Skip NavigationMenu

Insights and Analysis

InAsia’s Greatest Hits of 2021

January 5, 2022

By The Asia Foundation

As the new year begins—under the persistent cloud of the pandemic, but with perhaps a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead—it’s time for our look back at the best of InAsia from the year gone by. We’d like to begin 2022 with a note of thanks: to our staff in the U.S. and Asia, who pressed on under the burdens of a challenging year; to those who embraced the additional task of writing and speaking so eloquently in these pages; and especially to our readers, who showed so much interest in our stories and podcasts in 2021.

Thank you.

This “Best of 2021” reflects the tastes of both our readership and your humble editor. Some of these stories were runaway favorites. Others, which may have come late in the year or been overshadowed by unexpected events, have a special something that we think deserves a second look or listen. Before we all get back into harness for the new year, we invite you to revisit some of these favorite stories and podcasts from last year.

—John Rieger, Editor

Note: Click on the titles to read the stories.


Podcast | Fighting the Good Fight: The Case of the Philippine Rice Sector

By King Francis Ocampo and Kimberly Karen Pobre
For decades, a Philippine price-support regime caused mounting public debt and the highest rice prices in Southeast Asia, but replacing a system with so many vested interests was too high a hurdle—until now. Our podcast guest is Bruce Tolentino of the Central Bank of the Philippines.

A rice field with a small farm house.

A rice field in the Philippines


Covid-19 in Vietnam: Holding Our Breath in Wave Four

By Nicola Nixon
Even as a fourth wave of Covid-19 emerges, Vietnam’s well-managed pandemic response systems have kept death and infection rates among the lowest in the world. But vaccines are likely to remain in short supply.


In Pakistan: Women, Mediation, and the Law

By Sayed Abbas Hussain
More and more lawyers in Pakistan are women, and many are finding that alternative dispute resolution offers career opportunities that suit their commitment to gender-inclusive justice.


Podcast | Political Unrest Unsettles Myanmar’s Borderlands

By the Conflict and Fragility Team, adapted from an original essay by “Seng”
When the Myanmar military reclaimed power in February after a decade of democratic government, it disrupted the delicate peace process with Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations, and the situation is still unfolding. Tabea Campbell Pauli of the Conflict and Fragility Team joins us for the podcast.


Tourism in Timor-Leste: Small Businesses, Big Impacts

By Gobie Rajalingam
Timor-Leste is working hard to reopen its shuttered tourism industry, but a few false steps and a new surge of Covid infections since the disastrous Easter floods may make it difficult to attract international travelers demanding new levels of safety and hygiene.


Podcast | The State of Conflict and Violence in Asia

By Adam Burke
Has a decade of growing prosperity tamed intercommunal violence in Asia? In a new report, Nobel Peace Prize–winner Maria Ressa and others weigh in on the state of conflict and the growing perils of social media. Social media researcher Sarah Oh joins Adam Burke for this week’s podcast.

Devastation in Marawi, the Philippines, in 2017 (Photo: Adam Burke / The Asia Foundation)


Eyeing Post-Covid Recovery, Malaysia’s Small Businesses Go Digital

By Sharifah Shahirah Idid
In the challenging pandemic economy, where bricks-and-mortar firms stand empty and laid-off workers and small entrepreneurs struggle for a livelihood, the importance of online business skills has skyrocketed.


Podcast | Rethinking America’s Role in Asia

By John J. Brandon
A task force of Asian scholars has developed strategic recommendations for the Biden administration on foreign policy towards Asia. Taskforce co-chairs Dr. Kirida Bhaopichitr of the Thai Development Research Institute and Dr. C. Raja Mohan, director of the Institute for South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, join John Brandon for the podcast.

A Chinese cityscape (Photo: Ted Alcorn / the Asia Foundation)


Nepal’s Unsteady Progress towards Fiscal Federalism

By Bishnu Adhikari, Parshuram Upadhyaya, Amol Acharya, and Abhas Ghimire
Nepal’s newly created provincial governments got their budgets for next year done on time, but the nation’s ambitious commitment to fiscal federalism still has some kinks to work out.


Covid in Cambodia: Vulnerable Households and Debt

By Prak Raytherea
Covid in Cambodia has caused household debt to soar. A new study suggests some ways to handle the crisis.

A woman walks with her young child along deck in the rain


Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh: Barely Staying Afloat

By Sadia Afroze Sultana
In the last decade, women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh have made tremendous strides stepping out of the home to participate in the economy. How much of that progress will be undone by the pandemic?


Podcast | The Future of Work for Women in the Pacific Islands

By Ellen Boccuzzi, Imrana Jalal, Sandra Kraushaar, and Jane Sloane
Working women in the Pacific Islands face a trifecta of challenges from Covid-19, climate change, and disruptive technologies. A new report from The Asia Foundation takes a hard look at the path to a better future. The Asia Foundation’s Ellen Boccuzzi and Sandra Kraushaar join us for the podcast.

(Photo: maloff /


A Road to Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

By Celina Cramer
Still shadowed by its legacy of civil war, Sri Lanka needs national reconciliation. An experimental curriculum in “values education” is creating measurable change in empathy and respect among the youth of different communities.


Podcast | Making School Accessibility Philippine Policy

By Regina Pasion and Coalitions for Change
A comprehensive new policy from the Philippine Department of Education is set to start dismantling barriers that keep students with disabilities out of the classroom. Local efforts to develop the new policy were supported by The Asia Foundation’s Coalitions for Change program.


Last Year’s Predictions for 2021

Finally, among our most-read stories last year was the first post of 2021, when our country representatives offered their predictions for the year ahead. How did they do? Join us in two weeks for their prognostications on 2022.

Happy New Year!


Woman in a red shirt sits in a rice field with a basket on her head


About our blog, InAsia

InAsia is a bi-weekly in-depth, in-country resource for readers who want to stay abreast of significant events and issues shaping Asia’s development, hosted by The Asia Foundation. Drawing on the first-hand insight of renowned experts, InAsia delivers concentrated analysis on issues affecting each region of Asia, as well as Foundation-produced reports and polls.

InAsia is posted and distributed every other Wednesday evening, Pacific Time. If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].


For questions about InAsia, or for our cross-post and re-use policy, please send an email to [email protected].

The Asia Foundation
465 California St., 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Mailing Address:
PO Box 193223
San Francisco, CA 94119-3223

The Latest Across Asia


December 7, 2022

Support Women Forest Defenders

Join us this holiday season to help untapped leaders like Sumini and the Women Forest Defenders battle rampant deforestation in Indonesia.