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This week our top story explores Kashgar, as documented in photographs taken before the mass demolition of Uyghur cultural sites. We also have an interview with Nomin Chinbat, Mongolia’s culture minister, on the intersection between the economy and cultural preservation.
The Diplomat Brief
January 31,
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores Kashgar, as documented in photographs taken before the mass demolition of Uyghur cultural sites. We also have an interview with Nomin Chinbat, Mongolia’s culture minister, on the intersection between the economy and cultural preservation.
Story of the week
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The Uyghurs: Kashgar Before the Catastrophe

What Happened: In 1998, photographer Kevin Bubriski spent a time among the Uyghurs in Kashgar, their ancient capital city in the Xinjiang region of China. It was a crucial moment: before the mass demolition campaign that began in 2009 and gained steam under the worsening crackdown post-2017. Today, Kashgar, especially its Old City, is unrecognizable, with many cultural sites demolished, Uyghur residents displaced, and intrusive surveillance architecture installed. But the photographs from 25-plus years ago preserve a small slice of the vibrancy of the Uyghurs’ spiritual heartland.

Our Focus: The persecution of the Uyghurs was evident even in 1998. “In 1998 there was already new construction of high-rise steel and glass buildings everywhere and within a year the rail line reached Kashgar,” Bubriski told The Diplomat. “There was a feeling among the Uyghurs of the deepening marginalization of their community… I recall feeling that photographs might bring awareness to a larger community of the cultural richness of Kashgar and the threat facing the Uyghur people and their culture. ” Things have only gotten worse since then, as China seized on the U.S. “War on Terror” to frame its Xinjiang policies as necessary counterterrorism initiatives. The oppression reached new heights with the extralegal detention of an estimated 1 million Uyghurs in “education” camps beginning in 2017.

What Comes Next: Bubriski’s photographs reveal a time when Kashgar, the cultural hub of the Uyghurs, retained much of its traditional life and charm. He hopes that the images will give people a glimpse into what Xinjiang and Kashgar used to be like – and what the world has lost through China’s policies, which have been described as “cultural genocide.”

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Behind the News


Nomin Chinbat

Mongolian Minister of Culture Nomin Chinbat on the centrality of culture in Mongolia’s economic and diplomatic strategies: “Through diplomacy, cultural showcasing, and investment opportunities, we endeavor to position Mongolia on the world stage as a nation ready to contribute, collaborate, and thrive.”

Read the interview
This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

US, China National Security Officials Meet

Over the weekend, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met his Chinese counterpart, CCP foreign policy chief and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for two days of talks in Bangkok. The discussions were billed as a follow-up to the big summit between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in November, with new details announced on the implementation of promised dialogue mechanisms. For example, on January 30 the promised China-U.S. counternarcotics working group held its first meeting.

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South Asia

Imran Khan Convicted – Again

On Tuesday, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was convicted of revealing official secrets and sentenced to 10 years in prison – adding to a three-year prison term handed down in a previous corruption case. On Wednesday, he received yet another sentence – 14 years – in separate corruption case. Khan’s convictions, which he says are politically motivated, have the effect of barring him from participation in February’s elections, despite the PTI leader being the most popular politician in Pakistan. The military is widely believed to be engineering an election victory for three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N, instead.

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Southeast Asia

Philippine Leaders Trade Fiery Accusations

This week, the latent rivalry between former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., finally broke into the open, with the two men exchanging explosive accusations in public. In an speech on January 28, Duterte accused Marcos of being a drug addict, alleged that his allies were plotting to amend the constitution to lift term limits, and warned that he could be ousted like his father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Marcos shot back by ascribing Duterte’s comments to his use of the powerful opiate fentanyl. Tensions within the Marcos-Duterte “UniTeam,” which won a thundering election victory in 2022, have reportedly been growing for months. It now appears to have broken down entirely, with uncertain implications for Marcos’ political future.

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Central Asia

Central Asia Comes Into Focus For Europe

This week in Brussels, Central Asian delegations gathered for an investors forum designed to further efforts to bridge Europe and Central Asia. The presence of a U.S. delegation only heightened attention on the forum. The EU and U.S. alike are interested in developing trade and transit routes through Eurasia that avoid Russia. Central Asian countries, meanwhile, are interested in entertaining all possible offers of investment.

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Visualizing APAC

Source: Kazakhstan Bureau of National Statistics

In 2022 the volume of trade between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan reached a record $987.9 million, twice as much as the previous year ($474.3 million).

See the full picture
Word of the Week


Tử sĩ and liệt sĩ

Tử sĩ is Vietnamese for dead enemies,” while liệt sĩ means “martyrs.” The distinction, as determined by the ruling Communist Party, decides which soldiers killed in action are remembered and honored – and which are ignored.

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After the Election: Where Will Lai Lead Taiwan?

The Diplomat Magazine | February 2024

After the Election: Where Will Lai Lead Taiwan?

This month, our cover story outlines the factors – both domestic and geopolitical – that will shape Taiwan under the incoming Lai administration. We also delve into Southeast Asia’s electric vehicle (EV) ambitions in a country-by-country analysis and shine a light on the simmering but often ignored discontent in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

Read the Magazine