Kingston: Introduction: Authoritarian Creep in South and Southeast Asia

Special Issue: Pandemic Asia. 2020 July.
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 15 | Number 1 | Article ID 5433 | Aug 01, 2020
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

Introduction: COVID-19 and Authoritarian Creep in South and Southeast Asia

Jeff Kingston

The COVID-19 pandemic generates many uncertainties for everyone, but for Asia’s poor and marginalized, there is little doubt about the devastating consequences. It’s not only about unequal access to public health care, but also the loss of livelihoods that wreaks havoc in disadvantaged communities living on the edge of subsistence that are more likely to experience police abuses under the pretext of lockdown and quarantine enforcement. As second and third waves strike, the menace of this coronavirus and the high risk of letting our guard down becomes all the more evident. Resurgences of cases in Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan provide stark reminders that turning the corner does not mean being out of harm’s way. Much debate focuses on the trade-off between public health and jobs as various degrees of lockdowns boost unemployment, especially for contingent workers. Moreover, the contagion of fear and anxieties about the future, along with travel restrictions and closed schools, keep people at home and purse strings tight, forcing many businesses to close in a downward spiral of contraction and dislocation. Despite governments around the region rolling out various countermeasures to soften the economic pain, including massive stimulus packages, these schemes are but a band-aid. Even relatively prosperous nations remain vulnerable to the gathering economic typhoon, because the pandemic is a transnational catastrophe that is disrupting markets and supply-chains while battering down growth rates and demand.

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