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Letter from the Editors
As this issue of Global Asia was being prepared, the outbreak of Covid-19 that had been tearing through the region exploded into a global pandemic, claiming thousands of new victims in Europe, the US, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere. Italy’s fatalities alone now exceed those in China, where the outbreak appears to have originated. We intend to delve into this pandemic in future issues; in this one we include an early look at how the crisis was handled in China and South Korea.
Covid-19 has sadly taken a personal toll on those of us at Global Asia. On March 21, the noted Philippine specialist on China, Aileen Baviera, who contributed to our journal, died of the disease. The dean of the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines is thought to have contracted the virus while at a conference in Paris.
In our In Focus section, we look at the coronavirus outbreak in China, and how fundamental flaws in how Beijing first reacted may have contributed to its severity. We examine South Korea’s approach to tamp down the extraordinary spread there. We ask, too, whether border controls are useful or not to stop the spread of viruses.
Elsewhere, our cover package is devoted to democratic backsliding. The broadest debate in Asia on models of governance has tended to center on the struggle for influence between China and the US, and the differing attractions of a one-party, autocratic system and one based on democracy, rule of law and a liberal world order. But countries across the region have over the years been conducting their own debates about democracy’s place in their political systems. While the so-called “Third Wave of Democratization” in Asia from the second half of the 1980s led to optimism that democracy was forging deep roots here, recent events have triggered anxieties over a new era of democratic backsliding. Our cover package probes the state of democracy in Asia, examining a range of countries, highlighting where the threat of authoritarianism is rearing its head and where democratic values appear resilient. If a trend toward backsliding seems under way, the outcome is far from certain. The essays, under the co-editorship of Aurel Croissant and Larry Diamond, build on discussions at the workshop “Democratic Backsliding in Asia,” hosted by Heidelberg University last December. They preview arguments to appear in a special issue of the journal Democratization.
In our Features section, we examine how resistance to Beijing from Xinjiang and Hong Kong is fueling insecurities in China’s leadership; what triangular diplomacy among Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump might mean for great power relations; how the issues related to the Indo-Pacific vision being forged by India, Japan and the US are playing out; and how a newly commissioned national gas pipeline between Russia and China could upend energy ties in the region.
As always, our Book Review section highlights some of the best works on the region.
Separately, we are pleased to announce that Sung-Hwan Kim, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, has been named Chairman of the East Asia Foundation and Publisher of Global Asia. Minister Kim, whose distinguished diplomatic career spans more than 36 years, is currently a Distinguished Professor at Hanyang University.
We would also like to express our deep gratitude to the outgoing Publisher of Global Asia, Ro-Myung Gong, who served in that position since the journal was founded in 2005.
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