Saturday 18 Sep 2021 | 21:25 | SYDNEY
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Asia

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

An Afghan test leaves Australia’s principles wanting

When the Taliban emerged from the wastes of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the international community was caught completely off guard. Intelligence on the ground was pretty much non-existent and whatever policies that followed in dealing with this new threat reflected this deficiency. Subsequent events

China’s digital currency takes shape

China’s financial system is changing. The country’s new Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) – a digital payment and processing network run by the Central Bank of China – and its digital currency, the digital yuan (e-CNY), is expected to completely replace physical cash. Unveiled

The evolving Taliban-ISK rivalry

The attack on evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport by the Islamic State- Khorasan Province (ISK, ISKP, or ISIS-K) triggered much speculation about the Afghan Taliban’s ability to constrain terrorism in the country. But it also served as a reminder of the intense rivalry between the Taliban and

Japan’s nuclear identity and the complicated endgame

Book Review: Akimoto Daisuke, Japan’s Nuclear Identity and its Implications for Nuclear Abolition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) It has been rare in recent years for the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan to pass without controversy, invariably concerning remarks made by the prime

Rich, hot and popular: the taming of Chinese celebrities

Chinese celebrities are in trouble with the Chinese Communist Party. The Party has cracked down on a number of Chinese celebrities, including the billionaire actor and filmmaker Zhao Wei (also known as Vicky Zhao). Zhao has drawn the ire of the Party and as a result, her online presence has been

Did 9/11 change our world?

We asked six experts, “Did 9/11 define our world? If so, how? If not, what did?” After each of their responses to these questions, editor Lydia Khalil challenges the experts with questions that delve deeper into their rationales and reasons

Europe and the South China Sea 

In the 16th century the Portuguese were the first Europeans to navigate the South China Sea and lay eyes upon the thousands of islands and reefs that lay in these waters. Long years have passed since the days in which European navies played a major role in the seas of Asia. However, in recent years

Thai lives matter, too

Last week, Thailand had its own moment akin to the death of George Floyd in the United States. Although it lacked the racial overtones of Floyd’s murder, the helplessness of the victim, the public reaction, and the following demands for police reform all resonate. On 22 August, a video went

Sharpening deterrence

“If you want peace, prepare for war.” The idea that states can avoid war by strengthening their military is attractively simple, and the advice, attributed to Roman author Vegetius, has proved enduringly popular. In modern strategic lingo, it’s embodied in the buzz word “deterrence”.

Will Jokowi pull off a three-peat?

On 13 August, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, granted an audience to Bambang Soesatyo, Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), to discuss how to advance some “limited” constitutional amendments. The country’s press was immediately abuzz with interest

Australia’s seaborne trade: Essential but undefendable

Thomas Shugart’s excellent Lowy analysis Australia and the growing reach of China’s military is by far the best thing I’ve read on the specific defence implications for Australia of China’s swift emergence as a maritime power. It not only explains how China’s maritime forces have developed

Economic diplomacy: After Kabul, Australia looks to India

Suitcase intelligence Bob Carr recalls in his Diary of a Foreign Minister how a senior Australian intelligence official told him bluntly in 2013 that the war against the Taliban was failing. “We spent a billion dollars in Uruzgan province … We could have achieved the same result if I had been

Afghanistan holds lessons for American power in Asia

Has America’s ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan damaged its credibility? The scenes of chaos and panic at Kabul International Airport have certainly reinforced the sense that the United States had lost control of the situation in Afghanistan. The events of the 10 days since the Taliban

China puts its golden goose on notice

In recent years, China’s digital economy has seemed like a house undergoing full-scale renovation. At this moment, it appears to be in the demolition stage. In a series of regulatory smackdowns, the magnitude ranging from sledgehammers to wrecking balls, Beijing has appeared willing to lay waste

India fears a poison harvest from Afghanistan

The takeover of the Afghan government by the hard-line Islamist Taliban was swift and bloodless – at least on the day the group marched into the capital, Kabul. It means a u-turn for the country domestically, away from progressive policies and relatively liberal climate, and a return to the

Duterte’s back-down on US forces in Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has finally put an end to uncertainty regarding the fate of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States. This 1999 agreement provides the rules, guidelines and legal status of US soldiers during military exercises in the

The world must evacuate women police in Afghanistan

Women police have been among the victims of targeted killings as the Taliban expanded their territorial gains over the last year, along with women judges, journalists and human rights defenders. In recent months, some women who served in the Ministry of Interior Affairs or Afghan National Police

Can the US and China cooperate on climate?

Outlining the Biden administration’s approach to China, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in March that the United States would be “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be”. Climate change looked like an obvious vector for bilateral

North Korea calling

Despite protests from North Korea, this week the United States and South Korea kicked off their annual joint military exercise. Korea watchers are worried that the decision to carry on with the drill spells trouble for the inter-Korean détente, which was only revived in July with the

Decoding intelligence on Afghanistan

Did the US intelligence community fail by not accurately predicting the speed and scale of the Taliban’s victory? A familiar blame game is now underway in Washington with administration officials and intelligence sources each backgrounding the media with their respective sides of the story. An

The double challenge for Suga

The flame has just been extinguished for the Tokyo Olympics, a postponed games held under trying circumstances. Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his team managed the task well given the pandemic odds stacked against them. Suga now faces two additional high hurdles. First, his caretaker

China debate not just a matter of hawks and doves

Book Reviews  Peter Hartcher Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future (Black Inc., 2021)David Brophy China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering (La Trobe University Press, 2021) If you wanted to give a political outsider a sense of

What to do after the Taliban take-over

I am not an emotionally detached observer of Afghanistan. The country was once my second home, and I still have friends and colleagues there. Frankly, I am gutted – it is hard to erase the kind of images that emerged from Kabul airport on Monday. Nor should we, this is what desperation looks like

UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt – not just for the good times

The United Kingdom’s proposed “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific was met with plenty of scepticism, including from this author, when it was unveiled in March as part of a broader Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy. Politicians and foreign policy analysts tend to obsess about

Kabul has fallen and so have we

In September of 1996, I along with a group of journalists based in New Delhi, followed the Taliban into Kabul. It was a cold day all round. There were munitions piled high on the side of roads, bloated bodies and destroyed buildings. The corpse of President Mohammad Najibullah had just been cut down

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