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Philip Bowring


Philip Bowring is a journalist who has been based in Asia since 1973 and is a resident of Hong Kong. He divides his time between writing columns, books and helping develop, a news and analysis website.

From 1992 to 2011, he was a columnist on Asian affairs for the International Herald Tribune.

He also worked at the Far Eastern Economic Review for many years, including as its editor. Prior to that, he was a regional correspondent for the Financial Times.

Born in England and educated at Cambridge University, he spent his earlier career as a financial journalist in London and Sydney as well as a freelancer in Africa.

He is married to Hong Kong Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo. His hobbies are studying southeast Asian history and competitive sailing.

Articles by Philip Bowring

Indonesia’s Rising Importance

In view of China’s pin-prick strategy, the world’s third-largest democracy is developing some military teeth.

January 10, 2022

Chinese “Might Have Beens”: Big Opportunities Missed

The centenary of the Chinese Communist Party makes this a good time to consider some Chinese “might have beens” and their relevance today.

July 13, 2021

Hong Kong and Beijing: A Tale of Two Cities

The current protests show that Hong Kongers aren’t just interested in money, and mainland elites worry that Hong Kong won’t remain a separate territory where they can safely store their money.

May 28, 2020

Mahathir’s Malaysian Mayhem

The relentless horse trading among Malay politicians has not only undone the result of the 2018 election, but seemingly put an end to a genuinely multi-ethnic coalition.

March 9, 2020

China Vs. Indonesia: Intra-Asian Power Games

Beyond the constant strife with the U.S., China’s assertion of global powers runs into increasing resistance even by normally acquiescent Asian nations.

February 2, 2020

Beyond Hong Kong: Unrest in Indonesia

The once reformist President Joko Widodo, now in his second term, gets swallowed up by the bureaucracy and overall Indonesian politics.

October 11, 2019

Southeast Asia: From Trade Wind to Typhoon

Trade brought prosperity to many of the trading sultanates which lined the coast of the archipelago and peninsula.

September 15, 2019

Southeast Asia: Three Interventions

China’s rise, the spread of Islam and the arrival of Europeans had a profound effect on the region.

September 14, 2019

Southeast Asia: Sumatra and Java in their Prime

Chinese Buddhists traveled to Sumatra to improve their learning before proceeding to India and Sri Lanka.

September 13, 2019

Asia Got Religion

Religion is proving an increasingly divisive factor in the politics of Asian nations.

June 24, 2019

Southeast Asia: The Silk Road and the Roman Route

The Silk Road’s historical importance has been vastly exaggerated. It was the sea that was the most important link between east and west.

May 5, 2019

Southeast Asia: Identity in Search of a Name

What does “Southeast Asia” mean beyond a random chunk of geography?

May 4, 2019

The Islam Factor in Indonesia’s Elections

Using the Islamic lens is the focus of Western analysis when it comes to assessing Indonesia’s political present and future. This limits proper understanding.

April 23, 2019

Philippines: On Top of the World?

An uncertain nation, a happy-go-loose leader and a global beauty pageant.

January 27, 2019

Philippines Vs. Political Dynasties

The Philippines badly needs a constitutional requirement for a law against political dynasties.

November 24, 2018

How China Castrates Hong Kong

Hong Kong is increasingly subject to the demands of the boss in Beijing.

October 14, 2018

When China Rules the World

Chinese journalists and diplomats increasingly act as enforcers of rampant displays of Chinese nationalism abroad.

October 7, 2018

Balancing Asia: India Is Late to the Game

India sees the Belt and Road Initiative as an attempt to clip India’s own wings and build a China-centric world order.

February 6, 2018

The Real Significance of the Rohingya Issue

Asian nations must worry that Myanmar's moves against the Rohingyas won't start untangling all colonial-era boundaries, however illogical in terms of ethnic or religious issues those may have been.

September 15, 2017

Tillerson in Asia

With its short-term focus on what currently occupies the American mind (North Korea), the U.S. is actually playing into China’s hands in Asia.

August 10, 2017

Hong Kong: China’s Elusive Jewel

Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong is part of the surge in Chinese nationalism engendered by economic success.

July 3, 2017

Hong Kong: The West’s Last Colony

Hong Kong was the last significant Western colonial possession. Its handover to China marked the rise of Asia.

July 3, 2017

Duterte of the Philippines: In the Footsteps of Ferdinand Marcos

Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao is a personal power grab that won’t make the Philippines safer.

May 28, 2017

Chinese Showboating in World History

China’s Belt and Road initiative is eerily reminiscent of a 15th century Chinese vanity exercise.

May 12, 2017

Trump’s Meddling in Asia

U.S. pressure on China to "do something" about North Korea results from the Trump team's lack of regional knowledge.

May 6, 2017

Duterte Is Getting More Desperate

More fumbles from the new Philippines president, who now picks on a distinguished woman senator to distract from himself.

March 4, 2017

Malaysia and the Trump Connection

Will Donald Trump, in order to protect his golf buddy, have his administration close down the investigation into 1MDB?

February 28, 2017

Trump’s Amazing International Role Model: Rodrigo Duterte

The Phillipines’ new President, not Russia’s Putin, is the international leader closest to Trump’s heart and mind.

January 28, 2017

Donald Trump, King of the US, and Rama X, New King of Thailand

Thailand and the US are in the process of adjusting to controversial new leaders. Look out for the amazing parallels.

December 10, 2016

Duterte: The Making of a Philippines President

What can be expected of a prizefighter-turned-death-squad-mayor in the country’s top job?

June 3, 2016

China’s ASEAN Coup

Washington is outmaneuvered on the South China Sea Dispute by deft diplomacy, as ASEAN renders itself useless.

May 5, 2016

The U.S. Global Business Community Must Speak Against Trump

Silence now will cost critical economic partners and strategic allies all over the world.

December 12, 2015

Indonesia: Why the US Needs to Pay Closer Attention

The United States needs to treat the unassuming Indonesian President Widodo with the attention due to his country.

October 24, 2015