As this is last edition of Asia Undercovered in 2018 (though many of you will receive this in 2019), I though that instead of telling you what happened last week, I’d do something different.
Sometimes, we get so focused on current events that we never get the chance to take a step back and understand the social or historical context behind these events. So in this edition, I choose one in-depth piece that looks at several different Asian countries through a more nuanced analysis. With one important exception.
And of course, for all of you, a Happy New Year!
Holiday Contextual Reading
Taiwan has a contested history. It was once a province of China, then a colony of Japan, and, for decades, held China’s seat at the United Nations. This piece by Janice Feng in Taiwan Sentinel explores how Taiwan’s struggle for independence is, at it’s hard, an anti-colonial fight.
The rise of Islamism in Indonesia is a common, perhaps overreported angle. But this piece by Yen Tzu-Chien in New Mandala takes a more in-depth look at how a formally obscure figure, Habib Bahar, used social media and violent rhetoric to rise to Islamist fame – and the deeper lessons that holds for religious identity in the country.
Nearly three years, ago, China’s male-dominated government dropped its one-child policy, fearing the economic impacts of an aging population. Yet today, birthrates continue to drop. Leta Long Fincher explains why women aren’t doing what the Communist Party wants.
Sri Lanka’s decades long civil war ended in 2004, but its wounds still mar society. This piece by Meenakshi Ganguly documents the ongoing search for the war’s disappeared – and the impunity of the so-called “war heroes” (The Diplomat).
This piece by Louie Lazar explores an aspect of Tibet I knew nothing about – its love for basketball, which, amazingly, even pre-dates the occupation of the country by China (The Atlantic).
Sticking to the Himalayas, this piece by Subir Bhaumik looks at how India annexed another of the four Himalayan kingdoms – Sikkim, in 1975. The region still remains a battlepoint between India and China.
Ignored this week was Bangladesh, merely the eight largest country in the world with 165 million people (more than Germany, Russia, or Mexico), and one which held elections on the 30th of December. They were marred by violence and allegations of vote rigging, and saw Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League take an astounding 287 of 300 parliamentary seats. Another major setback for Democracy in Asia.
Some worthwhile yearly recaps
New Mandala’s most read pieces of 2018 are on Singapore’s political succession, Malaysia’s historic GE14 election and several on Indonesian democracy.
New Naratif top stories feature topics from child marriage in Sulawesi, LGBT issues in Brunei, and censorship across Southeast Asia.
Must read: This fantastic recap of all the great stories done by journalists at numerous publications on the Uyghur crisis. I hope in 2019, the world will wake up and take action before it gets worse.
Until next year,
Asia Undercovered: Journalist Nithin Coca's weekly roundup of the news, events, trends and people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.