Saturday 07 Dec 2019 | 12:11 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Asia

“Chinese rice bowl!” Backing state-run enterprise

In a somewhat surreal PR move countering the Trump administration’s trade war against his country, Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled over 1,000km out of the capital last week to the northeast of the country, visiting wheatfields and oil refineries. Posing with farmers and factory workers in

India’s airlines take off and hit turbulence

Some years ago, I took a domestic flight in India on one of the many new airlines that had cropped up over the preceding decade. The flight was on time and smooth, the food was good, the flight attendants friendly, attentive and courteous, their designer uniforms gleaming. All was fine with the

Fawning and flummery winning over love-sick Donald

In the last six months, US President Donald Trump has “fallen in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He has also been persuaded that Kim respects him, likely because he called him “your excellency” in his “beautiful letters”. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has claimed Trump

Hun Sen at the UN: a strategic appearance

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. His presence at this year was highly strategic following the country’s recent general election, which saw his party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secure its mandate extended for

Post-war justice in Sri Lanka inches forward

Sri Lanka’s government – a coalition based on an awkward power-sharing arrangement between political parties that have historically been rivals, the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – has made big promises about transitional justice and healing the wounds of a civil war

Bangladesh: the latest assault on free speech

Bangladesh already suffers poor standards when respecting freedom of expression, but a new set of laws will enable the government to suppress political dissent and free speech using brutal means. A recently passed law known as the Digital Security Act 2018 has

Sulawesi tsunami: how Australia can best help

Yet another tsunami in Indonesia. The earthquake and resulting wave of destruction in Palu, Central Sulawesi, is the second major natural disaster to strike the country this year. It is not yet two months since more than 500 people died in the August earthquake in Lombok near Bali.

A bittersweet victory for Prime Minister Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was re-elected Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s President for his third and final term on 20 September, securing him the prime ministership for another three years and potentially making him the longest serving prime minister in Japan’s parliamentary history

India's game-changing health care initiative

It has been dubbed the world’s biggest experiment in universal health care. Last Sunday, India launched its A$2.2 billion universal health care plan that was promised in the budget earlier this year. It gives 100 million of its poorest people access to free health care to treat serious ailments

Death of a president: no power vacuum in Vietnam

The death of Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang was unexpected by the general public: he was due to address the UN General Assembly this week, and Vietnam’s one-party system has a long tradition of keeping a veil of secrecy around the health status of its top leaders. But Quang’s passing

Sliding rupiah causes Jakarta jitters

Capital has been flowing out of emerging economies around the world, causing currencies and financial markets to fall. While tightening global liquidity was the initial catalyst, the threat from Donald Trump’s trade war and fear that "contagion" might spread from Turkey and Argentina have added

Exploring Taiwan’s aid to the Pacific

In July, the Marshall Islands signed a visa-free entry agreement with Taiwan, a clear testament to the strong diplomatic ties that Taiwan has achieved with some Pacific states in recent years. However, the competition for the Pacific Islands is far from settled. Four countries have

The Chinese box office dilemma

China’s total box office takings have reportedly hit US$6.79 billion in the first eight months of 2018, a US$1 billion increase on the same time in 2017. Hollywood films had long dominated the Chinese box office, but recent successes of domestic films have suggested a shift in preferences of

Malaysia: allowing students to find voice

In October 2016, a group of four students stood in front of a public forum at the Universiti Malaya and declared “students want answers”. They had attended an event featuring the CEO of 1MDB, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund established by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who, along with

China’s aid: the image boost

Mounting accusations of Chinese debt traps, trade imbalances, and neocolonialism in Africa made for a heady backdrop to this month’s meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China’s Xi Jinping made clear he was having none of it. In his keynote speech to African leaders gathered in

The human side of Moon and Kim’s agreement

The past two years have been full of unexpected twists and stalled promises in the relationship between North Korea and South Korea, as well as their ties with the United States. Yet Wednesday seemed to mark a major breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Kim

The other Rohingya crisis

As the world’s eyes are focused on the unfolding Rohingya refugee crisis Bangladesh, to the east in India another danger may be brewing for the Rohingya Muslim community. Over the past year since the latest wave of state-backed violence and displacement began in northern Myanmar, almost a

The fight to repeal anti-gay laws in Singapore

LGBT activists first launched a campaign to repeal an anti-gay law in Singapore in 2007. That campaign ultimately failed, but over a decade later, the LGBT community is giving it another shot. Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code criminalises sex between men, regardless of whether it’s

Korean peninsula and the Moon-shot

The 12 June Singapore Summit has aged badly, as the declaration signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un has proven as useless as most analysts imagined. Consequently, the current US-North Korea diplomatic process is disintegrating under the weight of the parties’ misaligned

Taiwan: the lonely winter

It’s back to normal: That is the message Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe got from China’s President Xi Jinping when they met last week, after nearly five years of tetchy diplomatic relations between the world’s second and third biggest economies. As Xi and Abe shook hands and smiled in

The third Moon-Kim summit: uncertainties abound

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for three days of talks with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un, with denuclearisation and the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the agenda. What is striking about this third Moon-

Myanmar: media stranglehold

In a park in downtown Yangon, a mix of passers-by and snack venders milled about, watching curiously as a pack of reporters jostled amongst themselves for a position. The focus was fixed on several dozen people standing in rows, some holding black balloons, others holding signs. One sign read “

China’s arms trade: a rival for global influence? 

Against the backdrop of the recent China-Africa Defence and Security Forum, numerous articles have been written questioning the rationale behind the conference and the potential ramifications of a closer Sino-African relationship. The fall in export of Russian made weapons to Africa

Belt and Road: more than just a brand

For all of its grandiose ambition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an enigma. The debate about Beijing’s intentions continues. Is it a grand strategy? Or merely a clever repackaging of commercial activity, aimed at internal audiences? In light of increasingly apparent

The Sino-Russian entente

Russia’s Vostok-18 exercises have received significant attention, thanks mainly to the Kremlin’s grand announcements about their scale. If Russia’s defence ministry is to be believed, up to 300,000 military personnel from all services will take part. Notably, they will

Where next, Jack Ma?

On the morning of Monday 10 September, China’s most famous billionaire announced plans to step down as head of the company he founded. Jack Ma (马云) revealed he would leave his role as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, the e-commerce and internet behemoth that he has led for its entire

China’s Muslim ban

At first, Chinese authorities in her village in Xinjiang removed the crescents from the mosque, Auken told me. Then the imam and the boy responsible for the call to prayers disappeared into custody. Authorities began requiring everyone in the village to gather for the weekly Chinese flag-raising

India’s navy: between carriers and patrol boats

Last month, the Indian Navy conducted the largest ever disaster relief and rescue operation under its Southern Naval Command, part of an effort to rescue thousands of people affected by the devastating floods that ravaged the coastal state of Kerala. Known as Operation Madad, the navy led a

PNG: new friend versus old, APEC and polio 

The condemnation of China last week by Nauru’s President Baron Waqa at the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting may have been bolstered by Taiwan’s substantial investment in that tiny Pacific nation of 13,000 people. Nauru is one of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic relations with

China’s trans-Himalayan tango with Nepal

Crossing the China-Nepal border via Tibet and the Himalayas is as formidable as it has been for centuries. To drive from Tibet’s capital city Lhasa to the Gyirong checkpoint bordering Nepal’s Rasuwa takes at least 15 hours – if weather condition allows. That is why, during my meeting with

Political blackmail in the Taiwan-China contest

Last month, El Salvador announced it will establish diplomatic relations with China. Under the “one China” policy, this meant El Salvador had to break official diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The end of the 47-year relationship marks a disturbing trend with the excuse countries have used to break

Japan is back in the Bay of Bengal

The eastern Indian Ocean has become contested waters. The competition for position between China, India and the US is becoming ever more pronounced. But some recent developments indicate that Japan also intends to become an important security player in the region. Japan is back in the Bay of Bengal

India-US: two plus two equals hopes and troubles

After talks had been delayed previously owing to domestic developments in the US, causing much disappointment in India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis finally arrived in New Delhi last week for meetings with their counterparts in India – Foreign

Debating South Korea’s mandatory military service

By now, most people in South Korea know the national team’s victory over Japan in the Asian Games football tournament secured not just the gold medal, but also an exemption from military service for Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min. The win also brought global attention to a simmering

The James Ricketson trial

In the early days of his landmark espionage trial, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson carried a book – “The Faithful Spy” – into the courtroom. It left Cambodian reporters shaking their heads, but it was a nod to Ricketson’s ironic sense of humour – a trait that endured throughout his

China’s tech bubble

In the four decades that have followed China’s initial stage of post-Mao “Reform and Opening Up”, the world has learned to expect great things from the Middle Kingdom’s centrally-planned economy. It has established itself as the low-end “factory of the world” and orchestrated an

Mahathir redux: the past guides the future

Impulsive yet calculating, persuasive but often authoritarian, a visionary obsessed with details, Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister from 1981-2003 undoubtedly left a deep imprint on Malaysia. Credible achievements marked his tenure, including prudent macroeconomic management,

The Rohingyas: a new terrorist threat?

This is the final in a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, featuring Morten Pederson on the domestic drivers of conflict, and Nicholas Farrelly on the consequences for neighbouring Bangladesh.  There have been a small number of militant Muslim groups in

The threat within: Pakistan’s ties to China

Last month, a suicide bomber in Pakistan’s Balochistan province attacked a passenger bus transporting 18 Chinese engineers from Saindak town in the southwest to Dalbandin Airport. The engineers were on their way home for a holiday after working on the Saindak Copper-Gold project.

Lies, damn lies, and Chinese statistics

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and of course to that list should be added Chinese statistics. After reporting three quarters of 6.8% GDP growth – even though the economy and corporate sector has been shaken by deleveraging, trade wars, and an ever more volatile exchange rate – the official

The Rohingya are stuck

This is the second of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, featuring Morten Pederson on the domestic drivers of conflict, and Andrew Selth on the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  Most of the Rohingya who were forced from their homes in

Will Solomon Islands abandon Taiwan?

Over the last couple of years Taiwan has been steadily haemorrhaging diplomatic allies. Countries from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean have switched allegiance to Beijing, leaving just 17 countries maintaining formal relations with Taipei. The largest bloc of such countries is in the

No safe return for Rohingya refugees

This is the first of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, with subsequent articles by Nicholas Farrelly and Andrew Selth to discuss the situation in Bangladesh and the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  The Report of the Independent International Fact-

Beleaguered Bangladesh and big neighbour trouble

A new threat from beyond its borders looms over Bangladesh. With as many as nearly a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar having already taken shelter in the south-eastern part of the country, there is now bad news filtering in from the neighbouring Indian state of Assam. The state, recently

Lessons of yet another Indonesian blasphemy case

When an ethnic Chinese woman in Medan named Meliana was sentenced on 21 August* to 18 months on blasphemy charges for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer (azan) in the mosque next door, outrage erupted across Indonesia. More than 50,000 people joined an online petition to free

Asia’s order beyond the great powers

The US and China have imposed tariffs on more than US$100 billion worth of goods in an escalation of their ongoing trade dispute. There is a real risk that the ongoing Sino-American economic tension will exacerbate their growing geopolitical rivalry. The sheer scale of the US and China and the

South Korea’s demographic deficit

South Korea’s transformation from a war ravaged, poor and undeveloped country to be now ranked by the World Bank as the 12th largest economy globally has been accompanied by extraordinary social change at home. The greatest challenge is the decline of the national

Pages