Asia in 2016: Major events in the 10 largest Asia-Pacific economies

Nominal GDP (2016 estimates) in millions of US$. Source: International Monetary Fund.

1. China ($11,391,619)

[caption id="attachment_58702" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Smog in Beijing Central Business District

Smog in Beijing Central Business District[/caption]

China’s easing economic growth was partly offset by robust domestic consumption

The Chinese government had much to be irritated about in 2016, both at home from its gyrating stock markets, and abroad from an unfavorable international ruling on its South China Sea expansion and attacks on its economic policy from Donald Trump, now President-elect of the United States. Continue reading at...

2. Japan ($4,730,300)

[caption id="attachment_58696" align="alignleft" width="150"]

House damaged by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.

House damaged by the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake.[/caption]

From the emperor to entertainment, Japan’s year was one of regular shocks and surprises.

A series of earthquakes struck Kumamoto in Japan’s southwest in April, triggering fears of a repeat of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. Kumamoto city is located 115 kilometres (72 miles) from the Sendai nuclear power station, the only nuclear plant in operation at the time of the earthquake. The most recent temblors killed at least 50 people and severely damaged more than 40,000 buildings, including the historic Kumamoto Castle. According to the General Insurance Association of Japan, insurance payouts exceeded ¥362.1 billion by October, the second largest on record. Continue reading at...

3. India ($2,250,990)

[caption id="attachment_58621" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Licensed CC: Dinesh Cyanam

Licensed CC: Dinesh Cyanam[/caption]

Narendra Modi’s government has introduced significant reforms, but India’s social progress is marred by rising extremism.

Landmark economic reforms introduced in India last year contrasted sharply with rising extremism, suggesting that the rapidly growing country is still battling old demons of religious divisiveness, rigidity and orthodoxy even as the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi adopts a more streamlined financial outlook. Continue reading at...

4. South Korea ($1,404,380)

[caption id="attachment_58714" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Protesters call for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye at a march in Seoul on November 5, 2016.

Protesters call for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye at a march in Seoul on November 5, 2016.[/caption]

Protests can bring an unpopular president to heel but can’t stop anti-missile defenses.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye was stripped of her executive powersafter the country’s legislature voted for impeachment in December, the culmination of a year of political scandal that saw massive protests in Seoul and other major cities in the last quarter of 2016. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, was detained on charges of extortion and influence peddling. Under the constitution, Park remains president for up to 180 days after the December 9 vote. Park was accused of colluding with Choi to extort money and favors from major South Korean companies. Continue reading at ...

5. Australia ($1,256,640)

[caption id="attachment_58600" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Licensed CC: Kyle Taylor

Licensed CC: Kyle Taylor[/caption]

Concerns over political stability give way to fears of stagnating economy.

After a decade of political instability in Australia – the prime-ministership has changed hands five times since 2007 – last year might have brought a dose of normality to the country’s national affairs. Instead, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fought a close election that was marked by a surge of right-wing populism that saw stridently anti-immigrant Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party returned to federal parliament after an absence of nearly 20 years. Continue reading at ...

6. Indonesia ($940,953)


Indonesia posts strong economic performances amid a more repressive social environment.

Indonesia recorded a fiscally promising 2016, with solid gross domestic growth and a supportive monetary environment bolstering economic momentum. Continue reading at ...

7. Taiwan ($519,149)

[caption id="attachment_58708" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Contestants in the Mr. Gay Taiwan 2017 pageant, held in Taipei in October 2016. The contest is an illustration of how far LGBT rights have advanced in Taiwan.

Contestants in the Mr. Gay Taiwan 2017 pageant, held in Taipei in October 2016.[/caption]

Tsai Ing-wen’s presidential election victory could re-calibrate Taiwan’s relationship with China amid economic uncertainty.

Last year saw the independence-minded Democratic Progressive Party returned to power, but economic considerations might outweigh political factors in the government’s dealings with Beijing. Continue reading at ...

8. Thailand ($390,592)

Male Tiger Temple Thailand

A new king, a new constitution, but same Thailand.

Thailand, under military rule since 2014, made little progress towards democracy during 2016. In August, a clear majority of voters – more than 60 percent supported a military-backed draft constitution in a national referendum. Turnout was estimated at no more than 55 percent, although authorities did not issue an official figure. An army-appointed committee wrote the draft constitutions, while campaigns against a “yes” vote were banned and many people were detained during the lead-up to the referendum. While supporters said the new constitution would restore stability to Thailand, opponents said it would strengthen military power in the country. Continue reading at...

9. Hong Kong ($316,070)

[caption id="attachment_58720" align="alignleft" width="150"]

Debris burns in Soy Street, Mong Kok, after being set on fire by rioters on the morning of February 9, 2016.

Debris burns in Soy Street, Mong Kok, after being set on fire by rioters on the morning of February 9, 2016.[/caption]

Many Hongkongers bristled at increased Chinese intervention, but some protests grew from local roots.

Just as the aftershocks of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement demonstrations of 2014 had calmed down, the Year of the Monkey began in Hong Kong with a violent surprise.

In February, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department cracked down on popular but unlicensed street food vendors in Kowloon’s gritty Mong Kok neighborhood, prompting an angry response from residents. As the protests escalated, police used pepper spray, and fired two rounds of warning shots over the crowd’s heads. Protesters returned fire with water bottles and bricks. The South China Morning Post reported that 124 people were sent to hospital. Separately, Umbrella leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung was denied entry to Thailand in October, at the request of China’s government. Continue reading at ...

10. Philippines ($311,687)

Philippines Drug War Protest in 2016

Rodrigo Duterte has taken the Philippines into uncharted waters with his aggressive mixture of confrontation and compromise.

The Philippines has endured a turbulent year under Rodrigo Duterte, who assumed the country’s presidency from June 30. His agenda, which has included extra-judicial killings as part of a war on drugs and sidelining the United States as an ally, has put the Philippines back in the headlines. Continue reading at ...