Tomorrow Matters: November 2020

Understandably, eyes this month were glued to the elections in the United States which, at time of writing, were still unresolved. We're sure many around the world are watching closely to see how developments in one of the world's most important countries will affect the rest of us. We do know it has irreversibly affected how the United States is seen around the world.
But while political developments in the West are important, and often grab the headlines, they are not the whole story. In this edition of Tomorrow Matters, we delve into the relationship between political actors in Southeast Asia, the risk of missed opportunities in Southern China, the intersection of law and pandemics, a superiority complex in Western aid agencies, and how rural-to-urban migration is hurting one of the region's biggest countries.


Hollowing Out the Countryside

According to official statistics, Indonesia lost 5.1 million farmers between 2003 and 2013: a rate of decline that, if extended, would mean losing its entire farming population by 2063. This migration constrains the country's ability to provide enough nutritious food for its large and growing population.
Made Anthony Iswara explores this trend, interviewing farmers, food companies, and experts to explore what is driving urban migration. His analysis highlights reasons like low incomes, middlemen capturing the value chain, and the rise of processed foods, and presents some of the policy and technological solutions people on-the-ground are pursuing.
Indonesia is not the only country going through this transition: this article provides insights relevant to any developing country undergoing the shift from the countryside to the city.


How Law and Pandemics Intersect

In 1897, an outbreak of plague drove the Indian colonial government to pass the Epidemic Diseases Act, which gave the government sweeping powers, including "aggressive house, body and corpse inspections, the segregation and hospitalisation of suspected cases, and even the use of troops." This sparked popular resentment, including protests and attacks on public health officials.
Mitra Sharafi explores how previous pandemics shaped the legal history of South Asia, especially India, and notes the parallels between how colonial India dealt with outbreaks of plague, cholera and influenza, and how today's India is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Urban Competition

In early October, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced >an array of measures for Shenzhen, the technology hub of Southern China. Rules regarding land, people, technology and money were all relaxed, in what many people see as an experiment of policies Beijing may choose to apply nationally.
Across the border, Hong Kong is still trying to determine what these policies mean. Tammy Tam, editor-in-chief for the South China Morning Post, notes how the Hong Kong government's neglect of Shenzhen, whether in terms of cooperation or competition, is both a political and a policy mistake, and that the city needs to take the energy and dynamism of Southern China more seriously if it is to succeed.


More Competent Than the West

At time of writing, Kenya has had 950 confirmed cases of COVID-19 each day over the past week: an average of 18 cases per million. This compares favourably to many other countries, and is a significantly better performance than far wealthier countries in the West. Africa — which faced predictions of doom early in the pandemic — appears to be getting through the pandemic far better than people thought it would.
Despite this, no one is investigating where this success comes from. Rasna Warah argues that this inability to accept that non-Western countries, not just in Africa but also in Asia, have done better than Western countries reveals a deeply-held belief among Western media and humanitarian organisations that the West knows what it is doing, and that better outcomes outside of the West must be due to different values, biology, or even just plain luck. This article is vital as a corrective against a "West knows best" narrative.


The Government, the Monarchy, and the Street

In previous Thai protests, the monarchy has always been treated independently from the government. In fact, in 1992, the Thai monarchy intervened to stop a potential crisis as the country continued its transition to democracy. However, with the most recent protests, the monarchy has turned into a target for criticism.
Thannapat Jarernpanit explains how and why the Thai monarchy has shifted from a "symbol of independence" to a "target of reformists' ire", going through some of the context behind the recent protests. One could make a useful contrast to other recent royal interventions in Southeast Asia, such as the King of Malaysia's intervention to ward off an attempt to pass emergency powers.
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