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The Diplomat Brief
October 28,
The Diplomat Brief
2020 WA-ASEAN Trade and Investment Dialogue
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story examines the increasing pressure on Pakistani journalists, and what that says about the country’s politics. We also have an interview with Bill Hayton, author of “The Invention of China,” about how China’s elites have reimagined historical narratives to fit modern-day needs.
Story of the week
Toothless and Terrified: The State of Pakistan’s Media


Toothless and Terrified: The State of Pakistan’s Media

What Happened: Missing journalists. Cyber crime lawsuits. Increasing restrictions on coverage. Pakistan’s media sphere is under pressure not seen since the heyday of military dictatorship.

Our Focus: “It is astonishing how the Pakistani media has gone from being one of the liveliest and free in its history to becoming one of the most subdued and controlled,” Omar Waraich, the head of South Asia at Amnesty International, told The Diplomat. “The threat here is that journalism is turning into propaganda.”

What Comes Next: With the opposition hosting protests in a bid to oust the current government, the media is pulled in differing directions: Cover a major political story, and risk the government’s ire, or keep quiet.

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Behind the News


Bill Hayton

Bill Hayton, an associate fellow with the Asia-Pacific Program at Chatham House, on China’s national myth-making: “The Communist Party needs a narrative that justifies its hold over Tibet and Xinjiang and its claims to Taiwan. It needs everyone to forget that, right until the 1940s, the Communist Party leadership claimed that all those territories contained separate nationalities with the right to self-determination.”

Read the interview
This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

CCP’s Fifth Plenum Meets

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee is meeting in Beijing this week for its fifth plenary session. The biggest topic for discussion: finalizing a blueprint for the 14th Five Year Plan, which sets China’s economic goals for the period from 2021-2025. The plan will, in turn, reflect the CCP’s strategies for the emerging U.S.-China competition.

Find out more

South Asia

Bihar Kicks off Indian State Elections

The first phase of voting in Bihar's state election starts on October 28, marking the beginning of several crucial regional polls in India over the next two years. While a host of regional issues will shape their outcome – including internal migration following the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, farmers' rights, as well as Hindu-Muslim relations – the upcoming state elections will also serve as a litmus test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party's sway over the Indian political scene in the run-up to national elections in 2024.

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Southeast Asia

Pompeo in Indonesia

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will pay a short visit to Indonesia on October 30, part of an Asian tour that is also taking him to India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. During the trip to Jakarta, which follows Indonesian Defense Secretary Prabowo Subianto's five-day visit to the U.S. earlier this month, Pompeo will seek to enlist Indonesia in the Trump administration's incipient anti-China coalition. If so, he is likely to be disappointed.

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Central Asia

Uzbek Journalist Won’t Face Prosecution After All

Back in August, we covered the case of Bobomurod Abdullaev, a journalist who was deported from Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, reportedly because of social media postings critical of the Uzbek government. The case raised questions about the extent of the Mirziyoyev government’s tolerance for free speech. Abdullaev’s recent announcement that the charges against him have been dropped thus merits attention as part of Uzbekistan’s continuing effort to reform its image.

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Visualizing APAC


Sri Lanka’s Changing Relationship to Chinese Loans

Sri Lanka’s current foreign debt stock is dominated by international sovereign bonds, but the government may now be seeking to increase loans from China instead.

See the full picture
Word of the Week



Meaning “if politics was good” in Lao: The hashtag has become a label for rare political criticism from Laotians, inspired by the protests across the border in Thailand.

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The Diplomat BriefMaster's Program - Asian Studies
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The Diplomat Magazine | October 2020

U.S. Alliances Under Trump

This month, we take stock of the state of U.S. alliances in Asia after four years of the Trump administration. We also decipher the role China plays in Myanmar’s peace process, scrutinize the civil-military nexus taking shape in Pakistan under Imran Khan, and highlight the major developments that have molded Fiji over its 50 years of independence. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

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Diplomat Risk Intelligence
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