DRI Asia Review

Each week, DRI Asia Review focuses on a single country, subregion, or theme, and based on in-house research, new DRI products, and regional media monitoring, helps you uncover the drivers of change in the Asia-Pacific.

Ungated, impartial, and to-the-point, let DRI Asia Review tell you where the region is heading – and how it is getting there.

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January 11, 2021

Year of Tiger, Eye of Storm?

This week’s Asia Review looks at China’s continental troubles and traditional and non-traditional threats from land, and its new land border law which came into effect on January 1. We look at what a leading Chinese Communist Party organ has to say about China’s “democracy,” as the country prepares for a crucial Congress later this year. Plus: Chinese domestic R&D spending, a sneak peek into an upcoming DRI report on demography’s long shadow over China, India, and Japan, and the pitfalls of spytainment.
January 3, 2021

China in the Maldives and Sri Lanka: Distant Discord?

This week’s Asia Review focuses on complications in China’s relationship with the Maldives and Sri Lanka—strategically critical nations long suspected to be prizes for Beijing as it seeks a foothold in the Indian Ocean. We take a look at the state of both countries’ economies, and their growing debt travails, ahead of Wang Yi’s visit to Colombo and Male, and probe what Sri Lankan voices think of China. Plus: central government debt trends of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, a look at the global arms business and military expenditure patterns, and narratives about globalization.
December 31, 2021

2021 in Shifts and Shocks

Welcome to a special year-end edition of the newsletter of Diplomat Risk Intelligence, the research and consulting division of The Diplomat, your go-to outlet for definitive analyses from and about the Asia-Pacific. We give you how DRI saw the year’s momentous developments in the Asia-Pacific unfolding as and when they happened, and analyzed them blending deep qualitative and quantitative desk research and insights from globally renowned experts.
December 27, 2021

India’s Troubled Punjab Makes Headlines

This week’s Asia Review focuses on the Indian state of Punjab which recently saw lynchings following alleged acts of sacrilege against the Sikh religion as well as a mysterious bomb explosion inside a court premise there. Punjab is preparing for regional elections next year; these incidents are likely to supercharge what is already proving to be an extremely acrimonious run-up. We look at reactions in Hindi-language newspapers to these incidents and take a quick look at another key variable complicating the state’s security and political environment: its battle with illegal drugs. And to mark the 30th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union yesterday, we look at the extent to which U.S. intelligence services saw it coming.
December 17, 2021

Principle and Power in the Asia-Pacific

This week’s Asia Review looks at the recent virtual Summit for Democracy hosted by the Biden Administration as it struggles to reconcile geopolitical imperatives with normative positions. It zeroes in on Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan while doing so. Plus, the edition looks at questions flowing from a new index that measures power distribution in the Asia-Pacific, as well as flags problems with what one philosopher calls “conceptual overreach.”
December 3, 2021

Unrest in the Solomon Islands

This week’s Asia Review focuses on the recent riots in the Solomon Islands and probes the complex drivers behind them, primarily deep-seated local economic grievances which are being rendered volatile under a geopolitical overhang. The edition looks at how a leading news outlet in that country is viewing these drivers, and also delves into key indicators that highlight the deepening economic malaise there. Plus: the murder of a Sri Lankan national in Pakistan and why China could worry about it, and the universal behavior of random matrices.
November 26, 2021

Russian Games and the Asia-Pacific

This week’s Asia Review zones in on how Russia’s disruptive behavior in Europe—whether through a puppet leader or direct military pressure—stands to perturb already complicated geopolitical calculi of key Asia-Pacific powers. It looks at how New Delhi’s tightrope act between Moscow and Washington could be disrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s opaque moves, how South Korean and Thai newspapers have reacted to the situation along the Russia-Ukraine and Belarus-Poland borders, and Russian arms exports in the Asia-Pacific. Plus: the Russia-Taliban relationship and, as a way of cautioning against falsely inferring trends in geopolitics and everyday life alike, a note on Simpson’s paradox in statistics.
November 19, 2021

Talks in the Time of Extreme Competition

This week’s Asia Review is centered around the November 15 summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. It recaps modest gains in the China-U.S. relationship from the recent past, and also surveys the difficulties faced by U.S. intelligence services as they try to understand Xi’s intent and future course of action. It looks at how Japanese and Taiwanese voices reacted to the Biden-Xi summit. We also present a very short preview of a new DRI report on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and leave you with a vexing philosophical conundrum when it comes to machine-learning based artificial intelligence (AI).
November 12, 2021

China-India Relations: State of Play

This week’s edition of DRI Asia Review focuses on the past and present of China-India relations—which tells us how the relationship is likely to evolve, barring any major breakthrough in changes in China’s growing intransigent attitude towards its boundary with India. (Prognosis: not too well.) It surveys the state of play when it comes to resolving the ongoing military standoff in Ladakh. At the same time, it also provides you with a quick glance at the extant nature of the economic relationship between both countries. The edition also previews a recently-recorded DRI podcast with a distinguished former Indian diplomat and historian around the early history of China-India relations, and concludes by dispelling a common misconception about confidence intervals in statistics.
November 5, 2021

Chinese Checkers Baffles Many—Again

This week’s DRI Asia Review is centered around a new Pentagon report to the U.S. Congress on Chinese military power. We begin by reviewing controversies sparked by the report’s alarming remarks about China’s nuclear-weapons ambitions. The edition then moves on to Taiwan’s leading pro-mainland Kuomintang party, and what one commentator acidly described as its “bipolar swing syndrome” in a recent opinion piece. This week’s DRI Asia Review also looks at just how much money China’s leading arms companies are making through weapon sales, and at Beijing’s complicated relationship with the new Taliban regime in Kabul. And we leave you with a crisp definition of a technical term that gets thrown around often in strategic circles, especially within the context of China’s rapid military modernization: artificial intelligence.
October 29, 2021

Asia-Pacific Security Churn

This week’s DRI Asia Review focuses on some of the key extant security hotspots in the Asia-Pacific, and measures “likeminded” nations are adopting to meet the challenges posed by a resurgent China. It presents an analysis of why Beijing must worry about Australia and India as geopolitical actors, summarizes South Korean views on a recent submarine-launched ballistic missile test by North Korea, and introduces two new DRI products: a webinar as well as a podcast on Australia’s future and AUKUS, respectively. And we leave you considering the notion of “vulgar balancing.”
October 22, 2021

Bangladesh Burns

This edition of DRI Asia Review probes the causes of the recent anti-Hindu violence in Bangladesh, and the politics of buck-passing and appeasement for electoral gains that seem to fuel rising anti-minority sentiments in the country, even as Dhaka’s leading voices continue to vocally speak out against these trends. We also look at how the U.S. continues to frame climate change as a national security threat. And finally, we offer you a peek into Monte Carlo simulations.
October 15, 2021

Pakistan: Neither Sink nor Swim?

This week’s DRI Asia Review looks at Pakistan, specifically the latest revelations of widespread financial malfeasance among members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet and those of the country’s hallowed and all-powerful military establishment. It delves into how voices across the border—in India—are viewing how the return of the Taliban to Kabul stands to affect Pakistan and Kashmir, and recaps some of the key conclusions from a September The Diplomat/DRI webinar on Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. And it leaves you contemplating an evolutionary theory of national honor, and the role of “sacred spaces” in geopolitics.
October 8, 2021

Bangladesh-China Relations

This week’s DRI Asia Review looks at the health of the Bangladesh-China relationship which has considerably deepened in the recent years across a wide spectrum of issues ranging from infrastructure, trade, and investment to defense cooperation and vaccine diplomacy. We also delve into how Bangladeshi voices view the challenges in the relationship and present a short summary of how both Bangladesh and China are affected by climate change-induced stress, drawing from a new DRI report. Finally, in honor of this week’s physics Nobel Prize announcement, we offer you a short account of how complexity science has informed security studies.
October 1, 2021

Asia-Pacific’s Climate and Energy Woes

This week’s DRI Asia Review focuses on energy and climate change in Asia-Pacific. We offer you an analysis of what Europe’s deepening energy crisis means for India and other major developing countries in the region and look at what a leading Japanese newspaper expects Prime Minister to-be Kishida Fumio to do when it comes to disaster prevention and mitigation. Drawing on a DRI Monthly Report, we briefly flag how India is faring when it comes to combatting climate while setting its economy on a path of mend. And finally, we ask: Is climate change an existential risk, and if not why call it so?
September 24, 2021

AUKUS Ruckus, Quad Rumble

This week’s edition—which goes to press hours before the leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States meet for the first-ever in-person Quad summit in Washington, D.C.—looks at the Biden Administration’s incipient Indo-Pacific strategy. It assesses the significance on the AUKUS partnership announced last week, and regional views on China joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as the future of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. It highlights DRI research on semiconductor supply chain risks and leaves you with the work of Peter Turchin on history as a predictive, mathematical science.
September 17, 2021

A High Low: Asia-Pacific and Narcotics

This week’s edition throws light on a critical challenge in the region: the unabated flow of – and appetite for – narcotic drugs. We look at how Sri Lanka is emerging as a critical spoke in narcotics trafficking, even as domestic consumption continues unabated posing serious risks. We probe how South Korea too is finding itself at the unfortunate frontline of drugs trafficking as a key transshipment node. Also in this edition: China’s counterterror posture, and modeling narco-trafficking networks.
September 10, 2021

9/11: Two Decades Later

This week’s DRI Asia Review looks at the 9/11 attacks in the United States, two decades after they upended geopolitics in West and South Asia. We recommend six movies and television shows around the events leading up to 9/11, and the momentous ones that followed. Through monitoring Bengali news media in both the Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh, we summarize what leading voices are saying about the return of the Taliban to Kabul. We give you some of the key conclusions in a new DRI report about Afghanistan and Taliban 2.0, and remind you of the importance of the availability heuristic.
September 3, 2021

Afghan Aftershocks

As developments in Afghanistan indicate an across-the-board catastrophe for the Afghan people, this edition explores how the international community, the United Nations in particular, is responding to it. It argues for immediate action to protect aid workers in the country who are especially vulnerable under the Taliban regime. It looks at how countries in eastern Asia-Pacific are responding to the return of the Taliban, as well as South Asian apprehensions about the regional security environment. It suggests viewing the developments in Afghanistan through the lens of self-organized criticality to understand its true nature.
August 27, 2021

Afghanistan and the Indo-Pacific

This edition dips into how Asia-Pacific powers are likely to view the tumultuous events in Afghanistan, amid a regional counter-China diplomatic offensive by the United States. It dives into U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s first solo overseas trip, to Southeast Asia, and evaluates how it was colored by Washington’s ignoble exit from Afghanistan. It looks at how observers in Taiwan and Thailand are viewing Beijing’s outreach to the Taliban, and draws attention to new, rigorous, ways of thinking about causality.
August 20, 2021

The Taliban Wins

This edition, released soon after Kabul fell to the Taliban, looks at the calculations that shaped the Biden administration’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and those likely to be made by the Taliban as they establish a new regime in Afghanistan. It also looks at how New Delhi is viewing the developments in Afghanistan, and probes claims that the U.S. intelligence community failed to anticipate the Afghan military’s collapse in the face of a Taliban push. In view of these developments, it reaffirms the importance of strategic notice for intelligence analysts.
August 12, 2021

Democracy in Asia: Down and Out?

This edition focuses on the state of democracy in Asia. It looks at the pro-democracy protests in Thailand and brings out the complicated relationship between voter turnouts and democratic norms consolidation in the country and elsewhere. Ahead of the presidential elections in South Korea, it provides insights into President Moon Jae-in’s precarious political position. It also explores the concept of a narrow corridor of liberty.
August 6, 2021

Groundhog Day in India-Administered Kashmir?

Marking the second anniversary of the revocation of Article 370, this edition of DRI’s Asia Review looks beyond the Modi’s government’s tough rhetoric on Kashmir to assess the true rationale behind the Indian government’s decision. It looks at Kashmir’s economy as well as views the disputed region through a triangular geopolitical lens, situating the state of play there within the context of China-India-Pakistan relations. It looks at the possibility of Afghanistan emerging as a site of proxy war between India and Pakistan and leaves you thinking about political moral hazard.
July 30, 2021

The End of Geoeconomics?

This edition of DRI’s Asia Review examines the failures of the Trump Administration’s attempts to tame China through tariffs, which not only failed to reduce Washington’s trade deficit with China but took bilateral trade to new heights. It looks at Australia-South Korea cooperation to counter Chinese monopoly over rare earths and examines the possibility of U.S. joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Finally, it leaves you questioning the possibility of economic decoupling.
July 16, 2021

The United States in the Asia-Pacific

This edition assesses the emerging contours of the Biden Administration’s Asia Policy and the key challenges ahead of it as it tries to reshape Washington’s regional posture in the Asia-Pacific. It also looks at how traditional ally South Korea is responding to the Biden Administration’s overtures and renewed emphasis on regional diplomacy. It also examines the possibility of China coercing Taiwan through a military assault on the Pratas Islands, while leaving you thinking about new ways to think about climate cooperation.
July 9, 2021

Asia-Pacific’s Rocky Technology Landscape

This edition looks at how Asia-Pacific powers are seeking to shape the regional tech landscape even as they grapple with key challenges at home. Geopolitics – specifically, a revisionist, rising China’s technology ambitions – looms large over how some in the region approach emerging and established tech efforts. However, others would prefer a more pragmatic approach, refusing to be drawn into sharpening strategic competition between the U.S. (and allies) and China that also, increasingly, has a strong tech component.
July 2, 2021

India at Risk

This edition assesses the plethora of critical security, economic and foreign policy questions facing India in the wake of recent regional developments, and their implications for India-Pakistan relations. It covers a drone attack on an Indian Air Force base in Jammu, upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, and assesses the geopolitical costs of India’s pandemic-hit economy.