2017: The Best of The Diplomat

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2017: The Best of The Diplomat

The Diplomat is joining the self-reflection party here at the end of 2017 for the first time.

2017: The Best of The Diplomat

People pose under a “Festival of Lights,” a dancing display of thousands of lights and lasers at the Ayala Triangle of Gardens in the financial district of Makati city east of Manila, Philippines (Dec. 1, 2017).

Credit: AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

Our tagline — Read The Diplomat. Know the Asia-Pacific — has never been more true. Here at The Diplomat we’re keeping an eye on a region that spans from the steppes of Central Asia all the way to the Pacific Ocean, a space that holds more than 60 percent of the world’s population. In 2017, Asia’s inescapable march to the top of world affairs continued and our devoted readers kept coming back.

Below, you’ll find a list of the top 20 articles we published in 2017, based on the sheer traffic numbers:

The Diplomat’s Top 20 Articles Published in 2017

  1. China Tears Down the Tibetan City in the Sky by Steve Shaw
  2. Why North Korea Is Planning Long-Range Missile Flight Tests Over Japan and Toward Guam by Ankit Panda
  3. Stop Calling Indonesia a Role Model. It’s Stopped Being One. by Benedict Rogers
  4. What Would the Second Korean War Look Like? by Franz-Stefan Gady
  5. Why the Trump-Led Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia Was a Disaster for Pakistan by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
  6. Will the Doklam Standoff Lead to a Second India-China War? by Rajeesh Kumar
  7. North Korea’s 2017 Military Parade Was a Big Deal. Here Are the Major Takeaways by Ankit Panda
  8. Is India’s Military Actually Ready for War With China? by  K.S. Venkatachalam
  9. Which Asian Country Will Replace China as the ‘World’s Factory’? by Matthias Lomas
  10. Why Is Russia Aiming Missiles at China? by Guy Plopsky
  11. Why Another Philippines Terrorist Attack Is Coming by Zachary Abuza
  12. The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam by Ankit Panda
  13. Military Stalemate: How North Korea Could Win a War With the US by Franz-Stefan Gady
  14. China’s Americanized Military by Don Tse
  15. China’s Creeping Invasion of India by Saurav Jha
  16. US Intelligence: North Korea’s ICBM Reentry Vehicles Are Likely Good Enough to Hit the Continental US by Ankit Panda
  17. Who Is Actually Attending China’s Belt and Road Forum? by Shannon Tiezzi
  18. India, Russia 5th Generation Fighter Jet Deal is ‘Lost’ by Franz-Stefan Gady
  19. India’s Uncompromising Stand Against China in the Himalayas Is Backed Up With Hard Power by Nitin A. Gokhale
  20. The Danger of Najibizing Malaysia’s Foreign Policy by Prashanth Parameswaran

A few notes on the numbers:

First, a special shout out to one of our former columnists and Koreas expert Robert Kelly and his adorable family. His BBC interview, gatecrashed by his kids, went viral, putting his author page into our top 15 pages.

Second, a few notable past articles appeared in the raw top traffic data, propelled by renewed relevance. Among them were Ankit Panda’s February 2016 explainer on China’s opposition to THAAD and Jasmine Chia’s The Truth About Myanmar’s Rohingya Issue from March 2016, part of a tremendous series that year on refugee issues in Southeast Asia.

While the top 20 articles we published in 2017 feature North Korea, China, India, and security matters most prominently, they represent only 5 percent of our total traffic. In honor of the gems you may have missed, Editor-in-Chief Shannon Tiezzi put together a list of her top 10 features from 2017, in order of their publication date (newest to oldest).

Shannon’s Top 10 Must-Read Features You May Have Missed

From Myanmar to India, Persecution Haunts Rohingya by Ann Toews: Anyone following the Rohingya crisis even tangentially has read about the unspeakable atrocities committed against the Muslim-minority group in Myanmar. But as this piece shows, that persecution doesn’t end once refugees cross the border. Toews interviews Rohingya refugees in India and discovers that, in a country where Hindu extremists are increasingly bold, their troubles are far from over.

The Dark Side of Kyrgyzstan’s ‘Affordable Housing’ by Franco Galdini: It’s the sad truth that Central Asian stories are often overlooked, especially those article that forgo “Great Game” geopolitics to focus on domestic issues. But this piece by Galdini is a must-read for anyone seeking a better understanding of Central Asian politics. It’s a case study of how electioneering, corruption, and political persecution collide in Kyrgyzstan, but the basic factors at play — accusations of corruption and a seemingly hopeless quest for politicians to be held accountable — have resonance across the region.

Sri Lanka’s Debt and China’s Money by Umesh Moramudali: The handover of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease sparked headlines around the world, as well as a wave of angst about Beijing’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region. However, the economic logic of the deal from Sri Lanka’s point of view was largely overlooked. As observers around the world wring their hands about China’s “coercive” economic diplomacy, it’s well worth looking at the factors that entice small states like Sri Lanka to play along with China’s ambitions.

Postcard From Seongju’s Anti-THAAD Protest by Jon Letman: Our readers are likely aware of China’s protests over the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system on South Korean soil. But there’s also robust opposition from South Koreans themselves — particularly those living near the deployment area. Letman spoke with the locals spearheading the protest movement, adding a decidedly human dimension to the grander geopolitical debate over THAAD.

A Year of Bangladesh’s War on Terror by Siddharthya Roy: One year after an Islamic State-linked attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Bangladesh, Roy headed to Dhaka to conduct on-the-ground interviews with analysts, police, and those who knew the attackers. The result is a must-read deep dive into both radicalization in Bangladesh and the politics of counterterrorism.

Japan’s Path to Constitutional Amendment by Michael MacArthur Bosack: It’s no secret that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has his eyes firmly set on the prize of amending Japan’s post-World War II constitution, particularly the pacifist Article 9. But Bosack goes beyond the usual debates over Japanese militarization and revisionism to look at the actual politics behind such a move. What are the actual steps involved, how feasible are they, and what political maneuvering can we expect along the way?

Nepal: Elections at the Epicenter by Peter Gill: Nepal underwent four rounds of elections in 2017 — two rounds of local elections, and two rounds of voting to fill its federal parliament and provincial legislatures. Much of the media coverage (including here at The Diplomat) focused on the geopolitical ramifications for Nepal’s two neighbors, India and China. Gill takes a different tack, interviewing Nepalis as they go to vote in the local elections — some after traveling for over a day to reach their destination. The result is a piece that captures both the excitement and the expectations of a country embarking on a new phase of democratization.

The Fall of Ahok and Indonesia’s Future by Nithin Coca: The blasphemy charges against Jakarta Governor Ahok — and his subsequent defeat in a reelection bid — made headlines around the world. In this piece, Coca looks past Ahok’s specific case and focuses on the larger trends at play in Indonesian politics, particularly a new political alliance based on religious and ethnic lines. With Indonesia’s presidential election coming up in 2019, this piece is an important read before campaign season enters full swing.

The Women in Afghanistan’s Moral Prisons by Ritu Mahendru: This piece examines the plight of women in Afghanistan, not by looking at a single case of violence, but by exploring the legal and institutional factors that contribute to the oppression of women and girls. Mahendru visits “moral prisons,” where Afghan women can be incarcerated for “offenses” such as sex before marriage — including being raped. Her piece lays bare not only the stark state of women’s rights in Afghanistan, but endemic issues with judicial corruption.

Central Asia and Islamic State: The Russia Connection by Iris Oppelaar: This year saw a spate of terrorist attacks committed by men of Central Asian descent. As our own Catherine Putz has pointed out, the resulting stories often overlook the fact that most of these men were radicalized not at home but abroad. Oppelaar travels to Russia and, in a series of interviews, explores the living and working conditions in one of the top destinations for Central Asian migrants. Her piece helps explain why Central Asians in Russia make prime targets for terrorist recruiting networks. The article should be an essential part of the conversation on radicalized Central Asians.