China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked

South Korean society has long been marked by pervasive inequalities and misogyny. The gains towards gender equality made in the last two decades are now being called into question by backlash generated by young male voters and online activists. Amid an increasingly polarised debate, what is really missing is a serious conversation concerning equal and fair opportunities for quality education, a reasonably well-paying job, and curbing corruption and unearned privilege by the elite.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a six-country tour of the Middle East at the end of March 2021. On the eve of his departure, Wang announced China’s five-point plan for the region, which included mutual respect, equity and justice, non-proliferation, collective security and development cooperation.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi bump elbows during the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement in Tehran, Iran, 27 March 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Majid Asgaripour).
The principles set out in the five-point plan are uncontentious — and it is also not the first time that China has issued a plan for the Middle East. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a four-point plan around the Israel–Palestine conflict. Four years later he re-launched it, this time referencing China’s Belt and Road Initiative — with Israel and Palestine as important partners.

As South Korea prepares to select a new president early next year, how the DP and PPP respond to such challenges, and whether they offer real, long-term solutions will shape the months ahead.

The timing of the so-called LH scandal in March was especially unfortunate for the DP, which had failed to institute real estate reform. Instead, apartment prices in some major cities have doubled or even tripled since Moon took office. The ‘LH scandal’, along with various improprieties by members of Moon’s cabinet and the ruling party, contributed to the DP’s by-election defeats.

In addition to these issues, young men in South Korea are becoming more receptive to conservative or alt-right political views. Frustrated over a perceived lack of opportunity and diminished social status, young South Korean men harbour increasingly radicalised views about gender equality. This has led to a deepening of an already pervasive misogyny across South Korean society and threatens to derail decades of progress towards gender equality. In the early 2000s, the Constitutional Court of Korea ruled that the additional points that South Korean men applying for government jobs used to receive for completing military service to be unconstitutional. Such a rule structurally made the playing field far from level for women, yet still stoked the flames of discontent for young men.

What makes the recent five-point plan unique is its wider scope to include other conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as the rivalries in the Gulf. In a departure from previous proposals, Wang also set out some concrete suggestions for how tensions in the Gulf might be managed. They included China hosting a ‘multilateral dialogue conference’ to help create a trust-building mechanism which — as a first step — could ensure the ‘safety of oil facilities and shipping lanes’.

In the end, the five-point might not make much of a splash. There was no statement on when the conference might happen or what role Beijing would have in the design or guarantee of the trust-based mechanism. The plan was also overshadowed by the media coverage given to an alleged 25-year cooperation deal signed between China and Iran — which some observers have argued is overstated.

Limited industry-specific empirical studies, such as that of the local cacao chocolate industry, show that a lack of high-quality networks between public innovation system components and private firms led to policy interventions counterproductive to industrial upgrading. The interventions focused on global value chain (GVC) integration, rather than knowledge networks, as a solution for technological learning, which benefitted low value-added domestic cacao production for foreign chocolate manufacturing. But it also hindered the industry from participating in higher value-added fine flavour cacao production and domestic craft chocolate manufacturing.

High-quality networks need to be actively nurtured through meaningful public and private coordination and consultation. Partnerships between public innovation system components, like industrial development and science and technology organisations, and private innovation system components, such as local industries, are necessary in designing and implementing appropriate policy interventions.

Hazards that may come with strong public–private relationships in the Philippines, such as regulatory capture and cronyism, can be addressed through innovative institutional devices. For example, the East Asian tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong) achieved close public–private relationships while mitigating hazards through the creation of deliberation councils to increase representation and transparency, while also instituting performance targets and sunset clauses in public support mechanisms.

Too often, countries adopt general innovation policies, like research and development (R&D) incentives or GVC integration, rather than firm-specific support because they do not understand how innovation occurs in specific sectoral contexts. Different firms have different levels of capabilities that can upgrade through different types of learning mechanisms, which consequently require different types of policy interventions. Building linkages enables policymakers to track the levels of production and innovation capabilities in domestic firms and provide targeted support.

Under such an approach the focus of innovation policy is upgrading domestic firm capabilities, which is what allows innovation to spur development. The role of Taiwan’s Industrial Development Bureau in building its specialised glass industry is an instructive example.