Sept 2022

Understanding activists

In his reflection on debt cancellation (‘Radical Ideas’, July 2022), author Duncan Bartlett suggests that activists for debt relief are chided for their impatience over their governments’ interminable negotiations with international creditors. Surely the activists have a point: not enough is being done, and what little is offered is derisory, given the scale of the climate crisis.  As the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty notes: ‘In 2019, close to 30 OECD countries provided $152.8 billion, in the form of grants or low-interest loans [ yet] low- and middle-income countries pay $756 billion annually in principal repayments and $213 billion in interest on an overall external debt of $7.8 trillion.’ Swiss Re recently calculated that Asia stands to lose around 25% of its GDP to climate change by 2050. Given the looming catastrophe, to urge activists to slow down and just understand how tricky it is to get things done appears to blame the victim.


Raj Patel

Research Professor

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

The University of Texas at Austin

Focus on China

Thank you to Asian Affairs magazine for endeavouring to explain the significance of Taiwan to the balance of power in the region (‘Key Link In the Chain’, August 2022).

The visit to the island by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi has been used by China as a pretext to make more bellicose threats, forcing Taiwan to up its deterrence. China’s goal appears to be to remind Taiwan that a full-force invasion and reunification is possible. Propaganda seeks to stir patriotic sentiment.

Yet the military drills around Taiwan should not distract us from China’s problems relating to a sharp slowdown in its economic growth, caused in part by the government’s zero-Covid policy. Hyper-nationalism could also create risks for the Chinese Communist Party.

 Collins Chong Yew Keat

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Support through sanctions

Over recent months, Asian Affairs has drawn much needed attention to China’s rise and expansionist activities. But a more glaring spotlight needs to be shone on the plight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong has joined 56 religious organisations and NGOs from around the world in a letter to the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, calling on the US government to sanction Chinese officials responsible for the genocide in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The United States officially determined in 2021 that Beijing has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious groups in Xinjiang. Other governments from around the world, including Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Germany, have made similar determinations.

We must show those officials responsible for this atrocity that neither they nor their assets are welcome in the United States until these abuses cease. By imposing stringent sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, the United States can send a powerful message that the world will not stand by as Beijing commits atrocities in violation of the Genocide Convention of 1948.

Dr Mark Clifford


The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong

New York, USA

Israel’s secret weapon

Prof Pervez Hoodbhoy has written a very insightful article pointing out that the real strength of any country is its education system. It should be an eye­opener for us in Pakistan where our Madrassas churn out hot­headed fanatics instead of doctors, engineers, technologists and scientists. Thank you Professor Sahib!

 Aslam Hussian