The top 10 reads of 2018

From feature stories to personal reflections, these are the best reads of 2018.

Most popular

1. Fate of the SS Ventnor links Chinese with Māori

Chinese descendents offering incense

James To: We had ‘returned’ to possibly the most significant place in Aotearoa for Māori-Chinese relations.” (Photo: Supplied)

In 1902, the SS Ventnor, a ship carrying the remains of hundreds of Chinese gold miners, sank off the coast of Hokianga. In the years after, local communities gathered bones washed onto shore for safekeeping. James To reflects on the ways the historic event has connected Māori and Chinese.

2. An extraordinary 24 hours in Malaysia

Pakatan Harapan supporters

Natasha Hamilton-Hart: “To say this is historic is an understatement. That it happened at all is extraordinary.”

Natasha Hamilton-Hart writes: Despite seemingly every dirty trick in the book used, something extraordinary unfolded on the night of the Malaysian general election.

3. ‘Asian purity’ in Crazy Rich Asians

Dewy Sacayan graduation

Dewy Sacayan: “Seeing the dichotomy in the mindsets of migrants and ‘real Asians’ in the film gave me the feeling that I was authentically represented.” (Photo: Supplied)

Auckland lawyer Dewy Sacayan writes: Watching Crazy Rich Asians gave me the opportunity to look into my own culture through the big screen.

4. Poll tax descendants and their ‘wrong’ Chinese surnames

Lynda Chanwai-Earle

Lynda Chanwai-Earle: “The Chinese name system differs from the Western one in that names start with the family name, followed by the given name.”

In the early days of Chinese immigration to New Zealand, confusion over the Chinese name system resulted in subsequent generations of Chinese-New Zealanders having the “wrong” family names. Lynda Chanwai-Earle shares the story of her Chinese surname.

5. Race against time: Gathering the stories of NZ’s Japanese war brides

Mick Donnelly and Setsuko Donnelly in Miyajima, 1955

Mick Donnelly and Setsuko Donnelly in Miyajima, 1955. (Photo: Supplied)

Like many migrants, Mutsumi Kanazawa experienced a profound sense of disconnect when she moved to New Zealand. Her feelings of isolation sparked her interest in researching the little-known stories of Japanese war brides who moved to Aotearoa in the 1950s and 1960s – a project she hopes will move descendants into learning more about their families’ pasts.

6. WeChat: The app that rivals the internet

WeChat app (Photo: 123RF)

WeChat started as a mobile-messaging system in China in 2011. (Photo: 123RF)

While millions of people around the world are questioning whether they’ve given too much of their lives to Facebook, China’s WeChat is further down the track of being an all-in-one app.

7. ‘Music that unites’: The K-pop fan scene in New Zealand

NZ K pop fans in Auckland

Fine Koloamatangi: “There are certain features that characterise K-pop: catchy music, well-choreographed dance moves, amazing music videos.” (Photo: Supplied)

K-pop enthusiast Fine Lavoni Koloamatangi talks about New Zealand’s K-pop fan culture, the music’s appeal, and highlights some big K-pop acts with New Zealand connections.

8. Building bridges with bilingual play

Chye-Ling Huang

Chye-Ling Huang: “I’ve continually been questioned about where I’m from, whether I can speak Mandarin, what being Chinese means to me.

Bilingual play Roots [根] offers diverse communities an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of Mandarin together in a safe space, says Chinese-Pākeha director, actor and writer Chye-Ling Huang.

9. The story of New Zealand’s kendo master

Alex Bennett

Alexander Bennett: “When I started, it was seven days a week and pretty rigorous. The sensei was a hard man. I didn’t like it at all.” (Photo: Supplied)

Alexander Bennett is one of the world’s foremost experts on Japanese martial arts. In an interview with the Asia Media Centre, he shares about his passion for kendo, his unique Kiwi-Japanese journey, and what continues to drive him.

10. Chinese business values: Guanxi, mianzi, renqing

China business meeting (Photo: 123RF)

Gao Hongzhi: “Guanxi starts with people making friends, even though there may be no instrumental benefits in it.” (Photo: 123RF)

The Chinese cultural values of guānxi (关系), miànzi (面子) and rénqíng (人情) are essential when doing business in China, but may be challenging concepts to grasp for those in the English-speaking world. Gao Hongzhi, a researcher of the role of guānxi in Chinese-Western business relationships, explains the three principles.

Other excellent reads

1. Louisa Cleave: Little-seen side of the DPRK

Sunday TVNZ crew in North Korea

Louisa Cleave: “What we found and reported was something that no one had ever seen before.”

Louisa Cleave, producer for TVNZ 1’s Sunday programme, sheds lights on the experience reporting from North Korea in April 2018.

2. Katie Kenny: What we can learn from Asia’s media startups

Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO. (Photo: GIJN)

Maria Ressa, Rappler CEO. (Photo: GIJN)

Stuff journalist Katie Kenny writes: Independent media is under siege across Asia and the world. But some small startups are fighting back.

3. Sandeep Singh: The way forward in NZ’s media coverage of Asia

Sandeep Singh

Sandeep Singh: “News is produced and disseminated from a self-visualisation of New Zealand as a European nation.

The increasing need for New Zealanders to understand Asia-related issues presents an opportunity for mainstream and ethnic-minority media to collaborate on Asia coverage, writes Indian Weekender editor Sandeep Singh.

4. Andreas Neef: Impact of dam projects on the Mekong

Fishing communities in Mekong River (Photo: Andreas Neef)

Andreas Neef: “It is not only human livelihoods that are at risk from hydropower dam construction.” (Photo: Supplied)

Southeast Asia is experiencing an unprecedented hydropower boom – causing destruction to the ecosystem of the Mekong River, writes Andreas Neef.

5. Sharyn Davies: Threats to diversity in Indonesia

Church in Samosir, Indonesia

Sharyn Davies: “Many of Indonesia’s minority groups are right now being targeted by violent conservatives and the law is failing to protect them.”

For two decades now, Indonesia has been held up as the shining example that Islam is compatible with democracy. But recent developments may impact on the nation’s commitment to unity in diversity, writes Sharyn Davies.

6. Koji Kobayashi: An opportunity for New Zealand in the Asian Games


Koji Kobayashi: “New Zealand could consider using the Asian Winter Games as a springboard to host the first-ever Winter Olympics in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The boundaries between Oceania and Asia have never been so blurred in the sporting world – opening up new opportunities for New Zealand, writes Koji Kobayashi.

7. Patrick Flamm: Social impact of waste in South Korea

Elderly woman collecting rubbish in South Korea

Patrick Flamm: “The most significant impact of the drastic fall in domestic prices for recycling in South Korea, for especially plastic and paper waste, is on the elderly.”

China’s decision to stop importing half the world’s solid waste is having an impact on the elderly poor in South Korea, writes Patrick Flamm.

8. Pip McLachlan: Why we need more voices on China


Pip McLachlan: “Nature abhors a vacuum and we need to avoid a polarised discussion.”

If we don’t have robust conversations about China in New Zealand, we risk sleep-walking into a relationship with a nation we don’t fully understand or ruining one of our most important international relationships, writes Pip McLachlan.

– Asia Media Centre