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Asia Undercovered #44

This week: Timor-Leste’s independence anniversary, Chinese patriotism online, Mekong drought, and a new political party in Taiwan.

Undercovered this week

While Hong Kong’s agitation grows, neighboring Macau has made relative peace with its relatively new Chinese rulers. The reason is, actually, quite nuanced, and partly due to colonial Portuguese mismanagement. (SCMP).

Meanwhile, patriotism is becoming a requirement for Chinese netizens, who are increasingly forced to show their love for China online or face harassment, reports Oiwan Lam for Global Voices.

This shows the state of the world. Booming demand for tear gas means increased production in China (Inkstone News).

As a South Indian, I enjoyed this satirical take. Why does India not scrap special status for Hindi as it did for Kashmir, argues Karthik Vekatesh in Madras Courier.

It’s not getting as much attention as Hong Kong or Kashmir but protests are also raging in Indonesia’s West Papua region, where calls for an independence referendum are rising. Jakarta Post put this well-done, collaborative story on the growing resistance to Jakarta on their frontpage.

Fascinating interactive, data-driven piece on how Malaysians are increasingly growing up in separate language bubbles. This may not seem important, but it is crucial to understanding Malaysia and its unique politics (Adila Razak, MalaysiaKini).

Last week saw the 20th Anniversary of Timor-Leste gaining independence. This feature in New Naratif explores the stories of those born after this young country joined the global community of nations (Sophie Raynor).


I thoroughly enjoyed this history-drive piece by Benjamin Zawacki that looks at China’s Belt and Road initiative through the lens of the post-World War II foreign order, specially, the Marshall Plan, and how illiberalism is a key tenet of China’s plans (Asia Times).

Drought in Southeast Asia is leading to fears of the Mekong hitting a dangerous tipping point. Tensions between the US and China are putting downstream countries like Vietnam and Cambodia at high risk (Nikkei Asian Review).

As palm oil prices fall, and Europe begins to restrict biofuel imports, Indonesia is looking to China to boost export demand (Mongabay).

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A third party has been formed in Taiwan, led by the mayor of Taipei Ko Wen-je. Now the question is whether or not they will they jump into the Presidential race, which could have huge repercussions for incumbent and front-runner Tsai Ing-wen (SCMP).

Lighter note – Monks protecting forests

Another environment story this week, this time from Cambodia, whose forests are under threat mostly due to demand for timber exports. One community, however, has resisted development by creating a Buddhist-monk managed project, protecting 71 square miles of forests.

Now, if only Buddhist militants in Myanmar and Sri Lanka could focus more on protecting forests and landscapes instead of demonizing minorities.

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.