Sunday 24 Oct 2021 | 03:08 | SYDNEY
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Asia

ASEAN muddles through on Myanmar

Diplomacy is messy. Officials, politicians and (dare I say) think-tank analysts relish the highfalutin talk of rules, treaties, norms, values and principles. But, more often than not, it all comes down to realpolitik and the art of possible. A case in point is the unprecedented decision by the

China’s economic sanctions made Australia more confident

China has singled out several Australian industries with economic sanctions since May last year, imposing hefty tariffs on Australian barley and wine exports, while throwing up barriers to other products including timber, lobster and coal. Beijing’s action has largely been seen as a response to

US-China: tiers of cohabitation

As strategic tensions between the United States and China calcify so too does the conclusion that they have entered into “a new Cold War”. Indeed, the strenuousness with which both countries avow that they must avoid such an outcome would only seem to confirm that judgment. One reason the

If pushed far enough, would Myanmar leave ASEAN?

The decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not to invite Myanmar’s military leader to two related summits in Brunei on 26–28 October raises an intriguing question: if pushed far enough, would the junta in Naypyidaw take Myanmar out of the regional grouping? Myanmar’s military

India’s AI conundrum

Late last month, people across the globe gathered online for the second Annual Artificial Intelligence for Information Accessibility Conference (AI4IA), organised by UNESCO. Fittingly for an AI conference, it was hosted on the Gather.Town platform, which allows for virtual customisable spaces to be

Australia, Indonesia and climate change

In February 2020, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo made a state visit to Australia and addressed a joint sitting of the Australian parliament. This was a rare privilege granted to only a few world leaders, and Indonesia’s popular president – known as Jokowi – used the opportunity to

Would a war over Taiwan be legal?

Australia’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for “solidarity” with Taiwan in the face of China’s “intimidatory sorties” testing its air defences. As the war drum incessantly beats, would a war against China to defend Taiwan be legal? For all the abstract talk about a rules-

AUKUS: Why Beijing didn’t go ballistic

China was expected to be furious about the recently signed AUKUS security pact. After all, it is generally believed that the deal to provide Australia with technology to build nuclear submarines and the associated cooperation with the United States and United Kingdom amounts to a significant

Vietnam had seemingly conquered Covid. Then Delta spread

Ho Chi Minh City and the wider south in Vietnam finished its 24-hour-a-day Covid-19 lockdown of three months last week, allowing people to venture out to buy food rather than wait for soldiers to coordinate deliveries to their homes. Soldiers had manned barricades between precincts as part of social

Thailand’s military and human rights

Despite its appalling past record of often-deadly violence against junior military ranks and its fellow citizens, there are some signs Thailand’s army may be starting to change for the better. On 30 September, a military court indicted nine of 13 soldiers who beat and tortured a fellow soldier

Australia should donate surplus vaccine to Indonesia

In the middle of this pandemic, every vaccine is precious. Australia should give its spare locally-made AstraZeneca vaccines to friends in Indonesia. Indonesia has a vacuum of need for vaccines that is predominantly being filled by China, and yet Australia happens to have millions of spare doses

Australia-Korea minilateral: A potential win-win

The Australia-Korea relationship is in its sixtieth year, and although trade, historic and strategic links are strong, security cooperation is less advanced. Earlier this year, on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the two countries agreed in-principle to elevate their relationship to “

The Duterte double

On 25 August, Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention to seek the second-highest post in the Philippines government in next year’s elections. “I will run for vice president,” he said. “I will continue this crusade [against] insurgency, then criminality [and] drugs.” But by 2 October

China and the future of the Antarctic mining ban

China’s fast-growing logistical and scientific capability in Antarctica and more active participation in Antarctic affairs continue to draw attention and scrutiny. In recent years, China has notably spoken about striking a “balance between protection and use” in the Commission for the

Chinese warplanes overhead Taiwan (or maybe not)

China’s PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF) latest flights into the Taiwanese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) have gained people’s attention. The arcane ADIZ term denotes a block of airspace established over, and usually somewhat beyond, a nation’s territory in which any unknown approaching

In defence of AUKUS

When Barack Obama announced the rebalance to Asia in 2011, he also revealed the rotational deployment of US Marines to Darwin. In the intervening decade, however, additional changes to US regional posture have been few and far between. As a result, leading US defence expert Michèle Flournoy has

Could India join the Five Eyes?

As the United States grapples with China, Washington is seeking to build a tight-knit security network in the Indo-Pacific. Among those measures is a possible expansion of the Five Eyes, as the intelligence sharing arrangement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United

Is China’s “age of ambition” over?

Of the many great books that have been written on contemporary China, there are few that I can recommend more highly than Evan Osnos’ Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Having spent much of my own early career in Beijing, Osnos’ writing captures the emotional

Meet Japan’s new PM

In a fiercely contested vote on Wednesday, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chose Fumio Kishida as party president. He is now set to form government as Japan’s next prime minister. In the runoff vote, former foreign minister Kishida comprehensively defeated his nearest rival

Indonesia: painted politics

Street art has been much discussed across Indonesia’s airwaves in the last couple of months. Three spray-painted murals expressing a critical perspective on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were quickly covered over by officials, igniting heated debates about free expression

China’s declining Pacific aid presence

In November 2018 Port Moresby was a sea of red in the build up to the APEC leader’s summit. Chinese flags covered every road of Papua New Guinea’s capital while “China aid” was emblazoned – literally – on every traffic light. With China’s President tacking an official two-day state

AUKUS + Indonesia

The debut of AUKUS – the trilateral military grouping between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – has sent a shockwave across the Indo-Pacific. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government seems to have turned its back on Australia’s newer partners in Asia in favour of older

Yemen: the search for leverage after Afghanistan

Concerns are growing about the ramifications of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The ripple effects of the pull-out and its urgent consequences have bolstered Islamist ambitions – not only in Afghanistan but beyond. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “real danger (

Australia’s real leverage in China’s CPTTP bid

When China applied earlier this month to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the renamed 11-nation trade pact spanning Asia and the Pacific, Beijing seemed to hand Australia the rare diplomatic gift of leverage. Australia, like other existing members of

Economic diplomacy: After AUKUS in trade, aid and technology

Waiting line China is now the top export and import partner for 12 of the other 20 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group and a top one-way partner for five others. The US score on this measuring stick is two and one. This is one very basic way of seeing how China’s bid

Can the China model be accommodated in the CPTPP?

On 16 September, China officially applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comprising Australia and 10 other members. The free-trade pact is the most extensive in the region, and accounts for almost 14 per cent of global GDP. Before pulling

By land or sea: Thailand perseveres with the Kra Canal

In 1677, the Thai monarch Narai the Great had a dream. He sent an engineer south to investigate the possibility of excavating a vast waterway through the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, known as the Kra Isthmus, with the hope of opening a direct trade route between Siam and Burma – imagine

AUKUS and the CPTPP: It’s all about China

China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) just hours after announcement of the new tripartite AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) security partnership may – or may not – have been coincidental.

Myanmar’s extreme Buddhist nationalists

In a surprise move, Myanmar’s ruling military junta announced on 6 September the release from prison of Ashin Wirathu, a controversial Buddhist monk whose sermons have been blamed for inciting anti-Muslim violence over the last decade. In a statement, the military said it had dropped charges

China – a lonely superpower

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia move to form a new AUKUS grouping, various reports have emerged of a “new Quad” led by China and featuring Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Iran’s imminent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and plans for the four countries to

North Korea’s calculated restraint

September is an important month for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to make a last ditch attempt to revive relations with a recalcitrant North Korea before the presidential election next March. To such an end, his administration has sought to use major inter-Korean anniversaries this month,

Beyond Fortress Australia

The reality of living in a pandemic has dawned on Australia. Covid cases at the time of writing are high and still climbing. The virus is here to stay. Equally clear is that ring-fencing the country from the world — the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy — is no longer viable

Tokyo2020+1 wraps up as Japan’s next race begins

No sooner was the Paralympic flame extinguished, with the athletes filing out of Tokyo’s National Stadium for one last time, that all sporting psephologists turned their eyes to the next big race, the runners positioning themselves for the sprint to become Japan’s next leader. The date of formal

Diagnosing Indonesia’s health challenges

In July, Indonesia was dubbed one of the global epicentres for Covid-19. Media reports warned of a health system collapse and cemeteries overwhelmed with burial demands. But a little more than a month later, Indonesia’s situation seems to be improving. The second week of September marked seven

The right climate for Indonesia-United States cooperation

Indonesia is feeling a little ignored. The recent visit by US Vice President Kamal Harris to Vietnam and Singapore led to speculation that Indonesia was not a priority for the Biden administration. “Snubbed again, Joe?” read one local headline. A few weeks beforehand, US Defence Secretary Lloyd

Candour, at last, on China – but then what?

The most important foreign policy speech by a cabinet minister so far this year was delivered last Monday. That Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was the speaker was a little surprising. A little less surprising was that he identified an ascendant, muscular China as a first order threat to the country’s

Economic diplomacy: Australia Inc’s new world order

Risky business Australia’s sovereign wealth fund – the Future Fund – was established 15 years ago when the rivers of gold from selling iron ore to China were just starting to flow and country was only about half-way through its record-setting 28 years of economic growth. The Future Fund’s

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