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

1. China ($11,391,619)

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)

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)
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)

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

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)
Contestants in the Mr. Gay Taiwan 2017 pageant, held in Taipei in October 2016.
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)

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)

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

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.

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.

The controversial campaign against drugs, in which nearly 6,000 people were killed without arrest, trial or conviction during the second half of 2016, drew international concern. Duterte reacted by condemning anyone who opposed his tactics, including the U.S. and the United Nations. In September, before heading to the ASEAN Summit, he appeared to call Barack Obama a “son of a bitch” and warned Washington he would terminate the countries’ alliance after the then-U.S. President had expressed his concerns about extrajudicial killings. Philippine National Police chief Ronald Marapon “Bato” de Rosa said crime data vindicated the campaign, with 11,800 crimes reported in July 2016, compared with 17,105 reports lodged in July 2015.

Relations between the U.S and the Philippines stumbled throughout the year as Duterte amplified his rhetoric, saying he would turn to other allies such as China and Russia. In October, the Philippine leader met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two countries signed US$13.5 billion in deals, according to Ramón López, the Philippines’ Secretary of Trade.

China and the Philippines appeared to put aside their hostilities related to sovereignty of the South China Sea. Filipino fishermen were allowed to continue operating in the disputed Scarborough Shoal area for the first time since Chinese ships seized the islets in 2002. For its part, Manila said it would not confront China about military bases in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Talks were concluded in early December over cooperation in environmental protection, humanitarian assistance and fishing.

The Philippines was hit by several severe typhoons in 2016, including only the second tornado to be recorded in metropolitan Manila, and heavy flooding caused by a strong southwest monsoon from August. Several regions of Luzon were declared to be in a state of calamity due to the weather phenomenon known as El Nino.
Although the Philippine stock market was the second-worst performing globally last year, after only Ghana’s, the overall economy expanded strongly, racking up third-quarter growth of 7.1 percent year-on-year, its fastest pace since 2013. Both investment and consumer spending has surged since Duterte’s presidency began, helped by US$160 billion in infrastructure spending pledges. The announced projects include at least US$1 billion to build an airport and a railway line to transform the former Clark Air Base north of Manila into a commercial hub. Redevelopment of Clark, abandoned by the U.S. military in 1991, has been beset by delays.

– Asia sentinel