Tomorrow Matters: August 2020

The past six months have made clear that the world does not know enough about what happens across the broad swathe of nations in Asia. Lessons learned and actions taken by Asian governments, policymakers and societies helped to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. If non-Asian countries were paying closer attention and had access to better information, they might have also taken necessary measures to protect themselves and others.
Global reporting on Asia, Africa and the Middle East tends to reflect only part of the story. Events are viewed through a Western framing, and thus the conclusions drawn may only be partially correct at best. Certain events, narratives and arguments are put aside out of a belief that Western audiences would not be interested. Nor are global outlets truly willing to devote the space needed to talk about these developments with the necessary detail.
Tomorrow Matters will share insights written by locally-based writers who better understand the nuances of what is happening in their country because they are more locally invested. These pieces may share a story that global media isn't talking about, present greater context to political, social or economic developments, or give new answers to important questions that affect the region.
We will share this curated selection of insights every 3-4 weeks, and we hope it helps give you the Asian perspectives you need to better understand what people are saying and doing in this part of the world.

China

Restoring the Yangtze River

For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the Yangtze River has been vital to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Yet rapid development and overfishing in China's longest river have contributed to vast environmental damage: pollution, depleted fish stocks and disruption to natural migration, among others.
Beijing imposed an unprecedented ten-year fishing moratorium, starting from the beginning of 2020. Fishermen have found new avenues of work: porpoise protection, crawfish farming, and other actions that restore the river's ecology.
If successful, the efforts to retrain people in the fishing industry for new jobs could serve as a model for other environmentally damaging industries such as large-scale agriculture and mining.

Malaysia

What did Goldman Sachs Know?

The 1MDB saga is starting to reach its conclusion. While most commentary has focused on the conviction of Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the settlement the Malaysian government reached with Goldman Sachs — USD 2.5 billion, and a promise to cover the shortfall from the sale of assets seized by the Malaysian Government — has garnered less coverage. While the world focuses on Najib, Malaysians are asking questions about the Goldman Sachs settlement ... and whether it was too lenient.
In light of this news, we wanted to share two pieces: first, to give some context, a deeper dive into the negotiations between Malaysia and Goldman Sachs that led to the settlement.
Second, an interview with former Attorney General Tommy Thomas who comments on the shifts in legal strategy between his administration and the current one, and how that may have affected the result.

Bangladesh

Sitting Between Two Major Powers

Bangladesh is positioned between two geopolitical giants: India and China, who don't see eye-to-eye on some issues. Former Foreign Minister Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury provides an in-depth analysis of how the Bangladeshi national identity was shaped by the need to balance these global powers. Bangladesh's desire for progress and development have pushed it to use deft diplomacy to manage these relationships.
International relations is not separate from a country's cultural and historical identity: in fact, they feed off of each other. Bangladesh's geopolitical position have fostered a unique national identity. This, in turn, affects how it presents itself to the world.

Vietnam

Ignoring the Ground Under Your Feet

What role does soil play in Vietnam's development, given that the agricultural sector contributes almost 14% of the country's GDP? Professor Nguyen Lan Dung explores the often-overlooked importance of soil quality by analysing it in the wider context of Vietnam's recent development. Vietnam's industrial model of development has destroyed parts of its priceless natural heritage: namely, the humus-rich soil that fosters rice paddies across the country.
The improper valuation of agricultural land and the ubiquitous use of concrete has meant the country is "unthinkingly destroying its arable land in chasing a skewed development vision." This is an important lesson for Vietnam and other countries that are reliant on agriculture to feed their people.

India

The Rights of Rivers

In India, a new legal debate is emerging: do features of nature, like rivers, oceans and ecosystems, have a right to life? Various Indian courts have ruled that rivers, glaciers and lakes are legal persons with corresponding rights. What this means in practice still needs to be defined, as questions of custodianship, conflicts of interest and compensation will prove tricky to navigate.
Yet Shrishtee Bajpai notes an important paradigm shift from this new idea. If nature was considered an equal to humans in the eyes of the law, how would we judge environmental damage? How would human and industrial activity be forced to adapt?
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