2 min read

Asia Undercovered #20

Asia Undercovered #20

This week: China’s Little Red Smartphone, Indonesia’s second Presidential debate, salt mining in Myanmar, could Japan join 2019’s Asia wave of elections?

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Undercovered this week

The smartphone: China’s latest tool to control its population, now with its own Communist Party approved (perhaps mandatory?) apps. Excellent piece from China Media Project on how the Little Red Phone has become the new Little Red Book.

Also worth reading on China: Panda Paw Dragon Claw on how social media, and China’s own version of influencers, play a role in Belt and Road Initiative projects and their public perception.

Last week I shared a story on dredging in Thailand. This week, Myanmar, as Frontier investigated how sand mining for fuel development is ruining the Ayeyarwady River.

Japan recognizes its Ainu minority as indigenous A chance, finally, for the Hokkaido ethnicity to rebuild their cultural heritage (Al Jazeera).

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is still popular, but there are signs, according to Mark Thompson, that his reign is ailing due to rising inflation, poor economic growth, and the failure of peace talks, to name a few (East Asia Forum).

And Indonesia saw the controversial disappearance of a popular LGBT Instagram account – and no one knows why. One thing that is certain – the situation for sexual minorities in the country is worsening (Al Jazeera).

Full Thread


Jeff Bezos Medium post got a lot of attention, but this one, by Angela Gui, the daughter of imprisoned bookseller Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, on how the (now former) Swedish Ambassador tried to persuade her into an ethically questionable deal with China, is far more worthy of your attention. The case has sparked the biggest scandal in Swedish foreign affairs in decades (Hong Kong Free Press).

A terrorist attack in India’s Kashmir is increasing tensions with Pakistan. This piece from Scoll.in profiles the 19 year old militant behind the attack.


This year already has elections for heads of government in India, Indonesia and Thailand. Could Japan also join? According to Rikki Kersten, there are early signs that we might see an early disillusion of the Diet this year if Shinzo Abe sees the need to consolidate power.

Indonesia held its second Presidential debate. According to several observers in this piece in The Conversation, incumbent Joko Widodo was the winner

Lighter Note: The journey of the treasures of the forbidden city

A wonderfully presented comic by Adolfo Arranz in SCMP that shows how the priceless treasures of the Forbidden City were smuggled out of Beijing and cared for years while avoiding war, theft, and somehow surviving nearly intact. The world is richer with its cultural heritage intact.

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.