Thursday 24 Jan 2019 | 03:52 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Asia

Just how green is the Belt and Road?

China is frequently hailed as a leader in international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement, and pledging that carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and decline rapidly thereafter. The country has quickly become one of the

2019: a rough road ahead for Xi

In 2018, Xi Jinping seemed to be in an almost unassailable position in Chinese politics. China’s president started the year with the sort of political power that few since Mao have enjoyed, with what was seen as an emphatic victory for him at the 2018 National People’s Congress for his proposal

Talking to the Taliban: challenges for Kabul

Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections are due in July and there are, at best, contradictory signals about progress on the negotiations with the Taliban. Despite 2018 being one of the most violent years in Afghanistan’s post 9/11 history, last year also increased hopes on the

Australia articulates its Indian Ocean priorities

At the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship geopolitical conference held last week in New Delhi, Australia’s high-level presence was noticeable. Foreign Minister Marise Payne led the delegation from Canberra and was accompanied by Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell. Campbell’s

Why China’s financial system remains closed

While China still uses the rhetoric of “reform and opening up” its financial system remains relatively closed and is set to get even more unfriendly for foreign investors despite some recent announcements on liberalisation. The recent news that China continues to delay access by Visa and

Timor-Leste’s forgotten Chinese

There used to be thousands of them – the children of the children of the first Chinese people to migrate to Timor-Leste in the 1800s and their indigenous Timorese husbands and wives. But conflict, rejection, and the promise of a better life abroad saw the dispersed Hakka-descended Chinese-

Philippine alliance angst

Last month, at his end-of-year press conference, the Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana called for a review of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Under the terms of this treaty, either side can unilaterally withdraw. When asked if post-review options

North Korea is eclipsing the Moon presidency

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently shook up his cabinet. In particular, his controversial chief of staff, Im Jeong-seok, stepped down. The growing impression in South Korea is that Moon is more concerned with relations with North Korea than with domestic issues. Certainly, it appears that

What I missed last year: Japan, the unlikely overachiever

A series where Lowy Institute experts look back on what surprised them in 2018. Surveying international news headlines from 2018, you’d be forgiven for believing that the geopolitical landscape of Asia is exclusively a two-horse race. US, China spar over trade at WTO. More worrying than a US-

North Korea’s “selective détente”

Almost two weeks have passed since Kim Jong-un delivered his 2019 New Year Address. He informed the world of his intention to capitalise on his diplomatic victories to enhance North Korea’s international status. He also expressed his willingness to continue the détente with South Korea and

Religious freedom in China: better than before?

Speaking at New York’s Asia Society Policy on 5 December, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd contended that religious freedom in China is “much better now than it was before.” A storm of indignant posts spread on social media, voicing displeasure and disagreement. If, as Rudd argued

Choking point: India’s environmental crisis

It is January; a month that, in north India, once fell in the season of winter, but now is more synonymous with the depths of the region’s dreaded pollution season. This month, as in recent years, a brutal combination of diverse factors has continued to coalesce to produce dire air quality in its

The rude health of Cambodia’s Hun Sen

Once again, “Victory Over Genocide Day” has been celebrated in Cambodia by the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) government and its supporters. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the defeat of the Pol Pot regime by an invading Vietnamese army numbering around 100,000 and the small,

Best of The Interpreter 2018: Talking with Kim Jong-un

How to capture a year of extraordinary diplomacy on the Korean peninsula, that started out with bragging about the size of a nuclear button to a cozy photo-op with the US President and North Korea’s supreme leader. Perhaps Khang Vu put it best, asking whether the so-called “Olympic truce”

Best of The Interpreter 2018: The US-China trade war

In recent months, the US-China relationship has accelerated from rivalry toward adversarial antagonism. In the US, a policy shift on China has been propelled by a sense that China is winning and America is losing in a competition for global hegemony.  “I want tariffs,” Donald Trump&

Kovrig case casts pall over China research ties

Just as the Trump-Xi meeting at the G20 produced a glimmer of hope for mutual de-escalation, the US-China trade war has taken its ugliest turn yet. Last week, Beijing detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial

What I missed this year: America pushes back

A series where Lowy Institute experts look back on what surprised them in 2018. For some years now I have believed that the United States is on the losing end of a long struggle with China for strategic hegemony in Asia. My position is summarised in a long article I wrote for the Financial Review

Russian gas will not stop China’s air pollution

As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties. But although upping gas

Competing shades of saffron in Indian politics

The Indian city Ayodhya recently once again turned into a saffron fortress. The BJP seems set to fight the 2019 elections by rallying its factions and allies to assert the Hindutva agenda and further politicising Hindu-Muslim relations. More than 50,000 supporters of the Hindu Right,

How Australia should deepen ties with India

Ties between India and Australia have always been a little constrained – and unsurprisingly so, as traditionally there has been little to connect the two countries. For its part, Australia has for decades sought to have a better relationship with India, one that extends beyond shared democracy,

Separating the Philippine state from the church

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is a very different leader than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. Duterte has expressed his love for Xi Jinping. Aquino took China to court. Aquino significantly enhanced Philippine-US relations during the Obama administration. Duterte called Obama a “son

Xi Jinping in 2018: Any closer to the truth?

In 2016, I published a study of Xi Jinping, CEO China: The Rise of Xi Jinping (I B Tauris). This book has subsequently been reissued in paperback, and in 2018 I did a shorter overview, The World According to Xi with the same publisher. For one reason or the other, other the last few years I have had

China takes off for the Moon, tethered by politics at home

Early on Saturday morning, China launched the Chang’e 4 robot spacecraft on course for the Moon. If all goes well, it will become the first spacecraft in history to soft-land on the far side of the Moon, probably in early January. This would be a tremendous achievement for China and for the

US-China competition is all about us

We are not entering a new Cold War, despite both Chinese President Xi and US Vice-President Pence finding the term a useful rhetorical tool. The Americans have decided to compete against China because they think the last two decades of cooperation has failed. The Trump Administration,

Steady but slow in Australia-Japan security cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Darwin was rightly billed as historic and “deeply symbolic”. It also delivered some substance, with the announcement of important deals on the financing of regional infrastructure and on deepening cooperation on maritime security. It did not

Rap song sparks a gender conversation in South Korea

Sister, why mad? Blame system, not men. I am feminist. A song released recently by Korean rapper San E has touched a nerve in South Korea. The controversial song “Feminist” critiques Korea’s dating culture, beauty standards and the gender pay gap, which he calls a “f---ing fake fact”.

How the US can prevent a China-dominated Asia

The US military is dangerously under-funded and could lose the next big war it wages. That is the key message from a new report by the influential National Defense Strategy Commission. Established by Congress to provide an independent, non-partisan assessment of the 2018 US National Defense

The India-Pakistan corridor of peace

The recent decision by the government of Pakistan and India to build a corridor from Indian Punjab to Kartarpur in Pakistan has raised hopes for the revival of a dialogue between the countries. The Kartarpur corridor will be built over a 4km stretch and will enable Sikh pilgrims from India to

Dilemmas in Afghanistan’s paradoxical peace drama

Last month, Moscow hosted a peace conference on Afghanistan and provided an opportunity for the Taliban to participate at the international level. The Afghan government did not participate in this conference officially, although the country’s High Peace Council, first established in 2010 to

Xi and Trump at G20: A tariff truce

This truce is by no means the end of trade tensions between China and the US. Over what was undoubtedly a delicious dinner last Saturday night on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to extend the deadline for the

Why denuclearisation is less important for South Korea

One of the most commented upon elements of this year’s outreach effort toward North Korea is the possible drift in the US-South Korean alliance. It has been widely noted that the US is tightly focused on nuclear weapons and missiles, seeking a narrow arms control deal. The US would clearly be

Pages