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Asia Matters Podcast

Author: Asia Matters

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In Asia Matters Podcast, we go beyond the headlines with experts from around the globe to help explain what's shaping the region.
22 Episodes
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When Joko Widodo, widely known as Jokowi, became president of Indonesia in 2014, it completed a stunning rise for a political outsider who had spent much of his previous life running a furniture making company.With his mastery of retail politics and business know-how, Jokowi seemed set to cut through the bureaucracy and corruption that have bedevilled the development of Indonesia, one of the world’s most populous nations with around a quarter of a billion people.Six years on, and now into his second term as president, it’s time for a report card on Jokowi’s presidency. In this episode, we are joined by Ben Bland (@benjaminbland), a long time journalist and now director of the South East Asia programme at the Lowy Institute. Ben’s recently published book ‘Man of Contradictions’ charts Jokowi’s rise and assesses his presidency to date, explaining why he has disappointed so many expectations both at home and abroad. Later in the programme Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a former senior official and research professor at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, gives us the view from inside the country of why it has been so hard for Jokowi to achieve his goals. For more on this episode, including a reading list, please go to our website asiamatterspod.com, where you can also give us feedback and subscribe to our mailing list.
This week's episode is a deep dive on a company that's transforming not just Asia, but arguably the entire global tech sector - Japan's Softbank. Even if you've never heard of Softbank, you'll have heard of the companies it's invested in - from Alibaba to Uber to Tiktok owner Bytedance - and more recently, and disastrously, US property firm WeWork. Phred Dvorak, a special correspondent with the Wall Street Journal in Tokyo, joins us to discuss the rise of the company and its charismatic founder, Masayoshi Son. Then we step back and look at Softbank's impact on the world with Steve Kaplan, professor of entrepreneurship and finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Like so many other companies Softbank has suffered big losses as the global economy reels from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with its $100 billion Vision Fund, set up three years ago with the backing of the Saudi Arabian government, Softbank looks set to remain a major force for years to come. As ever, let us know what you think - leave a review, or get in touch with us directly at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. And there's plenty more details and content on our website at asiamatterspod.com.Support the show (https://paypal.me/asiamatterspod?locale.x=en_US)
In the second of our special editions recorded at the Association for Asian Studies' annual conference, we turn our focus to India. Our guest is Pratap Mehta (@pbmehta), one of the country's best-known public intellectuals, who's also the former president of the Centre for Policy Research. India has the world's second-highest coronavirus caseload and has been averaging 90,000 cases daily in recent weeks. So how has the pandemic changed Indian politics, both at the domestic and international level? What are the main challenges confronting Narendra Modi's government - or could these strange times even present it with new opportunities? As in other countries, in some areas the pandemic has not so much altered as revealed the way things really operate. India, long seen as a key democratic ally to the West, is grappling with internal issues of identity, belonging and justice; and externally, trying to carve out a place for itself in the post-pandemic global world order. Our guest presenter this week is Yuka Kobayashi, political scientist at SOAS in London.As ever, do let us know what you think of this episode - you can leave a review on your favourite podcast platform, and get in touch with us at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. And there's plenty more details and content on our website at asiamatterspod.com.Support the show (https://paypal.me/asiamatterspod?locale.x=en_US)
South Asian countries are facing a double whammy -- the effects of the global pandemic and an increasingly urgent battle against pollution and the effects of climate change. The World Bank predicted in the spring that the region would suffer its worst economic performance in four decades this year. Severe flooding in recent weeks has further damaged prospects.In this episode, recorded as part of the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies, we discussed these issues with two experts. Mushfiq Mobarak, a professor of economics at Yale University, has been advising the Bangladeshi and Nepalese governments on their response to the pandemic. And Yamini Aiyar, president and chief executive of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, whose work has long focused on social policy and development.We talk about the policy dilemmas facing governments of countries for which lockdowns can have disastrous side effects, such as a breakdown of food supply chains and the wipe out of household incomes. And we discuss the longer-term impact the pandemic could have as governments divert resources from areas such as environmental protection to deal with rebuilding their economies.Let us know what you think of this episode! Leave a review on your favourite podcast platform and get in touch with us at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. Visit our website at asiamatterspod.com for more details and content!
This week, we present - the inaugural Asia Matters Book Club episode. China has dominated the headlines this summer - and if you're looking for a good book to help you understand the country better, we have three excellent suggestions. The Wall Street Journal's Lingling Wei is back to talk through her new book, Superpower Showdown. Co-authored with her colleague Bob Davis, it's a detailed look at the US-China trade war and what its lasting effects on both countries might be. If you're not in the mood for current affairs, veteran journalist Michael Schuman's Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of the World, takes readers back thousands of years. As the name suggests, it's a rundown of the country's history as it's perceived in China itself, rather than by external observers. And finally Bloomberg Economic's chief economist Tom Orlik has written China: The Bubble That Never Pops, to explore the resilience of the modern Chinese economy. Despite years of dire warnings it's on the brink of collapse, it hasn't yet - but why?
This week, in a collaboration with the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, we turn our attention to Japan - specifically, its foreign policy. Against a backdrop of rising tensions between the US and China, what are Japan's priorities when it comes to managing its relations with the two countries? As the world's third largest economy, it holds considerable clout both within the Asia region and globally. But how can it best utilise this influence, and what does it perceive its role to be within a shifting world order?Andrew is joined by Akio Takahara, a law professor at Tokyo University and an adjunct fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs; and Yuka Kobayashi, a China and International Politics scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). 
The world is still very much in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic - but the blame game has already begun. China, where the virus was first reported last December, has been singled out by many countries as the culprit - or scapegoat, depending on your viewpoint. One major consequence of the scramble to apportion guilt has been a surge in anti-Asian sentiment, especially in the US. But how new is this phenomenon there? What are its roots, and how has it changed into what we see today? To discuss this, we're joined by Christine Yano, professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and President of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). And we also speak to Jennifer Pan (@jenjpan), a political scientist at Stanford University, about her study on how anti-Chinese discrimination seems to boost support for the Chinese political system among Chinese students in the US. 
We often talk about geopolitics in terms of superpower competition - at the moment, particularly between the US and China. But where does this leave mid-sized countries like the UK? How should they respond to China’s already large and ever-growing influence over global affairs - do they need to pick sides, or is a more delicate balancing act required? Issues like Huawei and Hong Kong lend these questions a particular prominence in the UK at the moment, so this week we've invited two former British diplomats to debate them. Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies at King’s College London and an Associate Fellow at Chatham House; and Matthew Henderson is Director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society. What does the UK's experience of dealing with China teach us about an emerging new world order? And most pressingly for the UK and countries like it - what leverage - if any - do middle powers have in it?
The pandemic-related lockdown continues in much of the world but in China they are getting back to work. That gives us a chance to look into a major scandal from the business world that’s come to light in recent weeks at a company called Luckin Coffee, once billed as China’s answer to Starbucks.The company, whose shares are listed in New York, shocked investors in April when it emerged it may have simply fabricated over $300 million of revenue last year.It’s an extraordinary story, with big questions not just for Luckin’s management but also the banks and accounting firms that backed it.This week, Andrew turns to Nana Li, research and project director for China at the Asian Corporate Governance Association and Jacky Wong (@jackycwong), a columnist at the Wall Street Journal, both in Hong Kong. We then speak to Catherine X. Pan-Giordano, who leads New York-based Dorsey & Whitney’s U.S.-China transactional practice. 
There was plenty to digest from China's coronavirus-delayed 'Two Sessions' (Lianghui) annual political gathering last week - so much so that we've got a bumper episode for you. The new national security law for Hong Kong is what's grabbed most of the headlines, but eyebrows were raised too by the absence of an annual growth target for the country, for the first time in many years. In the latest of our socially distanced podcasts, Andrew and Vincent are joined by guests from the UK, the Netherlands and China. Professor Shaun Breslin of the University of Warwick, and Professor Dingding Chen (@ChenDingding) of Jinan University in Guangzhou discuss the political fallout from the meeting. And then Dr Jue Wang (@JueWangLeiden) takes us through what the Lianghui revealed about China's economy, and how it's faring in a pandemic-stricken world. 
Welcome to another episode of Asia Matters, lockdown style.This week, Vincent and Andrew are joined by Courtney Fung (@CourtneyFung) of the University of Hong Kong and Rush Doshi (@RushDoshi) of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative in Washington, to discuss whether the pandemic really represents a moment for China to subvert the global order?Is this conversation more about Beijing’s readiness to usurp Washington’s leading role or the US’s inability to get its act together in this particular event? And are we too obsessed with the US vs China paradigm when speaking about this issue?Let us know what you think at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. We are also on Twitter, @AsiaMattersPod.
In the latest of our lockdown podcasts, we turn to Myanmar. Andrew and Vincent are joined by one of the country's best known historians and analysts, Thant Myint-U, for a wide-ranging discussion informed by his book The Hidden History of Burma. How has Myanmar fared so far in the coronavirus pandemic? What of the Rohingya, whose exodus from Rakhine state continues even amidst the pandemic? And did the West get Myanmar totally wrong because of Aung San Suu Kyi? If you've ever wanted to know more about Myanmar, this is the episode for you.
One of the biggest - and most persistent - stories in the Asia region over the last few years has been North Korea. It may have been pushed out of the headlines recently by the coronavirus pandemic, but as recent missile tests have demonstrated, it's not an issue that's going away any time soon. In this episode Andrew is joined by Chun In-Bum, a renowned expert on Korean relations who's a veteran Lieutenant General in the South Korean army, and who briefly served as a security adviser to President Moon Jae-in. To discuss China's role and interests, Tong Zhao, a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, joins us from Beijing as well. NB: This episode was recorded shortly before the coronavirus crisis took hold. 
Welcome to podcasting in a time of COVID-19... The new coronavirus has run rampant throughout the world, and disrupted the global economy, transport and everyday life (including our studio access.)But the show must go on - so joining Andrew and Vincent this week on a four-way Skype chat are Dr. Parag Khanna, managing director of strategic advisory firm FutureMap and the author 'The Future is Asian'; and Ian Johnson, China correspondent for The New York Times. The topic, is of course, the coronavirus - specifically, as the epicentre has switched to Europe and parts of Asia seem almost ready to begin recovering, how Asian countries have differed in their approach to the virus. What can we learn from the various strategies they deployed, and what do they reveal about the different political systems themselves? And taking out our crystal balls - at this early stage are there any clues about how this epoch-defining pandemic will affect the region's geopolitical order? 
In December last year, Narendra Modi's government passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. It's raised concerns that India's secular constitution is at risk, and critics say it discriminates against Muslims.Last week, in Delhi, the hitherto peaceful protests against the law erupted into the worst violence the Indian capital has seen in decades. More than 40 people were killed, hundreds were wounded and some remain missing. There's also mounting evidence that Muslims were targeted in a planned manner. Parliamentary proceedings have been disrupted for three days straight as opposition MPs continue to protest the riots. Madhav Kosla is a constitutional expert from Ashoka and Columbia universities. He joins us to discuss the protests, and the roots of rising Hindu nationalism in India. Drawing on Madhav's books, we also discuss the wider question of the challenges facing a modern Indian state, and its constitution.
China’s economy is facing its biggest challenges for years as growth slows and debt piled up. How worried should we be?This week Andrew is joined by Stephen Roach, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs; and Dinny McMahon, author of the book ‘China’s Great Wall of Debt’, which chronicles the country’s growing debt problem. A note to listeners - this episode was recorded before the true scale of the coronavirus outbreak was revealed. As ever, get in touch if you have any comments at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. You can also follow us on Twitter: @AsiaMattersPod
There's only been one story in the region over the last few weeks: the coronavirus - or COVID-19 - and its spread from Wuhan to the rest of China, then Asia, now the world. There's still a lot we don't know about the virus itself; and even analysis of its handling by the Chinese authorities seems premature. Instead, this week we're looking back into the past, to see what if anything we can learn from previous epidemics in China. Our guest this week is Professor Sian Griffiths, who co-chaired Hong Kong’s enquiry into the SARS epidemic in 2003. As ever, get in touch if you have any comments at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. You can also follow us on Twitter: @AsiaMattersPod
Last week, Taiwan re-elected its president, Tsai Ing-wen(蔡英文), by a landslide. Her campaign focused heavily on what she claims is 'the rising threat from Beijing'. Since the election she has said that China needs to 'face reality' and show Taiwan 'respect'. This, and the sheer scale of her victory, might well suggest that cross-strait relations are about to enter a renewed rocky period. But is it quite that simple? Joining us this week to put these fresh election results into context is George Yin of Swarthmore College in Philadelphia and Harvard Fairbank Centre for Chinese Studies. George is part of a team that recently undertook a large-scale survey delving into Taiwanese attitudes toward identity, politics and cross-strait relations. As ever, get in touch if you have any comments at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. You can also follow us on Twitter: @AsiaMattersPod.
The U.S.-China trade war is going through another bout of excitement as the two sides reach an interim deal. But why are world’s two biggest economies at loggerheads, and is this a battle that’s set to run and run?This week, Andrew and Vincent are delving into the ups and downs of this dramatic trade war. They are joined by Lingling Wei who has consistently been ahead of the game in her reporting on the trade war for The Wall Street Journal in Beijing, and Trinh Nguyen, a Senior Economist, Emerging Asia at Natixis in Hong Kong.As ever, get in touch if you have any comments at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. You can also follow us on Twitter: @AsiaMattersPod
A bumper episode this week for a hugely important topic - the tech industry in Asia.  Yale's Jing Tsu joins Andrew to discuss the history behind China's drive to become a global technological power. And then Julian Gewirtz of Harvard and Newley Purnell of the Wall Street Journal take a broader look at the tech scene across the region (specially featuring the horns of Delhi's Ola drivers in the background). As ever, get in touch if you have any comments at feedback@asiamatterspod.com. You can also follow us on Twitter: @AsiaMattersPod
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