Best columns: International
Others profit from our medical lore
Guo Chenqi The Economic Observer
Chinese traditional medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, said Guo Chenqi, but now foreigners have taken over the industry. Japanese and South Korean companies produce 80 percent of the traditional medicines consumed here in China, while Chinese companies produce just 5 percent. And while at one time most of the herbs that foreign companies use in the preparations were at least grown in China, now they are cultivated more cheaply abroad, in places like Myanmar and Azerbaijan. China, where the recipes for these preparations originated centuries ago, doesn’t even own the patents for them. Japan and South Korea together hold 70 percent of herbal medicine patents, while China “holds an embarrassing 0.3 percent.” That’s because Japan started modernizing its production back in the 1970s, developing “granular forms of drugs that are easier to digest,” and patenting each new formula. In the past decade, South Korea and Japan have aggressively marketed their products not only in their own countries, but also in China and even the West. As a result, the popularity of these herbal remedies is growing, at least partly because it’s much easier to pop a pill than to grind and brew a concoction. “Apart from the name,” there is no longer anything Chinese about Chinese traditional medicine.
Islamic moderates must speak up
Syafiq Hasyim The Jakarta Post
Indonesia’s moderate Muslims are finally standing up to extremism, said Syafiq Hasyim. Our nation’s biggest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, has just come out in support of Basuki Purnama, known as Ahok—an ethnic-Chinese Christian who is running for a second term as Jakarta governor. While campaigning, Ahok said some Islamic hardliners were misleading their followers, misinterpreting a Quran verse to argue that Christians cannot be allowed to lead Muslims. Hard-liners put out an edited video that made it appear as though Ahok had said the Quran itself was misleading, and he was charged with blasphemy. Now he’s on trial—even as the gubernatorial runoff approaches— and clerics from many major Muslim organizations have testified against him. But one brave scholar, Ahmad Ishomuddin, defended Ahok by “solely founding his argument on the classical sources of Islam.” This shows that “Islam can be used for religious freedom and human rights issues.” Ishomuddin’s testimony may have inspired the executives of Nahdlatul Ulama, which has some 50 million Indonesian members, to speak openly of their hope that Ahok will be acquitted. Until recently, the progressive Islamic movement seemed “fragile and weak.” Ishomuddin has demonstrated that “our responsibility is to break the silence, and the only way is through courage.”