Wednesday 13 Nov 2019 | 01:23 | SYDNEY
What's happening on
  • 12 Nov 2019 15:30

    Connecting the dots on the Blue Dot Network

    Beyond a press release trumpeting “high-quality infrastructure” and “global trust standards”, things are a bit fuzzy.

  • 12 Nov 2019 11:00

    Russia’s southern strategy

    The pace of Russian re-engagement in Africa and the Indian Ocean region has accelerated as US influence has waned.

  • 12 Nov 2019 06:00

    North Korea’s deadline logic

    Pyongyang has declared an end-of-year cut off in the nuclear talks, yet does such a deadline really matter?

Asia

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

Chinese “birth tourism” shows citizenship evolves

Several years ago, while living in Southern California and pregnant with my twin sons, I began hearing news reports about maternity hotels. Baffled neighbours were asking why so many pregnant Chinese women were coming and going into homes east of Los Angeles, why the garbage cans were piled high

The chance to urge religious freedom in Indonesia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is visiting Indonesia this week on his first international trip as Australia’s leader. The two governments will announce a new trade deal and Australia is keen to show this as a deepening of ties between the two nations. But in his meetings with Indonesian President

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, trade deals and TPP

Development lesson Australia can probably thank China’s amorphous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for helping push over the line the bilateral trade agreement that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will claim as his first diplomatic triumph on Friday. The key breakthrough in the agreement is set to

Belt and Road: China’s biggest brand

Most public discussion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) tends to paint it as a coherent strategy of the Chinese Communist Party. One school argues that this strategy is largely economic in focus, the other major approach focuses on the political drivers. What both need to consider is

Indonesia: running mates spark controversy

The confirmation by President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo’s of conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as running mate for the April 2019 presidential contest evoked disappointment among constituencies in Indonesia committed to democracy and pluralism. Interpreted as a forced compromise, a Jokowi-Ma

India: the north-south disparity

In India, a recently-released report ranking the states by their governance levels has once again highlighted the great disparities between north and south. The Public Affairs Index 2018, released last month by the Bengaluru-based think tank Public Affairs Centre, ranked states by how well

Huawei in Australia: the 5G fear

The Australian government has officially blocked Chinese telecommunications firms, most notably Huawei, from providing equipment to Australia’s new 5G mobile phone networks, citing concerns over national security. While the issue in question regards some of the world’s most sophisticated

The dark side of the Asian Games

While some may argue that sport and politics should never mix, many governments have perfected the art of the sport–politics cocktail. It has a name: sports diplomacy.  Countries such as Australia even have a “Sports Diplomacy Strategy” that explains how this heady concoction is meant

Air traffic control for North Korea’s missiles

Verification is a cornerstone of disarmament. For the ongoing peace initiatives with North Korea, verification is even more critical. Access to the country is notoriously restricted, and visitors to key military locations are kept on a tight leash. The recent decommissioning of North Korea’s

Decoding the Mahathir Doctrine

Since returning to power after his stunning election victory in May 2018, the 93–year–old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made a series of comments reflective of weaker states’ views of the evolving Asian order in the Trump–Xi era. These include a firmer stance on the South

Moon deepens civilian control in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has initiated a major overhaul of the Defense Security Command, a military intelligence unit, in the wake of revelations about its politicisation during the impeachment process last year of former president Park Geun-Hye. This scandal has roiled

Two cheers for the new Caspian convention

Demarcation of the Caspian Sea has been one of the longest lasting casualties of the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Soviet collapse invalidated the 1940 Irano-Soviet treaty that had demarcated the rights of both countries regarding the Caspian Sea. Thus, after 1991

The struggle to conclude peace in Korea

The border separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily armed in the world. Surrounded by thickets of barbed wire, Korea’s misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches about 250 kilometres across the peninsula. It is monitored ceaselessly, a stark reminder of the

China takes on Hong Kong’s press club 

On Tuesday, the usually crowded Central district of Hong Kong, the very heart of the financial hub, experienced an unusual flare of tension. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club hosted an event featuring Andy Chan, the 27-year-old leader of a fringe party promoting Hong Kong independence from

The discord in the Korean peace process

Last week, the South Korean Blue House announced preparations for another  summit – what will be the third – between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un in the northern autumn. Both Seoul and Pyongyang have sent ministers to discuss topics

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

What next for China–Pakistan relations?

With Imran Khan poised to form a government in Pakistan, the policy his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will adopt towards China, especially the US$62 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a focus of intense discussion.     China’s interests have special

Taiwan’s small-power diplomacy

Since 1971, when the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2758 and recognised the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representatives of China”, Taiwan has faced increasing challenges from Beijing that impact Taipei’s ability to maintain formal

Disappearing Deng

It started as soon as Xi Jinping had secured power over the party-state of China. First he was selected to head the Communist Party in November 2012, and then, in what was a mere formality, he was endorsed the following March as President of China. Along the way, he also became Chairman of the

Diplomacy in the post-broadcasting era

The Department of Communications is now reviewing submissions on the issue of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia-Pacific region. This is timely. As always, communicating Australia’s views and voices to the Asia-Pacific region is important. And, more than ever before, finding effective

The women taking on spycams in South Korea

One recent Saturday in August, in the middle of a heatwave with the temperature hitting 35 degrees, 70,000 women gathered in the streets of Seoul. The numbers were unprecedented, but the action wasn’t. They have been staging regular rallies since May, in what has been called the biggest recorded

The Belt and Road’s difficult embrace

This article is based on episode 26 of the Little Red Podcast, featuring Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute, Dirk van der Kley of the Australian National University, and Louisa Lim from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. Last year my most decorated PhD student Colonel

Shinzo Abe’s road to be Japan’s longest serving PM

China’s Xi Jinping this year crafted a constitutional amendment removing the two five-year term limit on the presidency of China, essentially making himself China’s President for life. Around that time in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) carried out

Made in China 2025 and US–China power competition

While US President Donald Trump seems to be cosying up with the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin lately, his administration has wasted no time in upping the ante in its escalating trade war with China. At the moment, no one knows how this showdown might

The many ways to be Chinese Singaporean

About 76% of Singapore’s population are ethnically Chinese, making it the only majority-Chinese country outside of China, Taiwan, and the cities of Hong Kong and Macau. But as Amy Qin’s New York Times article on Chinese influence creeping into Singapore began circulating on social media,

Indonesia: speaking for rights

Last month, Amnesty International held a major press conference for the release of its first research report on Indonesia since opening a dedicated office in Jakarta. Representatives of all major local and international media outlets, including newswires, Al Jazeera, the ABC, and The Australian,

Malaysia: Mahathir navigates the region

Malaysia is not usually a country that comes to mind when one thinks of where the geopolitical initiative lies in the Asia-Pacific. That accolade goes first to China, of course, the rising power in the region, and second to Japan, the state most capable of leading any regional counter-initiative

Timor and Australia: a new chapter or a stalemate?

Last week, an Australian leader visited Dili for the first time in five years. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spent 36 hours in Timor-Leste as part of a four-country diplomatic trip around Southeast Asia. The dispute over whether a pipeline should be built to transfer Greater Sunrise gas to the

Pakistan: the tough road ahead for Imran Khan

The first major challenge Imran Khan will face as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan is from the opposition parties. In the general elections, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party managed to win 115 of 272 general seats in the National Assembly. This is short of the 137 seats needed

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