORDAN / AL AMY

saying. After all, as Leon Trotsky noted, “we do not enter the kingdom of socialism with white gloves on a polished floor.” Indeed, underground efforts in Hong Kong are strikingly reminiscent of the Party’s campaign to secretly organize key sectors of Shanghai before 1949. There, an elaborate network of underground dang xiaozu, or “party cells,” infiltrated labor unions, universities, factories, civil ser vice, and even customs bureaus, essentially giving the Communists de facto control of the city before the PLA ever entered. The Shanghai municipal police force was perhaps the most important target. The Communists began recruiting young police candidates in January 1949, according to Frederic Wakeman, a University of California, Berkeley, scholar who has been researching the transition. Special police training camps were established in Shandong province, the same area from which many troops in today’s Hong Kong garrison were drafted. When the Nationalist police chief in Shanghai finally fled to Taiwan, he instructed his deputy to stay behind and mobilize resistance to the Communists. However, it turned out that the deputy was a clandestine Communist. When PLA cadres moved in to the Fuzhou Road headquarters of the Shanghai police, “the entire police force’s commandants were outside with keys to the station and all of the material needed for the new government to take over,” says Wakeman. “You can be sure there are many [Beijing agents] in the Hong Kong police force right now.” Mainland agents have also been operating out of the New China News Agency (Beijing’s unofficial embassy in Hong


NEWSWEEK · JULY 7, 1997

Before sailing off on the Britannia, Gov. Chris Patten himself also made a rare allusion to the Party’s underground presence. “I guess that part of the reality of life in Hong Kong for the best part of 50 years has been that there are Communists in Hong Kong operating in the way in which Communists customarily operate, underground and in cells and through united front operations,” Patten told legislators. But he added that he had refused to lead a “witch hunt” against the Communists. “I think part of the stability of Hong Kong is that we know when to close one eye,” Patten said. China also has made considerable efforts to gao guanxi, or “create a network of relationships,” between its security ministries and Hong Kong’s crime rings and secret societies. The Party’s affinity with underworld organizations comes straight from Maoist doctrine. In a 1936 appeal to the Gelaohui, the Society of Brothers and Elders, Mao declared that “the treatment inflicted on the Gelaohui by the ruling class is really identical with that inflicted on us ... You support striking at the rich and helping the poor; we

support striking at the local bullies and dividing up the land ... Our views and your positions are, therefore, quite close.” It is doubtful that Jiang Zemin’s crypto-capitalist Communist Party feels real proletarian solidarity with criminal triads. But like Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who won Shanghai in 1927 by forming an alliance with the city’s notorious Green Gang (and then massacring the Communists), the Party wants to be on the right side of the underworld as it tries to keep order in its new territory. After all, Hong Kong is reputed to have some 50-odd active triad groups — including the Sun Yee On, which has up to 50,000 members and is even said to include some senior officials in its ranks. In a move that was sublimely practical but also stunningly cynical, Chinese Minister of Public Security Tao Siju made an arresting public admission in April 1993. At the very time that Hong Kong government officials were engaged in an all-out international effort to control triad ventures involving drugs, prostitution, blackmail, and murder for hire, Tao told a Beijing news conference that

the Chinese government was willing to ally itself with secret society leaders as long as they were “patriotic and concerned with the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.” In fact, boasted Tao, Beijing had already consummated this unholy alliance by allowing a group of 800 triads to serve as voluntary bodyguards for an unnamed Party leader while he was making a certain overseas visit. It may be that as China’s underground efforts are revealed, Hong Kong will look less like a “special administrative region” with a “high degree of autonomy” and more like China itself. Deng Xiaoping’s notion of “one country, two systems” may ironically still apply, but not in the sense that Hong Kong’s systems will remain separate and distinct from those of China. After all, China is already a country with two systems — one for its increasingly laissez-faire economy and the other for its refractory Leninist political system. When all is said and done, this may be the “one country, two systems” model that Hong Kong is forced to adopt.

IT MAY BE THAT AS CHINA’S UNDERGROUND EFFORTS ARE REVEALED, HONG KONG WILL LOOK LESS LIKE A ‘SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION’ WITH A ‘HIGH DEGREE OF AUTONOMY’ AND MORE LIKE CHINA ITSELF. Orville Schell in 1997

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HONG KONG 20/20 A dramatic year of change as seen through the lens of a local photojournalist

BY MAY JAMES

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A protester holds a flag that reads “光復香港,時代革命” (“Restore Hong Kong, Revolution of our time”) on January 12, 2020, in Edinburgh Place, a public square in Hong Kong’s Central District.

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A protester flashes a five-finger gesture representing the movement’s “five demands” during a march organized by the Civil Human Rights Front on January 1, 2020, in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

AT THE VERY START OF 2020, Hong Kong felt alive — and angry. On January 1, more than a million protesters marched through the city as part of a pro-democracy rally. At first, these gatherings were orderly and harmonious, but clashes with the police changed the mood entirely. It wasn’t long before the spread of the coronavirus made such gatherings impossible. Fear of the pandemic briefly caused consumers to panic-shop and hoard supplies like toilet paper and bleach. Face masks, for a population that had already lived through SARS, quickly became ubiquitous. But as February turned to March, Hong Kong became quiet — quieter than I’ve ever experienced it be-

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fore. The government imposed restrictions on gatherings, ostensibly to control the spread of the virus. But these limits also functioned as a convenient excuse to dampen the protest movement. Once, the police told me to leave a site I was photographing because I might initiate a gathering — even though I was alone at the time. Meanwhile, scenes of crowded bars in Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai, and Sai Kung, filled with maskless patrons, indicated that social distancing rules weren’t always applied equally. Practicing journalism in Hong Kong has become much more difficult. The territory’s police commissioner said that only “trusted media” should be allowed inside cor-


Police officers stand guard in the Mongkok area of Hong Kong on May 27, 2020, during a protest that saw 300 people arrested for unauthorized assembly.

doned-off crime scenes, excluding journalists from Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse. After an incident last year in which the police arrested me for asking for their warrant card — a right Hong Kong residents have — I’m not sure whether I’m considered trusted media or not. One day, as I photographed protest detainees, the police approached me and searched my bag. They asked me to state my name while they filmed me. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, says that the media has a role in monitoring the government and that free speech is a core value. But the trend is inauspicious. A Hong Kong reporter who covered the storming of the Legislative Council last summer is now facing charges for rioting. The new national security law — which Lam says will target only a tiny minority of people who have broken the law — has granted Hong Kong police vastly expanded powers to conduct warrantless raids and surveillance. The law has

already been used to arrest protesters, disqualif y pro-democracy legislative candidates, and charge opposition figures. And the arrest of Jimmy Lai, following a raid on his Apple Daily offices, indicates that journalists will not be spared. Hong Kong is changing. People now worry about what they say. This year, for the first time, I’ve felt nervous about exhibiting my photography. The city itself even looks different. Barricades and metal fences, installed to repel protesters, are now everywhere, and even the once-welcoming international airport is guarded by metal wire. Family members who once saw their loved ones off inside the building are now relegated to outside. Hong Kong has long been a haven for immigrants seeking a better life. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s now us — native Hong Kongers — who should be considered refugees. May James is a freelance photojournalist based in Hong Kong.

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Butchers wait for customers at a wet market in Wan Chai District during the COVID-19 pandemic in Hong Kong on February 26, 2020.

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A photo taken at the University of Hong Kong on June 4, 2020, the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, shows a newly repainted slogan in Chinese. It reads: “冷血屠城 烈士英魂不朽; 誓殲豺狼民主 星火不滅” or “The heroic souls of martyrs shall never perish despite the cold-blooded massacre; An oath to eliminate the jackals cannot extinguish the spark of democracy.”

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Left: A pro-democracy supporter holds a copy of the Apple Daily newspaper with the headline “No fear in suppression,” in front of Jimmy Lai’s vehicle as he leaves Mongkok police station on August 12, 2020. Lai, an outspoken pro-democracy advocate and Hong Kong media mogul who founded Apple Daily, had been arrested the day before under Hong Kong’s new National Security Law. Below: Plain clothes police officers hold pepper spray while arresting a protester in the New Town Plaza shopping mall in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin District on May 13, 2020.

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Above: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam addresses the media during a press conference at Hong Kong’s Central Government Office on May 22, 2020, the day after the National Security Law was proposed. Right: Pro-Beijing Hong Kongers celebrate the enactment of the National Security Law by drinking champagne, waving China and Hong Kong flags, and singing China’s national anthem in Hong Kong’s Tamar Park on June 30, 2020.

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A police officer looks at her phone at a popular bar area in Hong Kong’s Central District on May 29, 2020. Rules limiting public gatherings to eight people, imposed to control the spread of COVID-19, were routinely ignored in Hong Kong.

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In Other News

In Other News

It’s difficult to think of another year so thoroughly marked by a single story. For months, the coronavirus seemed like the only topic in the news, and for good reason: The microscopic virus led directly to over a million deaths worldwide, cratered the global economy, and slowed public life to a crawl. But the virus was far from the only important thing to happen in 2020. Here are seven events with little or nothing to do with COVID-19 that also shaped the year in Asia. BY MATT SCHIAVENZA

s A U.S. Drone Strike Kill Powerful General t os M ’s an Ir

IT DID NOT take long for 2020’s first major crisis to occur. On January 3, a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport killed Qassem Soleimani, the long-time leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force and the country’s most powerful security commander. The killing — which the U.S. said was in response to a December 27 Iranian attack on an American base that had killed a U.S. contractor — triggered concern that tensions between the U.S. and Iran would quickly escalate. Days after Soleimani’s death, Iran fired more than a dozen rockets at two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. troops, an attack that caused no fatalities. Soleimani’s influence had extended far beyond his home country. No other figure was more associated with Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East. Soleimani enjoyed a close relationship with Hassan Nasrallah, the supreme commander of Hezbollah, as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and successive prime ministers

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of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. He had a cult following throughout the region and within Iran, which instituted a 40-day period of mourning after his death. Any semblance of national unity in Iran following Soleimani’s death soon dissipated. On January 8, an Iranian missile accidentally struck a commercial Ukrainian jet, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board. The disaster — and Tehran’s initial denial of responsibility — sparked huge protests across the country and calls for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to step down.


M A R YA M R A H M A N I A N / U P I /A L A M Y

Thousands of Iranians take to the streets as they mourn the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani during a demonstration after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, on January 3, 2020.

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sing — and the Kim Jong Un Goes Mis Him rs Who Would Replace de on W ld or W → ON APRIL 11, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ap-

→ Military Forces Clash at the China-India Border

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In this October 14, 2020, photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong Un, top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, inspects a rehabilitation site in the Komdok area of South Hamgyong Province, which had recently been hit by flooding and typhoons.

IT WAS LIKE a scene out of an old war movie: Chinese and Indian soldiers, stationed 14,000 feet above sea level at the Line of Actual Control in t he Hima layas, engaged in a v iolent clash under the cover of darkness, using fence posts and clubs wrapped with barbed wire as weapons. But the battle between two nuclear-armed states was all too real. When the fighting stopped on June 15, more than 20 Indian soldiers — and an unknown number of Chinese troops — were dead. The skirmish marked the first fatalities along the China-India border in 45 years. But clashes at the Line of Actual Control have become a regular occurrence in recent

years. China and India are the two largest countries in the world by population; one in three people worldwide is a citizen of one or the other. The two countries enjoy a robust economic relationship and have established deep diplomatic ties. In September, following another skirmish, the Indian and Chinese foreign ministers met on the sidelines of a conference in Moscow in an attempt to cool tensions. But the long border shared by the t wo countries, long a point of contention, is poised to remain a sticking point — one that the increasingly nationalist governments led by Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi may find impossible to ignore. ( For more on China-India border tensions, see C. Raja Mohan’s story on p. 61)

X I N H U A /A L A M Y

In Other News

peared at a Politburo meeting for the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. The next day — and for nearly three weeks after that — he failed to appear in public at all, one of the longest unexplained absences in his eight years in power. When he missed the large state celebrations honoring his grandfather Kim Il Sung’s birthday on April 15, rumors of Kim’s mysterious absences abounded. Had he perished after botched plastic surgery? Died from COVID-19? Despite the 36-year-old Kim’s youth, his portly appearance and history of health woes led observers to speculate that he had passed away. But on May 1, Kim turned up, looking hale and hearty, at a factory in the city of Sunchon. False alarm aside, his disappearance over the previous weeks left an unsettling question: Who would replace him when the time comes? Tradition dictates that Kim’s successor be a member of his bloodline, but, as Asia Society Policy Institute Vice President Daniel Russel wrote in the Los Angeles Times, none of the available options come without major red flags. And, as a nuclear-armed state with the world’s fourth-largest military, the question of North Korea’s succession is certainly not one global leaders can afford to take lightly.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces he will step down from his post due to health concerns during a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, on August 28, 2020.

ng Japan’s Longest-Servi wn Prime Minister Steps Do

F R A N C K R O B I C H O N / X I N H U A /A L A M Y, O L I V E R C O N T R E R A S / S I PA U S A /A L A M Y

→ IN A COUNTRY where prime ministers are

often on their way out as soon as they take office, Shinzo Abe’s recent eight-year tenure as Japan’s leader was a rare exception. That’s why his announcement in August that he would resign due to health concerns shocked his country. When Abe assumed office in 2012, his second stint as prime minister, Japan was still recovering from the previous year’s tsunami and nuclear disaster. He guided the country through a complex relationship with an increasingly assertive China, Japan’s historic adversary, and maintained Tokyo’s alliance with the United States even during the unconventional presidency of Donald Trump. A right-of-center nationalist, Abe risked political capital to push through new security legislation that permitted Japanese troops to participate in overseas combat missions. But as was the case in many parts of the world, the events of 2020 were not kind to Abe. A coronavirus-caused recession led the prime minister’s approval ratings to dip into the 30s. The virus also forced the postponement of Tokyo’s Summer Olympic Games to 2021, denying the long-serving leader a shining moment on the international stage. But in spite of these setbacks, Abe’s second turn as Japan’s leader may well go down as one of the most consequential in postwar Japanese history.

(L to R) Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel; Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation of the United Arab Emirates; and Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, minister of foreign affairs for Bahrain, watch during the Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House on September 15, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

Israel Makes a Deal With Former Adversarie s → FOR MORE THAN seven decades, enmity between Israel and

its surrounding states has been axiomatic in the Middle East, ordered by Arab solidarity with Palestinians residing in Israel’s Occupied Territories. Until recently, this was broken only by the 1978 and 1993 accords with Egypt and Jordan, respectively. But a flurry of diplomacy in late summer 2020 has upended the status quo. In mid-September, in a White House ceremony presided over by President Donald Trump, Israel signed historic pacts with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two resource-rich Persian Gulf states with whom Israel shares a common enemy: Iran. The deals marked the most significant diplomacy between Israel and the Arab world since the deal with Jordan. And in late October, Israel secured a diplomatic breakthrough with Sudan — though the region’s biggest prize, Saudi Arabia, remains elusive. Israel’s diplomatic activity elicited praise from both Republicans and Democrats in Washington — an especially rare feat in 2020. But the deals were also criticized as having been born primarily of economic interests, and for leaving the fate of the Palestinian people in the balance. “We definitely feel betrayed,” Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, said. How Israel resolves this perennial conflict remains to be seen — but in 2020, at least, the paradigm governing the region as a whole has irrevocably changed.

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China Approves New N ational Security Law fo r Hong Kong

In Other News

ON JULY 1, mainland China passed a sweeping National Security Law for Hong Kong designed to curb political opposition in the territory. The law grants mainland Chinese officials wide discretion in deterring “political crimes,” a clear response to the protest movement that had roiled Hong Kong over the past year. The measure also affords Beijing wide latitude to intervene in judicial matters it determines relevant to national security, marking the largest encroachment on Hong Kong’s judicial independence since the 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule. The law even grants China authority to arrest people from abroad for political crimes as soon as they step on Hong Kong soil. China’s leaders and supporters said the law was needed to deter foreign meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs, and would not ensnare the vast majority of residents. But the law’s passage elicited outrage from the United States and

many of its allies: Twenty-seven countries, many of them European Union members, issued a joint condemnation of the law to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The new measure had immediate impact. Nathan Law, a prominent pro-democracy lawmaker in the territory’s legislative council, fled Hong Kong soon after its passage. And Jimmy Lai, the prominent head of the news giant Apple Daily, was arrested for violating the law, arousing intense opposition from human rights advocates. Many have argued that the National Security Law threatens Hong Kong’s singular identity as a Chinese territory with a separate economic and legal system, a place that has long positioned itself as Asia’s world city as well as a haven for business and finance. (For more on Hong Kong in this issue, see May James’ photo essay on p. 106 and Orville Schell’s story on p. 100.)

A Political Giant Falls in Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad reassumed power in Malaysia in 2018, becoming, at 92, the world’s oldest leader, journalists dubbed him “the comeback kid.” Two years later, the comeback came to an ignominious end. In February, Mohamad resigned his post following a power struggle within his Alliance of Hope coalition, which had ousted the long-dominant United Malays National Organization. A subsequent attempt to push through a vote of no confidence against his successor, Muhyiddin Yassin, failed, and in May the 94-year-old Mohamad was kicked out of his own political party. While the intrigue may signal the end of Mohamad’s lengthy political career, only a fool would count the “comeback kid” out for good. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s turbulent 2020 also included the sentencing of former Prime Minister Rajib Nazak to 12 years in prison for his role in the massive 1MBD corruption scandal.

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Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s former prime minister, leaves after an interview with Reuters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on October 16, 2020.

L I M H U E Y T E N G / R E U T E R S /A L A M Y

→ WHEN LONGTIME FORMER prime minister


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THE G LOBAL CITIES EDUCATION NET WORK

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The Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) — a key initiative of Asia Society’s Center for Global Education — is working to fix education, globally and locally. Bringing together city officials from high-performing school systems across the Asia-Pacific and North America, the network identifies common, high-priority problems; researches best practices; and develops effective, practical solutions that can be adapted to varying cultural and political contexts. GCEN strives to eradicate systemic problems and, ultimately, improve education for all. Learn more: AsiaSociety.org/GCEN

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CONTRI DR. AVINESH BHAR is a pulmonary and sleep physician at Sliiip, a fully integrated virtual specialist practice that he founded in Macon, Georgia. Bhar is board certified in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, and has an MBA from the University of Chicago. He was selected as an Asia Society Asia 21 Young Leader in 2016. Bhar was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. CHRISTINA CHUNG is a TaiwaneseHongkonger-American illustrator, raised between Seattle and Singapore, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a BFA in communications design with a concentration in illustration from the Pratt Institute. Her work focuses on intricacies, color, and symbolism, drawing inspiration from the natural world and powerful storytelling. When not in her studio drawing, Christina loves sketching people in cafés and museums, trying new recipes, devouring books and films, and bothering her cat, Juni. WENDY CUTLER is vice president at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and the managing director of the Washington, D.C., office. In these roles, she focuses on expanding ASPI’s presence in Washington and on leading initiatives that address challenges related to trade and investment, as well as women’s empowerment in Asia. She joined ASPI following an illustrious career of nearly three decades as a diplomat and negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, including serving as acting deputy U.S. trade representative. In that capacity, she worked on a range of U.S. trade negotiations and initiatives in Asia.

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MICHELLE FLORCRUZ is the social media and digital content manager at Asia Society, where she creates and manages digital editorial content. Prior to Asia Society, she worked in various areas of media in the United States and Asia — with work experience in journalism, corporate communications, and television production. She was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in Beijing, China. She now resides in New York City. RYAN INZANA is an illustrator and comic artist whose work has appeared in numerous magazines, ad campaigns, books, and various other media all over the world. Ryan’s comics have been inducted into the Library of Congress’s permanent collection of art and have earned an Eisner nomination as well as an Asian American/Pacific Islander Honor Award for YA literature. Ryan’s graphic novel Ichiro has just been released in a new edition from Etch/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. You can see more of his work at ryaninzana.com or on Instagram @ryan_inzana. ANTHONY JACKSON is vice president

of education at Asia Society and the director of the Center for Global Education, a global platform for collaboratively advancing education for global competence for all. Trained in both developmental psychology and education, Jackson is one of the world’s leading authorities on adolescent education and is the co-author of the seminal work Education for Global Competence: Preparing our Youth to Engage the World. Prior to joining Asia Society, he directed the Carnegie Corporation’s Task Force on the Education of Young Adolescents, where he co-authored the groundbreaking book Turning Points: Educating Adolescents in the 21st Century.

MAY JAMES is a local Hong Kong photographer. Her work has appeared in a variety of local and international outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Time, and the BBC. She is also a freelance photographer for HKFP, Bloomberg, and AFP. May is a member of the HKJA, HKPPA, and the FCC, where she also sits on the photographic Wall Committee. Her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong took place in 2017, and she was included in a Time Out story entitled “Nine Stunning Street Photographers of Hong Kong.” JEONGMIN KIM is a correspondent

at NK News, based in Seoul, South Korea. She previously worked for the CSIS Korea Chair and in the Seoul bureau of Reuters. Her work has appeared in Foreign Policy and in many other publications. TRACY WEN LIU is an award-winning

freelance writer, reporter, and translator from China. She focuses on women’s rights, justice for marginalized people, and the U.S.-China relationship. The author of five books, she writes for media outlets in mainland China, Hong Kong, the U.K., Germany, and the United States. She is currently based in Austin, Texas. LISA LOK is the design director of Asia Society Magazine. Previously, while an art director at Airbnb Magazine, she teamed with illustrators from all over the world to create some of the most memorable work in the publication’s history. With experience across a wide range of design disciplines, she enjoys making custom typography. You can find her either snacking, playing the drums, or propagating plant friends in Brooklyn.


BUTORS MICHELLE YUN MAPPLETHORPE

is vice president for global artistic programs at Asia Society, director of Asia Society Museum, and artistic director of the Asia Society Triennial. She oversees Asia Society ’s global arts and cultural programs, the Museum’s exhibitions, and its permanent collection. She is a widely published author and frequent lecturer on modern and contemporary Asian art. She has an M.A. in modern art and critical studies from Columbia University and a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College. She completed the Getty Leadership Institute’s Executive Education Program for Museum Leaders and sits on the advisory board of Mount Holyoke’s art museum.

GRACE MARTINEZ is an award-winning New York-based art director, designer, and data viz enthusiast. She has served as an art director for Airbnb Magazine and Travel & Leisure. She recently graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Masters in data visualization. A lover of type and design, she specializes in conceptualizing and editorializing content, and executing designs in a way that is both functional and beautiful. TOM NAGORSKI became executive vice

president of Asia Society following a three-decade career in journalism — having served most recently as managing editor for international coverage at ABC News. Nagorski serves on Princeton University’s advisory council for the department of East Asian Studies and the advisory board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has written for several publications and is the author of Miracles on the Water: The Heroic Survivors of a World War II U-Boat Attack.

L O T F U L L A H N A J I F A Z A D A is a n award-winning journalist and director of TOLOnews, Afghanistan’s top 24/7 news and current affairs TV channel, where he oversees the country’s largest news operation. Najafizada has interviewed many global leaders, including former British Prime Minister David Cameron, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and former U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, among others. He was selected as an Asia Society Asia 21 Young Leader in 2011.

KEVIN RUDD has been president of the Asia Society Policy Institute since its founding in 2015, and in January 2021 he will also take on the role of Asia Society president and CEO. Previously, he served as Australia’s 26th prime minister (2007-2010, 2013) and as foreign minister (2010-2012). He led Australia’s response during the Global Financial Crisis — the only major developed economy not to go into recession — and helped found the G20. He is also a leading international authority on China. He is chair of the board of the International Peace Institute, and chair of Sanitation and Water for All.

MITCHELL PHAM is a co-founder and director of Augen Software Group, a business with off ices in both New Zealand and Vietnam. Born in Vietnam, he left as a refugee at age 12 before eventually settling in New Zealand. Pham serves as chair of the digital council for A o t e a r o a Ne w Z e a l a nd , N Z Te c h , FinTechNZ, and the ASEAN Business Alliance. He is also an honorary advisor at the Asia New Zealand Foundation and advisory board chair at the New Zealand Asia Institute. Pham was selected as an Asia Society Asia 21 Young Leader in 2007 and a Global Council member in 2020.

DANIEL RUSSEL is vice president, international security and diplomacy, at Asia Society Policy Institute. Formerly a career member of the senior foreign service at the U.S. Department of State, his most recent U.S. government position was serving as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. During his 33year diplomatic career, he received numerous awards, most recently the 2017 Presidential Rank Award. Russel was educated at Sarah Lawrence College and University College London.

ARSH RAZIUDDIN is a first generation

Indian-Muslim-American designer. She is currently an art director at The Atlantic and freelances in her spare time. She lives in New York City with her husband and their pup, Olive.

ORVILLE SCHELL is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 15 books and a contributor to numerous magazines and newspapers. Schell graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University, was an exchange student at National Taiwan University in the 1960s, and earned a Ph.D. (Abd) at the University of California, Berkeley in Chinese history. He has traveled widely in China since the mid-1970s.

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C O N T. MATT SCHIAVENZA is assistant director of content at Asia Society. Previously, he worked as an editor and writer at The Atlantic, where he launched and oversaw The China Channel. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Schiavenza l ived in China f rom 2 0 0 4 to 2010. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, and numerous other publications. BOON HUI TAN is co-curator and former artistic director of the Asia Society Triennial. Previously, he served as director of Asia Society Museum, assistant chief executive (museum and programs) at the National Heritage Board in Singapore, artistic director for Singapour en France le Festival, and director of the Singapore Art Museum. ISHAAN THAROOR is a columnist on the foreign desk at The Washington Post, where he authors the Today’s WorldView newsletter and column. He previously was a senior editor and correspondent at Time magazine, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York. Tharoor teaches an undergraduate seminar at Georgetown University on digital affairs and the global age.

DAN WASHBURN is chief content officer at Asia Society. He is the author of The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, which The Financial Times named one of the Best Books of 2014. Washburn’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, FT Magazine, Slate, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Economist, Golf World, Golf Digest, and ESPN.com. Washburn is also the founding editor of Shanghaiist.com, one of the most widely read English-language websites about China. JIA LYNN YANG has served as a deputy

national editor at The New York Times since 2017. Previously, she ser ved as deputy national security editor at The Washington Post. She is the author of One Might y and Irresistible Tide: Th e Ep i c St r u g gl e O v e r A m e r i c a n Immigrat ion 192 4-1965, which was released in May and has been longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

STEPHEN YANG is a Chinese/Korean American photojournalist and native New Yorker. He has covered crime, civil uprisings, immigration, politics, and climate change both locally and internationally. His photos have appeared in the New York Post, Getty Images, Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. Yang’s work has been recognized by the New York Press Photographers Association in the breaking news and news picture essay categories and is syndicated by Redux Pictures. HILTON YIP is a journalist based in Taiwan. He covers political and social issues in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. Yip’s work has been published at Foreign Policy, National Interest, and many other publications.

T H E I N AU G U R A L A S I A S O C I E T Y T R I E N N I A L , T I T L E D W E D O N OT D R E A M A LO N E, I S N O W O N V I E W AT A S I A S O C I E T Y M U S E U M , N E W Y O R K . L A O T O N G L I , T H E D E S I R E O F L I B I D O N O . 5, 2 017–19, C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A R T I S T. P H OTO G R A P H : B R U C E M . W H I T E , 2 02 0.

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Asia Society Salutes Its Corporate Members! Asia Society’s corporate members receive access to impactful educational resources, extensive global business networking and relationship-building opportunities, high-profile brand exposure, rewarding community service, employee engagement and corporate entertainment across Asia Society’s locations in the U.S. and abroad. JOIN US TODAY! Corporate@AsiaSociety.org AsiaSociety.org/Corporate

Contact: Christopher M. Belisle Executive Director of Corporate Relations 212.327.9375 | cbelisle@asiasociety.org

Members of the Global Corporate Network AIG

Citi

JPMorgan Chase

Standard Chartered Bank

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

DTCC

KPMG

State Bank of India

AT&T

EY

Marriott International

State Grid Corporation of China

BHP

Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

Mars

Sullivan & Cromwell

Bloomberg

General Atlantic

McKinsey & Co.

S&P Global

Capital One

Goldman Sachs

Morgan Stanley

United Airlines

Chevron

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO)

Nikkei Asia

Värde Partners

PMI

ViacomCBS

PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Zenity

China Investment Corporation (CIC) China Merchants Bank

Hyosung Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)

The Business Council

The Global Talent and Diversity Council

Mark Barnes

Umran Beba

Dustin Ling

Samantha Santos

The Rising Executives Network Ivan Batac

Kristen Borowiec

Xuejun Mao

Dan Dai

Marie Suesse

Sally Chan

Frank J. Brown

Noritsuga Odaira

Iliana De Santis

Jason Williams

Samuel Chen

John Fell

Michael Park

Julie Everitt

Linda Zhang

Christina Cheng

Lea Felluss

Sharon Pierce

*Apoorva Gandhi

Mu Zhang

Tian Terence Deng

Winona Zhao

Miri Kang

Jon Fox

Nathan Stein

Irina Goldberg

Gerard Francis

Jeff Wong

Lee Jourdan

Aileen Furlong

Yuqiang Xiao

Mimi Kurniawan

Advisors

Neelu Varakantham

Apoorva Gandhi

Linda Zhang

Harrison Lung

*Subha Barry

Yuwei Zhang

Mika Hayama

Eric Mitchell

*Philip A. Berry

Kay Ikawa

Arindam Mukhopadhyay

*Jyoti Chopra

Sapna Jain

Ronald Reeves

Amy Ng

*indicates Former Co-Chair of the Council.

Advisor Ali Ongvorapong

Founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd in New York City, Asia Society is a global nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to address a range of challenges and opportunities facing Asia and the rest of the world.  List updated as of October 2020


BOARD OF TRUSTEES CHAN H EN G CH EE Co-Chair

JO H N L . TH O RNTO N Co-Chair

B E TSY Z. CO H EN Vice Chair & Secretary

JOSE T TE M . SH EER AN President and CEO

LU LU C . WAN G Vice Chair

RO B ERT NIEHAUS Treasurer

TRUSTEES Nicolas Aguzin HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal Edward R. Allen III Isaac Applbaum Mohit Assomull Nicolas Berggruen Hamid Biglari J. Frank Brown Michael S. Chae Albert Chao Purnendu Chatterjee Chen Guoqing Duncan Clark O.B.E. Henry Cornell Fritz Demopoulos Richard Drobnick J. Michael Evans Jamshyd N. Godrej Toyoo Gyohten Susan S. Hakkarainen George G. Hicks Doris Magsaysay Ho W. Bradford Hu

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CHAIR EMERITI Omar Ishrak Mitchell R. Julis Karamjit S. Kalsi Adrian T. Keller Mahmood J. Khimji James Kondo Chong-Moon Lee Lee Hong-Koo Ido Leffler Jean Liu Harold McGraw III Asheet Mehta John D. Negroponte Harold J. Newman Gaoning Ning Thierry Porté Stephen Riady Charles P. Rockefeller Nicolas Rohatyn Kevin M. Rudd Denise Saul Stephen A. Schwarzman Neil N. Shen

Shin Dong-Bin Warwick L. Smith Jane Jie Sun Y. Ping Sun Harit Talwar Oscar L. Tang Ernie Thrasher Kenneth P. Wilcox Eunice Zehnder-Lai Zhang Xin James D. Zirin Fernando Zobel de Ayala

Ronnie C. Chan Henrietta H. Fore Maurice R. Greenberg Charles R. Kaye HONORARY LIFE TRUSTEES Peter A. Aron Winthrop R. Munyan Cynthia Hazen Polsky John D. Rockefeller IV Washington SyCip (In Memoriam) Lisina Hoch (In Memoriam)

As of October 2020


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Profile for Asia Society

The Year No One Saw Coming | Asia Society Magazine  

Asia Society Magazine is an exciting new annual print publication featuring writing, data visualization, and photography that provides an in...

The Year No One Saw Coming | Asia Society Magazine  

Asia Society Magazine is an exciting new annual print publication featuring writing, data visualization, and photography that provides an in...

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