All in Asia

What Explains the Tension Between Taiwan and China?

The road from Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport to the capital, Taipei, looks like the sort of highway you would see anywhere else. However, in Taiwan, things are not always what they seem. Sections of this road double as runways. They aren’t normally used for planes, but they are ready in case Chinese missiles ever destroy the country’s conventional airstrips. Cruise missiles stand ready in unmarked trucks. City neighbourhoods hide tanks. There is a hollowed-out mountain with room for on hundred fighter jets. The shoreline boasts an oil-filled pipeline ready to greet invaders with a wall of fire. Taiwan has good reason to be nervous.

Why is Russia So Big?

If you visit russianrailways.com, you can buy a ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok. It’s a journey of almost 6,000 miles that takes you across eight time zones all the way to the Pacific Ocean in seven days. Russia is much larger than any other country. The next three biggest—Canada, the USA, and China—are less than 60% its size. Why is Russia so big?

How Did China Become So Powerful?

Once upon a time there was a beautiful kingdom called China. It had stunning mountains, gorgeous valleys, and hundreds of miles of coastline. Its government was sophisticated and efficient. Its leaders dressed in silk.  It was the wealthiest country in the world. Alas, the beautiful kingdom’s glory did not last. Foreigners invaded the land and exploited it. The people tried to resist foreign domination—their failure only made their condition worse.

After a century of humiliation, China is once more a major player in world affairs.It is the world’s second largest economy. 700 million people have escaped poverty. How did China do it?

Why is South Korea So Rich?

The competition for Korea’s most famous cultural export is now closed. With more than 3 billion views, Gangnam Style has done more to put South Korea on the map than anything else. The video portrays South Korea as confident, stylish, and prosperous—and that’s accurate.

What’s remarkable is how quickly South Korea became one of the most advanced economies in the world. In 1960, the average South Korean was poorer than the average person in Senegal, Honduras, or the Philippines. Today, they are more than ten times richer. How did that happen?

Why Do India and Pakistan Hate Each Other?

Pakistan and India don’t like each other at all. With good reason. Pakistan’s intelligence agency has given support to Pakistani terrorists in India, who have killed hundreds over the past decade. On the Indian side of the border, where many would prefer to live under Pakistan’s authority, Indian troops have killed tens of thousands. Both countries have nuclear missiles pointed at the other. They have fought four wars in living memory. The relationship between India and Pakistan is one of the most hostile in the world today. Why?

Why is Afghanistan So Hard to Control?

Every time Tom Collins returned to Chicago, people asked him the same question. They wanted to know why Afghanistan was such a mess. His friends and family followed the news from that part of the world more closely than most because Tom had been working there for more than a decade. He had a group chat to reassure people that he was OK after every tragedy.

Why is Tibet Not Free?

Tibet is not a country. It is a province of China. And that is deeply frustrating for Tibetans who believe they should be independent. This anger explains the bursts of violence that affect the region. More than a hundred people have burned themselves to death in the past ten years. So why is Tibet not free?

Can Communism Work?

In 1991, this question seemed like an easy one to answer. The Soviet Union had just come to an end, the other Communist states in Eastern Europe were no more. Since then, the remarkable growth of China has made the question more complicated. In 1991, the average person in China lived on US $360 a year. Now, the figure is US $8,500. When America’s capitalist economy dived into recession in 2008 and China’s didn’t, Chinese officials were quick to argue that their system was superior. So can Communism work?

Why is North Korea So Dangerous?

North Korea doesn’t have an immigration problem. No one is lining up to move to a country known for its aggressiveness and shockingly low standards of living. For decades, it has threatened South Korea and Japan with missile strikes and it now has the ability to do the same to the USA. Why is North Korea so belligerent? Why would such a small country threaten the United States? Is Kim Jong-un really that bad? Or mad? Or is there something else going on?