Happy New Year! For the first issue of Asia Undercovered in 2019, I am highlighting pieces about important events to watch in the coming year.
In fact, 2019 is going to be a uniquely important year in the region. We have elections in several countries, including both of the largest democracies, a host of politically sensitive anniversaries in China, and several new governments facing key milestones. And the biggest story of 2018, the Uyghur concentration camps, are starting to get more global attention but still no measurable backlash, or response. Will that finally change?
What to watch in 2019
The Chinese Communist Party global media plans. The goal? Dominate global media and control its image abroad. Here are five trends, highlighted by China media researcher Sarah Cook, from 2018 to watch this year (The Diplomat).
It might be working, as press freedom is falling across the continent. Defamation in SE Asia, election interference, and more arrests for posting content on social media are just a few of the worrying trends (IFEX).
2019 is an election year in Asia. India, Indonesia, The Phillipines, Afhganistan, and Thailand (hopefully). That’s over 1.7 billion Asian voters. Here’s a good overview of what will be the key issues in each race. One thing each race will feature? Populism.
Expect further clampdowns in China ahead of several politically sensitive anniversaries. This year will mark 30 years since the Tienanmen Square protests, 60 years since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, just to name two. SupChina has a good overview of what 2019 will bring in Asia’s largest country.
Japan will crown a new emperor in 2019, ending the Heisei era. This will be just the second time since 1926(!) that Japan has a new head of state. The outgoing emperor, Akihito, made a poignant call for Japanese to not forget the horrific costs of the war that took place under his predecessor, Hirohito. (Global Voices).
2018 began and, sadly, ended with hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs still in concentration camps. The impact is truly incomprehensible and, even in the best-case scenario, will result in decades of psychological and social pain. This poignant piece shows just how much has changed on the streets of the once rich oasis town of Kashgar, a center of Uyghur culture (China File).
The honeymoon is long for Pakatan Harapan in Malaysia. Now it’s time to see if the new government can follow through on its promises. Also key to watch – how the 1MDB investigation plays out, and whether the opposition continues to use religious-ethno nationalism to try to regain power.
Can Pakistan fix years of corruption and mismanagement under the leadership of former cricket star and newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan? This year will show if Khan is truly able to bring about change, or whether things will remain the same in the country (Sajjad Ashraf, East Asia Forum).
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.