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Asia Undercovered 25 Nov 2020

Asia Undercovered 25 Nov 2020

Undercovered this week

So, apparently China may have territory from Nepal – and the pro-China leaders in Kathmandu...didn’t mind. Creeping imperialism in the Himalayas, again (The Telegraph).

Meanwhile, in China, more signs that the war on the Uyghurs is turning into a war on Islam, with Chinese Muslims far from Xinjiang now being subject to restrictions or interrogations for merely following their faith, reports Emily Feng for NRP.

In Pakistan – another country with a pro-China government – the military is going to become key decisionmaker in the CPEC project, part of the Belt and Road Initiative, taking away autonomy from the provinces. This could, as Atika Rehman reports for The Third Pole, make its environmental consequences even more opaque

In Thailand’s Muslim-majority deep south, a planned Special Economic Zone would destroy a fishing village to build an industrial park – and faces opposition (Wanpen Pajai, Southeast Asia Globe).

Worth reading: a thoughtful piece that links the Hong Kong uprising to the ongoing repression of political opposition in China, and argues that the two are linked because Beijing fears the movement spreading to the mainland (Lausan)

In case you missed it – ChinaFile published the results of a huge investigation into China’s high-tech surveillance state. Lots of details here, but the conclusion – it’s more sophisticated and intrusive than anyone in the west could ever imagine.

One of the impacts of this surveillance state is that it limits the space for citizens to watch over their own government. Case in point: the arrests of two Chinese whose only crime was documenting mass protests events. This engaging piece by Yayue Cao humanizes Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu’s story and final day together (ChinaChange).


We’re likely done for elections this year, so this week I’m sharing two analysis pieces of polls that took place earlier this month and entrenched incumbent, increasingly authoritarian parties.

First, this piece explores the impacts of Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide victory on the peace process in Myanmar and expresses concerns that conflict could even escalate, especially in Rakhine State, home of the Rohingya (CrisisGroup).

Meanwhile, this piece by Shrushti Sharma in ThePrint explores how the BJP’s strategy of exploiting social cleavages to win votes in India has proved successful at the polls – but merely covers up its glaring governance failures.


Kyrgyzstan is in a tight position as it prepares for elections in January. The country has massive debt to China, which hasn’t granted the country a grace period, putting it at risk of being caught in a debt trap and unable to re-build its economy, argues Chris Rikleton in Eurasia.

And kudos to Malaysia which is risking China’s wrath by refusing to deport Uyghurs to near-certain death – a striking contract to Indonesia, which apparently sent three Uyghurs back just last month (Amy Chew, SCMP).

One of the flashpoints in Asia over the past few years has been the Indo-Pacific, home to the busiest trade routes in the world. In this piece, Saloni Salil analyzes what he calls China’s Great Game, and its  efforts to dominate this region and why they may be for naught (Future Directions).

Solutions Stories

As wetlands face challenges from human development in Cambodia, Chan Muyhong and Danelle Olsen look at the role that villagers could play as guardians of these crucially important landscapes (Mekong Eye)

And in India, where the media has been embattled due to increasing state restrictions but also revenue shortfalls, 11 outlets are joining forces in what they are calling a “digital news ecology,” aimed at helping create a model for digital-first media (The Wire).

Asia Undercovered: In-depth round-ups and analysis of the news, events, trends and     people changing Asia, but not getting enough attention in the US media.