FES Asia Blog Series

This page will no longer be updated. The project ended in August 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic will become the defining event of this decade. It is not only the most severe public health emergency in recent history, but also an economic and social crisis of unparalleled proportions. It touches every aspect of human life. From March to August 2020, this blog investigated how the pandemic was shaping lives across the Asia-Pacific region. Our FES experts, partners and guest contributors from Kabul to Manila and from Ulaanbaatar to Jakarta shared their insights from the ground and offer food for thought as we jointly attempt to understand the repercussions of this crisis and chart a way forward.

The views expressed in this blog series are not necessarily those of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

South East Asia
Corona Brief

South East Asia

From vulnerable workers in Thailand and the economic struggle in Indonesia to public health in the Philippines – reports from South East Asia More

South Asia
Corona Brief

South Asia

From the peace process in Afghanistan and textile workers in Bangladesh to tourism in Nepal – reports from South Asia More

East Asia
Corona Brief

East Asia

From elections in South Korea and diplomacy in Mongolia to the Olympics in Japan– reports from East Asia More

Cross-cutting regional issues
Corona Brief

Cross-cutting regional issues

The wider picture: Trade, geopolitics, climate change, decent work, unions and many other topics More

More FES resources on COVID-19 in Asia and beyond
Corona Brief

More FES resources on COVID-19 in Asia and beyond

Discover the full spectrum of analysis by FES partners and experts More

Pictures of the pandemic
Corona Brief

Pictures of the pandemic

Daily life in times of COVID-19 More


FES Asia Editorial Team | #FESAsiaCoronaBrief | Coronabrief, Publication

COVID-19 in Asia: Testimonies of an unfolding crisis

48 articles from 16 countries to understand the repercussions of this crisis.


25.08.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Lessons from Thailand’s COVID conundrum

Thailand is steadily heading towards 100 days without a local transmission. However, some experts are warning of the country becoming a victim of...


29.07.2020 | New Geopolitics of Asia, Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Geopolitical headwinds under and beyond COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has accentuated patterns of bilateral acrimony and geopolitical rivalry. The United States and China are missing a critical...


08.07.2020 | New Geopolitics of Asia, COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Tough choices in a tough neighborhood: Challenges and opportunities for the two Koreas

Buffeted by domestic difficulties and degradation of the international context at both global and regional levels, South and North Korea are already...


03.07.2020 | New Geopolitics of Asia, COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Mongolia’s diplomacy amidst the pandemic and geopolitical rivalries

Rising geopolitical tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic constitute a major challenge for Mongolia’s multilateral and regional initiatives. To avoid...


26.06.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

A wake-up call to cooperation in Myanmar?

The coronavirus pandemic is uncovering the possible downfalls of Myanmar’s co-dependent development model. In a post-COVID world, the Southeast Asian...


23.06.2020 | New Geopolitics of Asia, COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Geopolitics and Nepal’s future after the pandemic

Nepal’s foreign and security policy is traditionally characterized by a balancing act between India, China and the United States. The geopolitical...


22.06.2020 | New Geopolitics of Asia, COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

India's changing geopolitics in post-COVID Asia

The bloody clashes in the high Himalayas between Indian and Chinese soldiers in mid-June add yet another dimension to the unfolding geopolitical churn...


11.06.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

The overlooked impact of art in times of crisis

Almost everything we are doing in isolation is connected to the arts: we read more, watch more movies, listen to more music. We all are trying to find...


10.06.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Taking the bull by the horn: Bangladesh’s fiscal policy in the pandemic

Countries have resorted to various policy tools to create the fiscal space needed to underwrite the expenditure of stimulus packages, conceding that...


09.06.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

For low-income Malaysia, a lifeline amidst a crisis?

The struggles faced by low-income Malaysia have long been clear. The COVID-19 crisis offers a lifeline: it has firmly brought into mainstream thought...


05.06.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Building power: A just and sustainable recovery in Asia

Improvements in environmental indicators due to COVID-19 present an unprecedented opportunity for an economic transformation which is ecologically...


02.06.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

From diagnosis to cure: A post-pandemic paradigm shift

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing us to recognise the failures of existing social and economic systems. If we continue with neoliberalism as usual, it...


01.06.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Managing a triple crisis in Malaysia

Ever since the first case of COVID-19 emerged on 25 January, Malaysia has been battling not one, not two, but three crises. Firstly, the public health...


29.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Leapfrogging to a COVID-proof smart workplace

While COVID-19 is disrupting economies, it is also pushing frontiers to fast-track and adopt innovations. The pandemic has underlined the urgent need...


28.05.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Fair trade for all crucial in times of COVID-19

The negotiations on the Asia-Pacific Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are in their final stages. The agreement, once ratified,...


27.05.2020 | COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Social media and public discourse in Mongolia

Social media is a dominating force in public discourse. In the case of Mongolia, proactive and transparent use by public health authorities has helped...


25.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Life after the lockdown: Vietnam’s COVID-19 success story

The remarkable success in keeping the number of coronavirus infections low and deaths at zero allows Vietnam to gradually reopen its economy. Life is...


21.05.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Gig workers in the pandemic: A call to catalyse social protection

Gig workers hold a unique position in the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19. Some parts of the gig economy – delivery of food, groceries, and...


19.05.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Markers of identity: Asia’s cultural heritage in times of COVID-19

Often overlooked, workers in the tourism sector are now facing severe social challenges owing to the closing of UNESCO heritage sites and the absence...


18.05.2020 | COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Corona vs Abenomics: Japan’s reaction to the crisis

Over many years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to revitalize the Japanese economy, following a policy known as “Abenomics”. While...


15.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

When the virus hits... A comic from India

Award-winning Indian cartoonist Sharad Sharma puts the spotlight on the economic and social plight of artists in this comic drawn for FES Asia. The...


14.05.2020 | COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Creative industries in Mongolia: The challenge of COVID-19 for arts and culture

The young and up-coming jazz scene in Ulaanbaatar is hit hard by the lockdown in an already challenging economic environment, as are artists of all...


13.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Bangladesh: Navigating the globalized impact of the pandemic

As an economically developing country heavily dependent on export-oriented sectors and remittances, Bangladesh needs to pursue a multi-pronged...


12.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Philippines: COVID-19 crisis creates opportunity for basic income

With millions of workers in lockdown, the Philippine government has initiated several cash assistance programs to save both the lives and livelihoods...


11.05.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Technology for a social cause: TikTok and Asia’s mobile-first nations

TikTok, the most installed app amid the COVID-19 pandemic, makes influencers on social media “essential workers”. The platform presents an opportunity...


07.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

COVID-19 hurts the backbone of the Indian Economy

India, the world’s second most populous country, is under an unprecedented eight-week lock down. While the lockdown is necessary to contain the...


06.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Pakistan – What lockdown?

In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, public health and religious piety have to be carefully balanced. Lockdown and social distancing policies are...


05.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Women’s cooperatives respond to the crisis in India

In this crisis, we see that many suffer significant losses of income and employment as a result of social distancing measures. India's Self Employed...


04.05.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Migrant workers struggling under lockdown in Thailand

Across Thailand, millions of migrant workers are struggling due to the lockdown, unable to get home, and often without any work. The government has...


01.05.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Lives at stake – rights and responsibilities for a safer workplace

Access to rights and collective representation through unions is vital to tackling the pandemic. Safe workplace measures must be jointly designed and...


30.04.2020 | COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

Sheep diplomacy and a troubled economy: Mongolia amid COVID-19

Balancing two mighty neighbours is part of the DNA of Mongolia’s diplomacy and economic relations. The country’s economy depends heavily on trade with...


29.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

COVID-19 and refugees in Asia: A crisis waiting to happen

Governments, funders and humanitarian agencies must act now to save lives and mitigate the potentially catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 on refugee and...


28.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Indonesia: A late shift in re-balancing economic and health priorities

The most populous country in South-East Asia was initially slow to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the government has stepped up travel...


24.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Who gets to stay at home? Social distancing in Asia’s megacities

In Asia’s densely populated cities, social distancing possibilities are limited. The pandemic reveals the need for more sustainable responses and...


23.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Thailand: Helping the most vulnerable workers

For millions of Thai workers, the lost income due to the COVID-19 response is fast becoming a more pressing daily concern than social distancing....


22.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Under pressure: Health care workers fighting at the frontlines in Nepal

Female doctors and nurses carry a double burden during the COVID-19 crisis. Unions in Nepal are demanding urgent action to safeguard workers’...


21.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Stories of hunger: India’s lockdown is hitting the poorest

Amid the world’s largest lockdown, migrant workers face an impossible choice: Risk contracting the virus or go hungry. Indian journalist Sanjay Kapoor...


20.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

Who cares? Feminist responses to the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has a strong gender dimension. It is increasing women’s vulnerabilities and risks in their roles as workers and caregivers....


17.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

A crisis like no other: Asia and the wider global picture

The corona crisis is sending shockwaves through political, economic and social systems. The challenges for the Asia-Pacific region are enormous, and...


16.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

UNI Asia-Pacific unions lead the pack in responding to the corona crisis

Trade unions have a critically important role in mitigating the economic and social effects of the coronavirus crisis. UNI Asia-Pacific Regional...


14.04.2020 | COVID-19 on East Asia | Coronabrief

South Korea: Elections in times of COVID-19

South Korea’s strategy in the fight against the coronavirus is viewed as a model throughout the world. Now the country is conducting parliamentary...


08.04.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

No quick wins: The COVID-19 crisis and climate change

The measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a decline in CO2 emissions. But without structural changes in place, this will not benefit...


07.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South East Asia | Coronabrief

Philippines: COVID-19 as a public health crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the long-standing symptoms of a weak and inequitable public health system in the Philippines. A densely populated...


06.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Bangladesh: Garment sector collapse could devastate millions of workers

Bangladesh’s textile sector is highly dependent on demand from Europe and the United States. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will hit...


03.04.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Afghanistan – Peace in the time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the urgency for peace in Afghanistan to unprecedented levels. For the fledgling peace process, it is either an...


01.04.2020 | #FESAsiaCoronaBrief | Coronabrief

More FES resources on COVID-19 in Asia and beyond


31.03.2020 | COVID-19 on South Asia | Coronabrief

Nepal: Tourism sector workers lose livelihoods

In Nepal, the last tourists are leaving. Their guides stay behind. How are workers in the tourism sector coping with the COVID-19 crisis?


24.03.2020 | Cross-cutting regional issues | Coronabrief

The many faces of COVID-19 in Asia

All realms of public life in Asia will be affected by the most severe pandemic in our lifetimes thus far.



The editorial team

Isabelle Urumath

Regional Communications Coordinator


Mirco Günther

Director, FES Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia