Asia Stream: The stories that mattered in 2021

NEW YORK — Welcome to Nikkei Asia’s podcast, Asia Stream.

Every week, Asia Stream tracks and analyzes the Indo-Pacific with a mix of interviews with experts and original reporting by our correspondents from across the globe.

New episodes are recorded weekly and available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all other major platforms, plus on our YouTube channel.

This week, we take a look back at 2021 and the most crucial stories to emerge from the Indo-Pacific. Up first, our business and markets reporter Jack Stone Truitt reviews our site’s most popular stories. Then, our feature presentation — Asia Stream’s first Editors and Reporters Roundtable — an in-depth discussion with an all-star editorial panel about what’s ticking in Asian news. From Brussels, we are joined by executive editor Michael Peel. From New York, U.S. editor Ken Moriyasu weighs in. And our award-winning duo of tech reporters, Annie Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li, join us from Taiwan.

Read our most read stories of the year

Asia Stream is hosted by Wajahat Khan, our digital editor, and produced by Monica Hunter-Hart and Jack Stone Truitt.

LISTEN HERE

From this episode:

China PCR test orders soared before first confirmed COVID case by Masaya Kato

Young, creative and angry: Myanmar’s youth pushes back by Thin Lei Wen

Cyber slavery: inside Cambodia’s online scam gangs by Shaun Turton

All-Turkic corridor heralds rise of new Eurasian political bloc by Sinan Tavsan

China’s Luxshare builds iPhone mega-plant to challenge Foxconn by Lauly Li, Cheng Ting-Fang, and Shunsuke Tabeta

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TRANSCRIPT

(Theme music, “What’s the Angle?” by Shane Ivers)

WAJAHAT KHAN, HOST: Hello and welcome to Asia Stream, where we track, report and analyze the issues and interests of the world’s largest region. I am Waj Khan. This week, in our last episode before the holidays, we take a look back at 2021, review the most crucial stories from the Indo-Pacific, and assess what they might tell us about the year to come.

We kick off with a rundown of this year’s biggest stories from Asia.

And then follow up with our feature presentation: Asia Stream’s first Editors and Reporters Roundtable, an in-depth discussion with an all-star editorial panel about what’s ticking in Asian news.

You’re listening to the sound of Asia, streaming in your ear.

From Nikkei Asia, this is Asia Stream.

Now, it’s that time of the year when everyone’s got a list of some sort, whether it’s a holiday shopping list, or a top-10 countdown list, or a person or trends of the year list.

In the news media world, such lists are usually decided by editors. But here at Asia Stream, we’re handing you the reins.

What are the most popular stories from Asia? Which stories did well on social media? Which stories were shared widely, which stories mattered?

Here to discuss Asia Stream’s first Readers’ Choice Review is our business and markets reporter, Jack Stone Truitt.

Hey, Jack, good to have you back.

JACK STONE TRUITT, REPORTER: Good to be back, Waj.

KHAN: So Jack, let’s start with the basics. How are we deciding what stories are the most popular?

TRUITT: Well, we just took a look at the data. Waj, as you know, we have over 40,000 subscribers at Nikkei Asia and they come to us for our coverage of all things Asia, but they’re a diverse group — almost a quarter of our readers are from the U.S. The next quarter are from Southeast Asia. Next after that is Japan. We have an increasing number of readers from India, the Middle East and Europe. So this is truly a global crowd.

KHAN: Brilliant. So let’s kick things off. What was our most read story of the year?

TRUITT: Our top story was news in August that a third Sinovac vaccine was better than mixing with others.

KHAN: Now that’s one of the couple of Chinese vaccines that were floated this year.

TRUITT: Right. And really, it’s illustrative of the fact that people were hungry for vaccine news all year.

KHAN: Right. And what’s number two?

TRUITT: “India, can we talk openly about sex, please?”

KHAN: What?

TRUITT: That’s the headline. It’s a great op-ed from a writer in India calling upon the country to get with the times and increase its sex education curriculum.

KHAN: So COVID and sex certainly make for great headlines. What else do you have?

TRUITT: And rounding out the top three was our free-to-read blog during the Tokyo Olympics,

KHAN: Right. Well, a bronze medal isn’t so bad, isn’t it, now? But, Jack, what else stands out in your most read stories list?

TRUITT: Well, five of our 10 best performing stories were pandemic related. Unsurprisingly, be it our Nikkei COVID recovery index database to a major story on China ordering a bunch of PCR tests before the first public case was ever reported.

KHAN: China ordering PCR tests before the COVID outbreak.

TRUITT: So a huge increase in orders for the tests started back in May of 2019. For some context that’s right around the Notre Dame cathedral catching on fire.

KHAN: That was a while ago.

TRUITT: Right. And so unsurprisingly, it kind of went nuts on social media.

KHAN: So speaking of social media, Jack, let’s talk about my favorite love hate relationship: with social media. What stories did well there?

TRUITT: So our most liked tweet by far was the news of Hidylin Diaz winning the Philippines first ever gold medal. It was also our most retweeted story. And the Tokyo Games in general had a bunch of first time medalists from various Asian countries, which were all very popular stories.

KHAN: I remember, Ms. Diaz, that was a great moment in the Olympics, but there were also some embarrassing moments for the organizers as well, right?

TRUITT: Yeah, people might love to share good news. But the story that actually got the most clicks on Twitter was when the head of the Olympic Committee in Japan made a fool of himself saying that meetings with women take extra time.

KHAN: I remember Mr. Mori was fired for his garments from what I recall. Right. So what about Facebook?

TRUITT: Well, some things are all too predictable, Waj. The most popular story on Facebook was about the birth of baby twin pandas at the Tokyo zoo in June.

KHAN: And, of course, how predictable but I also take it that they did well on Instagram as well?

TRUITT: They were actually passed by a princess on Instagram, Waj.

KHAN: So like a big “Royal Wedding” type of thing?

TRUITT: No, actually, it was a much quieter affair than that. Our most popular Instagram photo was Princess Mako of Japan, who got married in October to her college sweetheart who’s actually just a regular guy, which is part of the reason why it was such big news.

KHAN: That’s good news. That’s kind of sweet. Pandas and princesses. That’s social media for you, Jack?

TRUITT: Well, it was a tough year. People needed some feel good news every now and then.

KHAN: Well, this has been a very illuminating look at what our audience was interested in in 2021. Jack Stone Truitt, thank you for your time.

TRUITT: See you next year. And I’ll give you the panda update then.

KHAN: Happy holidays.

That was our Business and Markets reporter Jack Stone Truitt. But now it’s time for a feature presentation: An end-of-the-year the Editors and Reporters roundtable with some of our finest staffers, who will be weighing in from across the world with what were some of the most critical, indeed crucial, stories from Asia in 2021, and what are the newest trends to watch in 2022.

I know we are straddling many different time zones here. So I want to say thank you all for joining Asia stream today. In Brussels, we have our executive editor, Michael Peel.

Hello, Michael.

MICHAEL PEEL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Hi, Waj.

KHAN: In New York City is our U.S. editor, Ken Moriyasu.

KEN MORIYASU, U.S. EDITOR: Hi, Waj.

KHAN: Hi, Ken, and from Taipei, our dynamic duo of reporters Annie Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li.

ANNIE CHENG TING-FANG, TECH CORRESPONDENT: Hi, hello.

LAULY LI, TECH CORRESPONDENT: Hello.

KHAN: Excellent. All right, so I’m going to start with you, Michael. As executive editor, this question must go to you. But it’s going to be a simple one. What is the biggest story in Asia right now? Because I have a sneaky feeling you’re going to say China, which is not a surprise. But would you also agree that the biggest story in Asia is also perhaps the biggest story in the world? And if you do, and if you don’t, either way, where do you think China’s story is headed in 2022? And how do you think it evolved, in 2021?

PEEL: I thought you said it was gonna be an easy question, Waj. That’s a tricky one on many levels. But I think the first thing I would say is that, of course, regrettably, the biggest story in Asia has been the biggest story everywhere, again, for the second successive year, and it’s been the pandemic. And what that has shown really, is that these, these a lot, so many stories these days, it doesn’t really help to look at them regionally because they’re so global in nature. And of course, we had a whole episode last week on the impact of the pandemic, and politics on other factors on global supply chains that make all of the consumer goods that we’re also familiar with, with having at our fingertips. And that’s really one theme, I think of how, kind of, many regional stories we see in Nikkei Asia, that are in fact late global stories, both because of Asia’s international heft, but also because of the interconnectedness of the modern world. Now on China, clearly, it’s been a very tough year for relations between China and other powers, both in Asia and in the West. And, you know, it’s contributed to this atmosphere of mutual suspicion, mutual tension, you have commentators talking about, ominously about, new Cold Wars and so on. I think the great test in 2022 will be can some of these tensions be managed and dial down? Because these are manifesting themselves on so many levels in so many places, that worries about hot conflicts in the South China Sea region, the other sort of trade conflict, where countries, China and other countries are at loggerheads and retaliating against each other, financially. All of these things, in some sense, undermine us all. And the question is, how are the different powers in 2022, China and other powers going to manage all of this?

KHAN: That was a fascinating appraisal of the China story, but let’s go across the Taiwan Strait now to Annie Ting-Fang, Nikkei Asia’s award winning reporter who has carved out a crucial beat from Taipei, the semiconductor chip industry, which as you may know, inputs through a sophisticated supply chain into so many other crucial industries across the globe. Annie, how has this unconventional yet important beat of yours evolved and whereas the supply chain story today, the chip crunch as we call it, which some also calling the mother of all stories as it links back to everything from global inflation to the U.S.-China trade war. Where is this story going?

CHENG: Supply chain crunch and chip shortage is really at every tech executive’s mind. And it hits a swath of industries from car networking equipment, PCs to your iPhones and iPad. And as building chip factories takes two to three years, this is not a problem that could be solved overnight. I think what’s interesting, and it’s a privilege for us to be reporting from Asia is that here has all kinds of suppliers, supplying displays, cameras, all kinds of chips, modules, printed circuit boards, memory chips, and PC game console and smartphone makers: tt has the whole ecosystem here in Asia and everyone, every company has their own story and their own quotes and their own views of the chip shortage. That’s why we could, piece by piece, piece together the story of how this chip shortage got this bad and why it is so difficult to fix.

KHAN: Right. So I’m going to move on to get Ken Moriyasu, and Lauly, I’ll circle back to you in just a bit. But from the China question, to the semiconductor question, which is sort of related to the trade war in a way because it has its bases there, even before the pandemic struck. Again, I must take you back to earlier this year, when we were planning, launching this podcast here in New York, and it was a very different start to the year. Joe Biden was about to take charge, and he was being very clear that he’s going to have a very different playbook on China versus Donald Trump. And in a way he did, but in a way he didn’t. Of course, the plan didn’t go according to plan, for Joe Biden, he got bogged down by domestic considerations. For example, he got bogged down by Afghanistan, he got bogged down by his infrastructure bill. But in some ways, as far as the Biden administration is concerned, it followed the Trump playbook on Taiwan, for example, Biden inviting Taiwanese representatives earlier this year to his inauguration, but also in a way they found common ground, for example, on the environment. How do you think the year 2021 evolved as far as Biden’s playbook on China is concerned, and where do you think it’s going in 2022?

MORIYASU: Thanks, Waj. I think the Biden people, as you say, tried to change some aspects of foreign policy from the Trump years. And I think there are two pillars here. And those are, No. 1, to work with allies, and No. 2, to renew the enduring sources of national strength. But as you rightly said, the situation in Afghanistan really messed that up. But also, I’d like to say there are some aspects of policy that will not change, hasn’t changed from the Trump years and will not change whoever comes into office from here. And that’s the tech decoupling. And that’s because there is a recognition in the Pentagon or the national security community that the next war, presuming that war will be with China, will be very digital, and will be all a matter of who takes down the GPS satellite first, and be able to hamper the operations of the enemy. So if that’s the case, the Pentagon cannot have Chinese chips and devices spread across the U.S. infrastructure. So there will inevitably be a decoupling in the tech world and that is not going to change.

KHAN: So the U.S.-China rivalry puts me on a flight path straight to Taiwan and to our reporter Lauly Li. Lauly, now, considering your coverage of the tech aspect of this rivalry, where we’ve seen the U.S. pretty much throw everything at China, right? From slamming sanctions against Huawei to investigating Harvard professors with links to China. How does this chip industry factor into the broader U.S. versus China competition?

LI: Huawei was added on the so called Entity List by the U.S. Commerce Department back in 2019. And that’s when people realize how crucial semiconductor is because it really is the heart and brain to empower all the electronic devices from smartphones, PCs servers to military tanks. And, and China has been trying to increase the self- sufficiency in semiconductors in this “2025” campaign, but this self sufficiency has been curbed by the U.S. government, because there’s only a handful of American companies that control the crucial equipment of chip making, and the crucial software of designing chips. So it’s all about the rivalry between the U.S. and China in how the U.S. is using their Entity List as a weapon to curb the rise of China’s tech advancement.

KHAN: Where do you think this is going?

LI: The tech battle between the U.S. and China is going on and on, and we thought at the beginning that the Biden administration is going to ease the tech restrictions a little bit on China. But it appears that it’s the other way around that the U.S. government still continues to blacklist more and more Chinese tech companies. And actually many of these are blacklisted Chinese tech companies we never heard of before, and we can notice that there is a trend that the U.S. is also trying to block more and more Chinese academic institutions. That will be like blocking the root of their tech advancements. So it is foreseeable that the U.S. will continue to block China’s rising tech advancement will continue on and on.

KHAN: Now quickly pivoting back to Michael Peel, our executive editor. Michael, we’ve gone on about China. But I must admit, China, yes, is the elephant in the room, but it takes up a lot of oxygen. So here’s another trick question for you, as our executive editor, how would you rank the second most important story in Asia, besides China?

PEEL: Well, I think it’s a story which is both regional and global, again, which is climate change. And I think that the last months of 2021 have really shone a very harsh light, both on the global heating problem, but also on the particular problems that and challenges that Asia faces here. And it was striking that the COP26 climate summit in in Scotland in November, coincided with a spike in coal prices and energy shortages, from China to gas in, in Europe. And it really brought home this question of how is the world going to shift from fossil fuels, especially at times when there can be shortages for both industrial reasons or political reasons, if countries choose to block supply. And in Asia, the particular manifestation of that is coal. And many, many countries, including China, but not limited to it, Indonesia and others are still using a lot of coal. And one of the striking stories that Nikkei Asia had before the climate summit in Glasgow, was from Indonesia and talking about the political problem that Indonesia has a burgeoning solar industry. But the main state utility is tied into these fossil fuel fired energy contracts. And so there’s the possibility of solar energy supply. But the politics and economics of it in Indonesia have meant that it can’t yet be tapped. And that’s led to a lot of frustration. But it’s not just about frustration. It’s about the biggest problem facing the world at the moment, which is global heating, and we see that debate really sharply in Asia.

KHAN: Do you feel that as climate change has become a part and parcel of Western political discourse and debate, whether in the halls of Congress and Senate here in the U.S., or even in Europe, do you see that developing in different political economies across Asia as something which could become an inherent part of political discourse?

PEEL: Absolutely, Waj. think there are two elements to this, right. Well, there are more than two elements. But on the one hand, there’s the kind of technical economic element on which also has a political dimension of the transition, i.e. moving from fossil fuel generated energy to leaving the fossil fuels in the ground and going to renewable sources. But there’s also apart from the fact of the transition, there’s the nature of the transition. And this has really highlighted is the importance that the transition is something that is widely seen as desirable, apart from a few people at the extremes. Most people, in most places accept that global heating and everything it brings, including natural disasters in increased quantities, which, of course, is something that several Asian countries, such as the Philippines have suffered from. You can’t have that transition without softening the impact. And that’s really the challenge for governments and international organizations to find a way to make the transition “just”, which is the language that the European Union uses about this. In other words, to make sure that the consequences of moving from fossil fuels to renewable resources are not that people are suddenly thrown out of work, without alternatives, or not that businesses are suddenly shut down overnight, because they can’t get a reliable energy supply. But in 2022, we really need to grapple in Asia and elsewhere, with this idea of the justness of the energy transition.

KHAN: Coming back to you, Annie and Lauly. You are situated in Taiwan, which has, in a way become a possible flashpoint, a possible flashpoint between the world’s superpowers, there’s a we have reports and we do report on Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s ADIZ, how does that affect day to day life, especially when it comes to reporting from across the mainland as well, on such a sensitive industry?

LI: The semiconductor industry has become such a sensitive topic, not only in Taiwan, but also in China. And because of the pandemic, it limits our capability to do business, to do business trips as frequent as in the past. So it is indeed, quite challenging for us to cover the semiconductor industry across the Taiwan Strait that we have to rely on our sources that we built in the past. And then we have to be very careful to deal with the wordings and how we phrase the sentences when we covering such sensitive topics nowadays.

KHAN: Right. Again, I must confess that this time a year ago, I would walk past your desk in New York, and I would see you monitoring the movements of U.S. naval vessels in the Taiwan Strait and elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. Things were tense as far as the security paradigm of the Indo-Pacific. Are you still monitoring the USS Ronald Reagan? Or do you think the security picture has shifted? Do you think that tensions have been dialed down? And do you think that as far as the region is concerned, things are slightly, well, safer?

MORIYASU: No, I don’t think it’s safer at all. But I think the whole tension is based on a little bit of misunderstanding and misreading of China by the American military. But the reality is, the ball has started to roll. And it’s very difficult to stop the ball from running. To be a bit more specific, I think the tension began in a congressional hearing in March by the then-Indo-Pacific commander, Philip Davidson, Adm. Phillip Davidson, who said, who told Congress that he believes in the next six years, the Taiwan threat can “manifest” is the word he used. And that kind of was interpreted by the national security community, that China within the next six years, by 2027 will have the capacity to invade Taiwan. And once China does invade Taiwan, it will be very difficult for America and its allies to kick China out of Taiwan, therefore, we need to be prepared to prevent that from happening.

KHAN: I’d asked all of you particularly starting with you, Mike, I have to send in stories you feel passionate about. Stories, which indicates the way our coverage is headed. Stories, which are important. Now I’m reviewing your list here. And it’s quite an eclectic lineup. You have a cyberscam story from Cambodia, you have a story out of Myanmar’s artists who are pushing back against the regime. And I would like to know, Mike, why these particular stories?

PEEL: Well, I think what links those two stories, which is a theme both within Asia and globally, which is the rise of authoritarianism and the counterpoint, which is the resistance against it. In Cambodia, you have in Hun Sen, the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister, who, as you say, often uncovered, much outside of the country has quietly notched up it will be in January 37 years in power. And his country holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, the group of Southeast Asian Nations. So it has political influence through there and this story by our correspondent in Phnom Penh, Shaun Turton, it’s actually a series of stories, which he’s midway through now has really exposed how Cambodia which has become a real client state of China and possibly a strongest ally in Southeast Asia is now causing Beijing a problem because corruption is so rife in Cambodia, under this sclerotic, 36-year-old regime, that there are now gangs which conduct cyberscams from Cambodia. And they traffic Chinese nationals who have become the victims of this and are tricked and forced, sometimes with violence into working for these scam houses. And China now is in a position where it wants to crack down on this because it’s fueling problems. It’s Chinese people who are suffering, and are victims of this. And so you have this very sort of illustrative cautionary tale of one of the very dark sides of authoritarianism, that this massive sort of corruption that often surrounds it and how it’s gotten out of control, even of Cambodia’s patron China. The other story that you mentioned, was one, which I thought was really striking was after the coup in Myanmar earlier this year, it spawned a whole sphere of protest art of people who were incredibly angry that the country was once again, back under military rule, which of course, it had suffered for almost 50 years until this imperfect, but nevertheless, real semi-transition to a country where there were elections and where civilians played some role in government, even if the military always loomed large in the background. And so that really brings forth this central issue in the world today of so many regimes around the world that are authoritarian or sort of hybrid. They’re notionally democratic and countries like this in Europe, but becoming less so obviously, it’s a theme in the U.S., is the erosion of U.S. democracy. And so this struggle, I think of this resistance to that authoritarian trend is something that is going to be a big theme in Asia next year, and also around the world.

KHAN: Moving on to you, Annie and Lauly. I am firstly intimidated by the sheer volume of reporting that the both of you put out on this crucial industry. But when I asked the both of you to send in your list of stories, which you feel passionate about, I saw a pattern: one pattern is of course the tech battle between the U.S. and China. The second button which one understands is the rise of Chinese manufacturing and the Chinese ability or rather the Chinese resolve for stockpiling and beating other global competitors. And then of course, within the industry, the two major movers and shakers, TSMC and Foxconn, both of them are adapting. TSMC is building up capacity outside Taiwan. Foxconn is getting into EVs. So, if I were to ask you real quickly as we reach the end of the show, if I were to ask you, what is the most important trend here?

CHENG: I would say that U.S.-China tech tension and U.S. intention to curb Chinese tech advancement, and also China’s countermoves and national campaign to cut reliance on American technologies and to nurture their own national champions in all kinds of segments. If you only have like a few minutes to read, during the holiday period, I really recommend to you our story on Beijing’s secret tech champions that we detail China’s efforts to review and replace older American technologies in their chip making industry, even a tiny screw in manufacturing equipment. Now they want alternatives so that they could avoid risks of being cut off. And I really think that the U.S. intention to curb Chinese tech advancement manufactures a lot of new emerging companies and investment opportunities inside China because they want to build a self-reliant sector, the geopolitics of this theme has been incorporated into every topic we cover in the tech industry.

KHAN: Right. And I’m wondering how that will play out in the larger scheme of strategic rivalry between the U.S. and China. Ken Moriyasu. You’ve picked this story in particular, it’s called “All-Turkic corridor heralds rise of new Eurasian political bloc.” It’s quite a headline, it’s quite a declaration. Why can Ken Moriyasu, did you take this story from a very, well, uncovered or an undiscovered part of the world?

MORIYASU: Nikkei Asia has really accelerated its coverage of Turkey over the past year. And that’s because of an understanding that Turkey is probably going to be a major player in the new world order. And that’s because if you look at the world today, there are two obvious superpowers, the U.S. and China. And I think there are four elements that make a superpower. One is a huge economy. One is the huge population. One is a huge military, and most importantly, four, is global ambitions. And if you look around the world, not many countries fit all four, check all four boxes. Russia doesn’t have the population, it doesn’t have the economy. India doesn’t have the global ambition.

And then I came to me that Turkey, for reasons that I will explain from now, does fit all four. Because Turkey itself is a small country, but if you look at the geopolitical location of Turkey, and the potential sphere of influence that it could have, then it fits for four boxes, because Turkey could be the representative of the whole Islamic world. That would add a huge population, huge economy. It could be the representative of the Turkic world, which spreads out to Central Asia. Erdogan hasn’t really succeeded in becoming the head of the Arabic Islamic world, so he has very recently turned his attention to the Central Asian bloc. And if he does manage to unite all this block, then he’s I think he advances closer to Turkey’s ambition of becoming the third major player in the world, after the U.S. and China.

KHAN: Right, that is very interesting, and last but not least, Michael Peel. Asia is not an easy beat. So to say there are these regimes which are tough to maneuver around. So the question, then, is, how do you plan, to borrow an American term, on quarterbacking Nikkei Asia’s coverage through these sensitive, prickly areas? What’s the game plan here? Because of course, the safety of our correspondents reporters contributors is supreme. But then so is the story.

PEEL: Well, Waj, I’m not sure I would style myself a captain or a quarterback, I’ve just aim to contribute, as I hope all journalists do somewhere on the deck or somewhere at the line of scrimmage, to what is, after all, the best journalism, a something in the public interest that brings to light powerful facts and analysis that people really need to know about both in the countries we cover and around the world. And I think that that that has to be the guiding principle of, of any journalism, whether it’s in a, you know, the world’s most thriving democracy, of which there aren’t really many, if any, at the moment, or, or whether it’s in a sort of hard authoritarian state, you know, to, to get the facts right, and to assemble as many of them as it’s possible to do so, in the conditions, which may, as you say, be very difficult. And yes, safety, of course, is an absolutely crucial consideration and editors owe it to, to all reporters and and, and the institutions they work for, to keep people safe. No story is worth dying for. And one thing that’s been very interesting, striking for me, is that working for the Financial Times — I was never a war correspondent — but I was in some difficult situations, sometimes, including in the, in the Middle East during the Arab Spring. And there were people who, the FT and London editors who were always looking out for me and in touch and making sure that I was safe. And they had options to leave places if they seemed a little bit sketchy. And suddenly, I found myself on the other end of the phone, when coupled fell to the Taliban, and freelancer, Kanika Gupta, who had been filing some excellent work for us, from Kabul, suddenly, like so many others was was taken by surprise, and we had to work together to make sure that she could get to a safe place and then exit the country when she she wanted to. And you know, that that really brought home how tricky these situations are, where you’re operating with imperfect information, when in a volatile situation where the intentions of the Taliban, the immediate intentions, were very uncertain. What would it mean, for Afghans, for foreigners who were around. And so that was, you know, a very intense period where, you know, the big priority was to make sure that Kanika was safe and was was was able to get out when she needed to. And fortunately, she was able to. And of course, the situation in Afghanistan has only deteriorated since for the many people there, and we and others have covered that very powerfully. And that is a great worry. For next year, the future of Afghanistan and the suffering of the people of that nation, which has already suffered greatly.

KHAN: Of course, Afghanistan is perhaps the saddest story developing in Asia right now, for over 23 million people — that’s almost two thirds of the population in the war torn country are starving. And the scale of the humanitarian disaster is so massive that both the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have adopted different resolutions just this week to pledge support, but the thorny issue of Taliban recognition remains.

With that I must act Nikkei Asia’s executive editor Michael Peel, our U.S. editor Ken Moriyasu and our Taiwan reporters Annie Ting-Fang and Lauly Li, for joining our first Editors and Reporters Roundtable.

ALL: Thank you! Bye!

KHAN: That is a wrap for our show today and for 2021. We are off for the holidays next week. Thank you for listening, and we wish you a very happy new year.

This episode of Asia stream was produced by Jack Stone Truitt. Our theme music is “What’s the Angle?” by Shane Ivers.

I’m your host Waj S. Khan. Talk to you in 2022.