Recap: Political events in 2018

It’s been an eventful year of politics in Asia. Here’s a quick look back at some events in the region in 2018.


  • Hun Sen returns to power

    Cambodia’s election took place on 29 July, with leader Hun Sen facing little challenge at the polls. New Zealanders of Cambodian descent joined others worldwide in staging an election boycott. In April, opposition politician Mu Sochua came to New Zealand as part of a global tour to draw support for democracy in Cambodia.

    In early December, the Cambodia Parliament passed legislation that could allow political activity by opposition politicians.


  • Removal of presidential term limits

    In March, China’s National People’s Congress voted to remove the presidential term limits – paving the way for Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely. New Zealand-based China experts weighed in with several views.

  • PRC influence

    The topic of PRC influence was frequently discussed in New Zealand and international media, and will continue to be of interest. Check out our page featuring a timeline of the PRC influence coverage in Asia and New Zealand.

  • Xinjiang

    Chinas western province of Xinjiang has attracted international criticism for over reports of the detention and re-education of Uighur people, an ethnic Muslim minority – charges which China denies.

  • Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

    China’s push to create a modern-day Silk Road has seen large infrastructure projects planned in areas spanning the Pacific Islands to Portugal. Check out China expert Bonnie Glaser’s comments on the Belt and Road, and an appraisal report by the NZ Contemporary China Research Centre.


  • LDP election

    Japan’s ruling party conducted a leadership election where incumbent Shinzō Abe retained his leadership through to 2021 – making him the the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in 50 years. He is intent on amending the country’s war-renouncing Constitution.


  • Malaysian election

    The Pakatan Harapan coalition unexpectedly overcame the odds in May to remove the dominant UMNO party’s 60-year grip on power. While the billion-dollar 1MDB scandal featured strongly in the loss of faith of the Najib Razak administration, expert Naimah Talib said “bread-and-butter issues” were likely the main driver of the shock election result.


North Korea

  • Shifting North-South ties

    South Korea and the DPRK have been experiencing a thawing of ties under the new Moon Jae-in administration. While ties are appearing to shift, the DPRK has yet to make concrete progress in denuclearisation. South Korea’s Reunification Ministry also has to navigate the complexities of increasing North-South cooperation while also advancing nuclear talks between North Korea and the US. 

  • Kim-Trump Summit in Singapore

    The historic summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump on 12 June attracted global attention. Check out a roundup of views published by English-language media in Asia.


  • Rising extremism

    Imran Khan was voted into office in July with a campaign on anti-corruption. The new administration has been facing the heat for caving into extremist pressures.

Sri Lanka

  • Power struggle

    On 26 October, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly replaced the Prime Minister, triggering a constitutional crisis that is expected to continue playing out through the new year.


  • Taiwan-China tensions

    Taiwan lost allies to China this year, leading President Tsai Ing-wen to accuse China of conducting “dollar diplomacy”. Meanwhile, alongside the November municipal elections, Taiwan also voted on 10 referendums on various issues including same-sex marriage.

Regional trade agreements


    The CPTPP, also known as TPP-11, comes into force on 30 December 2018 for New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Canada and Mexico.

  • Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

    The ASEAN-led RCEP trade agreement is expected to be finalised in 2019. RCEP countries will meet for rounds of negotiations in February, April and May 2019.

  • Singapore Closer Economic Partnership agreement

    Under the enhanced CEP agreement, New Zealanders can enter Singapore for three months visa-free. Kiwi businesses with a presence in Singapore will also be able to send employees to work in the city-state for eight years instead of five.

– Asia Media Centre