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Asia Undercovered #21

This week: Growing criticism of China’s Belt and Road, intra-coalition agitation in Malaysia, and a new, remote military outpost in Central Asia.

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Undercovered this week

First, several stories from China, starting with a thought piece by Minxin Pei in Nikkei Asian Review on how growing criticism for Belt & Road could lead to its quiet demise.

It wasn’t too long ago that Chinese infrastructure was costly and damaging. Justin Higginbottom writes for Ozy on the 1975 Banqiao damn collapse that killed an estimated 230,000 – and was covered up for decades. Valuable lessons just a year after Laos experienced a damn collapse.

As China moves forward with plans to integrate its southern cities as part of the Greater Bay Area, in Hong Kong, fears arise that this could erode the city’s special autonomy and unique culture (Radio Free Asia).

And lastly, what’s becoming a too common tale. A man returns to Xinjiang, and disappears (Chris Rickleton, Global Voices).

For the Himalayan nations and territories – Kashmir, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Tibet, climate change could have a horrific impact. Beth Walker writes for The Third Pole on how biodiversity in the world’s highest region could plummet by 2100.


A big story in Washington Post on a the discovery of a remote, previously unknown Chinese military outpost along the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Excellent reporting from Gerry Shih, and major implications for Chinese interests in Central Asia.

And Nguyen Khac Giang writes in East Asia Forum on the challenges facing the countries of the Mekong Region – Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia - including the growing role of China and ongoing democratic challenges.


Asia’s first 2019 major national election is approaching in Thailand. After four years of military rule, Andrew Nachemson questions how fair the polls will be (New Naratif).

In India a Supreme Court decision could result in the forced eviction of more than a million indigenous peoples. Will the government act to fix this before coming elections? (Business Standard)

And in Malaysia there are signs that tensions between current the parties backing Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim, are rising. Something to watch as Pakatan Harapan exits its post-election honeymoon phase (Joceline Tan, Straights Times).

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.