Here’s a countdown of the top 10 articles you read the most in 2021 – a terrific mix of high-quality analysis of big events and cross-cutting themes.

We’re taking a break from the end of this week. Check back over the coming weeks for select highlights from the year. Normal transmission will resume from 10 January.

All the best for the season! – Eds

Interpreter’s Top 10 of 2021

10. Indians are becoming visible in Australia like never before – Aarti Betigeri

Outrage over the two-week India travel ban is another marker of the diaspora’s growing influence in Australian politics.

9. In Singapore, Covid vs privacy is no contest – Kirsten Han

Adjustments have had to be made during extraordinary times, which is why most people, including more privacy-conscious civil-society activists, have been generally compliant with Singapore’s contact-tracing systems. But the ease with which people have adapted to this surveillance also reflects how often privacy is forced to take a back seat to other priorities in the city-state.

8. China’s digital currency takes shape – Evan Freidin

A digital currency is money that only exists as electronic data … This centralisation means that China’s government has the ability to freeze and close accounts – something that is nearly impossible to achieve with more democratic cryptocurrencies.

7. Legalising same-sex marriage in Japan – Akimoto Daisuke

It is true that there is opposition and caution among the Japanese public, but surveys have also shown up to 80% support for the introduction of same-sex marriage.

6. Is Pakistan fuelling a Taliban takeover? – Hussain Nadim

It is hard to separate fact from fiction at a time when information amounts to heavy artillery in a broader political battle for support. Claims that Pakistan supports the Taliban in a “double game” is one such fiction that has persisted despite evidence to the contrary.

5. How China is bending the rules in the South China Sea – Oriana Skylar Mastro

The issue is not that China flagrantly violates international law – it is that it does so while simultaneously creating a veneer of legal legitimacy for its position.

4. Afghanistan’s unseen Covid crisis – Andrew Quilty (published in 2020)

Many Afghans with symptoms prefer to wait out the illness rather than risk a visit to the hospital and a long wait for results.

3. Boys’ love brings edgy drama to China, and a backlash – Graeme Smith

While a decade ago this genre was bubbling away in the quietest corners of the Chinese internet, a series of hit online and TV dramas mean boys’ love is now big business … Censorship of explicitly sexual content has been tightening under the macho stewardship of Xi Jinping.

2. Philippines community pantries give help – and send a message – Andrea Chloe Wong

A handwritten slogan can be spotted on cardboard posters at stalls across the Philippines: “Give according to your means, take according to your need.” … The double economic burden of job losses and rising prices of commodities has afflicted the Philippines, which has yet to recover from one of the world’s longest and strictest Covid-19 lockdowns.

1. Agalega: A glimpse of India’s remote island military base ­– Samuel Bashfield

India regards the new base as essential for facilitating both air and surface maritime patrols in the south-west Indian Ocean, and as an intelligence outpost … This base on Agalega will cement India’s presence in the south-west Indian Ocean and facilitate its power projection aspirations in this region.


Main image via Flickr user Percita