Friday 20 Sep 2019 | 13:41 | SYDNEY
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Habibie’s lasting legacy for Indonesia

Bacharuddin Jusuf “BJ” Habibie, third president of the Republic of Indonesia, passed away on 11 September in Jakarta. After serving as vice president under Suharto, Habibie succeeded him when political and economic crisis forced the president of three decades to resign in May 1998. Although it

INTERFET and the defence of Australia

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), a multinational mission led by Australia to stabilise the country in 1999. As a former Army officer posted to Timor-Leste after INTERFET, I’m proud to be back in Dili today to represent the

Afghanistan – what’s next?

Ten days ago, US President Donald Trump called off negotiations with the Taliban about withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, widely expected to be followed by intra-Afghanistan peace talks, which Norway hoped to host and President Ashraf Ghani had begun to prepare for by selecting a negotiation

Gladys Liu and the pitfalls of cultural anxiety

This country’s diverse Chinese-Australian communities are hurting. From conversations with friends, I gather they feel burdened by an obligation to show loyalty to Australia that others simply take for granted. Some report feeling caught in the crossfire between a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

Habibie’s legacy of Reformasi in Indonesia

Bacharuddin Jusuf “BJ” Habibie, Indonesia’s third president, died last week at age 83. Habibie was an unexpected president. He hesitantly took over the reins of government from the second president of the Republic, Suharto, in an event televised worldwide on 21 May 1998. Unlike his predecessor

In Timor-Leste, a big set of challenges

The 20th anniversary of the popular consultation that brought independence for Timor-Leste has been a time to celebrate the courage, determination, and persistence of the Timorese people. Despite enduring decades of violence, they never lost their hope for self-determination. Timor-Leste today is

On China, principles vs pragmatism

The escalating protests in Hong Kong, the detention of Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun on trumped-up charges, and the appalling treatment of ethnic Uighurs have resulted in renewed calls and pressure on Australia to act on human rights issues with China. While this is noble, human rights

Not such a great game

Staying true to his reputation for unpredictability, US President Donald Trump suddenly called off the Afghanistan peace negotiations with the Taliban last Saturday – a major policy decision announced, predictably, in a tweet. Trump cited continued Taliban attacks on US personnel as the reason for

Why did the NZ Opposition Leader jump the shark on China?

One day (well, on 20 May of this year, to be precise) as Opposition Leader you’re launching a discussion document on your party’s international policies. “National’s positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values,” you say. Those values are rooted in our country

Cat videos meet Big Brother

As digital technology and information become more sophisticated, so does the Chinese internet and the ways in which it influences its people’s behaviour. It has established a “closed loop” of state media, homegrown internet companies, and censorship – blocking access to foreign platforms and

The Amazing Race flies into North Korea

Even as tensions between the United States and North Korea remain high ­– North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui recently berated the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for describing Pyongyang’s behaviour as “rogue” ­– the North Korean charm offensive is still in full

Why the US and its allies should keep ASEAN at the centre

Southeast Asia is a region crucial to China, the geography creating what is known as the “Malacca Strait dilemma” – a strategic chokepoint located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, it provides China with its shortest maritime access to Europe, Africa, and the

Narendra Modi, frequent flyer

During Narendra Modi’s first five years in office, the Indian prime minister made 93 foreign visits, equalling the number of trips his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, made over an entire decade. At an average of more than 18 visits every year, Modi also travelled far more than his counterparts. In

A fugitive preacher ignites controversy in Malaysia

Zakir Naik is an Indian preacher of Islam who currently calls Malaysia home. Described by the Washington Post as a “rock star of tele-evangelism”, he is also a fugitive, having evaded law enforcement in his home country of India since July 2016, when he fled the country within hours of bombers

Pressure upon pressure builds around Kashmir

The political talk in South Asia at this moment is reminiscent of the 1990s. The Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and conflict is escalating between India and Pakistan in a seething Kashmir region. There is even debate on the potential use of nuclear weapons amid India-Pakistan crises ­–

How the people of Timor‑Leste feel about security

Last week, Dili polished itself up and played host to visiting government officials from more than 20 countries, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison from Australia, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s vote for independence on 30 August 1999. As the excitement and gravitas

Can Japan catch up in the economic scramble for Africa?

Recently, China entered the market as an exporter of used cars overseas. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce revealed the populous African nation of Nigeria as one of the destinations for 300 cars in the first batch of freight. The vehicles included brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai,

In Java, the water is running out

Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents. For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has

Timor-Leste’s future still shadowed by the past

There are 100,000 people tonight in Tasi Tolu, a wide, flat, dusty expanse on Dili’s outskirts, near the capital’s western bus terminal, with enough space to fit all those coming to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s vote for independence. Inside, grandstand seating is set up

A light amid the gloom of the US-China trade war

Despite an optimistic bounce in global financial markets Friday, the relentless trade war between the US and China resumed Sunday. Threatened 15% tariffs by the US on another $250 billion of China imports went into effect Sunday morning, as did new China tariffs on US crude oil, soybeans and

The intractable mess in Jammu and Kashmir

It is impossible to know what is actually happening in Kashmir. Since 4 August, Indian forces have effectively incarcerated the region, with people kept indoors and more than 1600 “social activists” detained. Communications to, and in, the Kashmir Valley have been severed. There have been no

The Philippine standoff over China

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to arrive in China on Wednesday for his fifth presidential visit to China in less than three years. His predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, made only one trip to China, in 2011. China is Duterte’s most visited presidential destination.

Dengue spirals out of control in the Philippines

The recent declaration of a national dengue fever epidemic in the Philippines has sounded a public-health alarm in the Western Pacific, as cases of the tropical virus continue to rise throughout the region. The statement by the Philippines Department of Health earlier this month follows a

Deep fakes could have real consequences for Southeast Asia

In Malaysia, a sex-tape scandal engulfing the country in recent months has threatened to destabilise the governing coalition. While the tape has been determined by the police to be authentic, and not a forgery, it is still questioned in some quarters. The truth of the video itself is a point of

A middle-power moment

“Small states like Singapore can do little to influence the big powers, but we are not entirely without agency.” When Lee Hsien Loong delivered his keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue back in June, his pragmatism over great-power competition surprised many (some more pleasantly than others). But

Modi vs Wild: Political survivor

One, a rugged survivalist with a penchant for striding through dangerous terrain, accompanied only by a television crew. The other, the man who holds the hearts, minds, and fates of 1.2 billion people in his clenched fists. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not have a clearly articulated

In Malaysia, flipping over the script

When Sin Chew Daily, the largest Chinese daily in Malaysia, recently headlined a Ministry of Education proposal to introduce a few pages of calligraphy in the Malay-language textbook for Chinese and Tamil vernacular primary schools, the backlash was immediate. The reaction went all the way up to

Houses divided

Many of The Interpreter’s readers are experts on the theory and conduct of international relations. So, quite reasonably, they look at armed conflict through the lens of inter-state relations, where one state resorts to the use (or the threat of use) of armed force to prevail over another. For

Hong Kong: popular protests, live-streamed

On Sunday, more than 1.7 million Hongkongers braved torrential rain for yet another massive and peaceful rally. The astonishing size of the turnout might have caught some people off-guard, especially those who believed that the movement has already lost its public support after violent clashes among

All may not be smooth along China’s Digital Silk Road

Make no mistake about China’s vast and continuous trajectory of technological expansionism. Even as the US aims to ring-fence Huawei’s reach into the US and overseas consumer markets, a “digital silk road” paved by Chinese tech giants has long been built to span from the Asia-

Narendra Modi’s nudge diplomacy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech last week from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi to mark India’s Independence Day carefully delineated his new strategic and foreign policy in the region. We can call this “nudge diplomacy”, and it stands in stark contrast to the more assertive

Japan’s imperial ghosts lurk well beyond Korea

Friction between South Korea and Japan has intensified in recent months, with serious implications ­in the economic and security realms. Tokyo has taken steps to impose export restrictions targeting key industries in South Korea, to which Seoul has responded with a widespread boycott of Japanese

Indonesia should put more energy into renewable power

Air pollution is worsening in Jakarta and West Java, while tens of millions of people experienced a day-long blackout earlier this month after gas-powered electricity generators failed and significant proportions of eastern Indonesia have do not have reliable power supplies. So why does Indonesia

Timor-Leste, 20 years on

This month, Timor-Leste is in a festive mood, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence referendum. On 30 August 1999, the people of Timor-Leste cast their ballots in a United Nations–administered popular consultation to determine the fate of the country, with 78.5% voting to separate

The Vanguard Bank standoff shows China remains undeterred

Tensions have risen once again in the South China Sea. For weeks, Chinese and Vietnamese coastguard vessels have been involved in a confrontation after the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 (HD8) entered waters near the Vietnam-controlled Vanguard Bank on 3 July. The incident has upset both Hanoi

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