Saturday 19 Sep 2020 | 18:17 | SYDNEY
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Asia

India puts relations with Japan back on the rails

Arguably the greatest, most visible and most impactful legacy of the British Raj in India is the train network that criss-crosses the country. So it perhaps comes as little surprise that India’s favourite regional friend is shoring up their relationship by investing heavily in, yes, more trains

Suga steps in, at least for now

While much has been made of Shinzo Abe’s record-breaking term as Japan’s prime minister, his new successor, Yoshihide Suga, held his role as Chief Cabinet Secretary for the same record length of time – seven years and eight months. As Chief Cabinet Secretary, he has had a high public profile

Covid-19 and Indonesian monetary policy

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it had become routine for central banks in rich countries to help fund budget deficits by buying government bonds. “Quantitative easing” (QE) has been common since the 2008 global financial crisis, keeping interest rates down. With Covid, some central banks

Bangladesh: Fight the power or shut up?

Hip-hop artists have long used rap music to launch cultural protests about social injustice, police brutality, inequality and discrimination.  Songs such as Tupac Shakur’s “Trapped”, which talks about seclusion of black youths in American neighbourhoods, NWA’s “F**k tha Police” or

The making of Prime Minister Suga

Suga Yoshihide’s moment in Japanese politics arrived with the premature resignation last month of Abe Shinzo. Suga was considered the indispensable architect of the Abe administration, controlling Japan’s political nerve centre as Chief Cabinet Secretary from 2012. On Monday this week, he was

Cut! How Hollywood self-censors on China

What should have been a family favourite film has turned into a political nightmare, with moviegoers around the world urged to boycott the new Disney film Mulan due to its links with the Chinese Communist Party.  Calls to

For real peace, Afghanistan needs a Plan B

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani outlined what he saw as the objective for his country: “a sovereign, united, democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself, the region and world, capable of preserving and expanding the gains of the past two decades”. For a

Indonesia – a country of disappointments

Ben Bland paints an insightful and intriguing portrait of Indonesia's leader in his new book, Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the struggle to remake Indonesia. Jokowi, as the president is known, is a fascinating personality – a man who leapt from being a furniture maker to city mayor (of

Economic diplomacy: Borders, barriers and obstacles

Homeward bound While Australia’s embrace of economic sovereignty has so far involved more rhetoric than real financial resources, cash incentives for reshoring manufacturing are gathering pace in other countries. Last week’s €100 billion (A$162 billion) economic stimulus program from French

Debunking the myth of China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”

Against the fear and distrust that increasingly characterise Australia’s relationship with China, the Belt and Road Initiative looms large. Australian politicians from both major parties rarely agree on much openly, but nearly all agree that China uses the BRI to achieve geopolitical goals. Many

No news is not good news

The rushed departure from China of two Australian journalists, the ABC’s Bill Birtles and the Australian Financial Review’s Michael Smith, marks a new low in a relationship which had already seemed to have reached rock bottom. The threats to the Australian journalists are bad enough of

Myanmar election: A fractured process

Myanmar’s general election, scheduled for 8 November, looms as only the second to be completed since the 1962 military coup, and therefore a rarity in the lifetimes of most of Myanmar's voters. The first completed democratic poll since then was in 2015, which resulted in the triumphant return of

A Biden presidency and the US–South Korea alliance

US presidential candidate Joe Biden, leading in most polls more than two months before the November election, is cautiously expected to win office. On foreign policy, his plan has been characterised as a “restoration project” to rebuild America’s international standing, with the help of allies

A China-Iran bilateral deal: Costs all around

Rumors circling about an impending major partnership between China and Iran seem to be accurate. A leaked draft of the agreement published by the New York Times in July indicates that it would involve a deep economic partnership which would open the door for strategic action. Ample speculation about

The (un)making of Joko Widodo

Book Review: Ben Bland, Man of Contradictions: Joko Widodo and the struggle to remake Indonesia (Penguin, Lowy Institute, 2020) Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a man once dubbed “a new hope” for democracy, has instead presided over a period of democratic stagnation and regression, according

Where to for Sri Lanka’s foreign policy?

A much-anticipated general election in Sri Lanka last month ended with a resounding victory for the Sri Lanka People’s Front (Sri Lanka Podujana Party), which was spearheaded by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. The party secured 145 seats – obtaining a near two-thirds majority in parliament.

China sours on Australia’s wine

On Monday this week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced it has commenced an investigation into whether Australia has been subsidising winemakers. This follows a parallel investigation launched two weeks ago to examine allegations that Australian winemakers have also been “dumping” their

The limits of Zoom diplomacy in Asia

Say it quietly, lest the wrath of the pandemic gods be triggered. But the wheels of in-person diplomacy are starting to turn again across Asia. The smiling handshakes are gone, replaced by awkward elbow bumps and socially distanced photo opportunities. The negotiating tables have been moved further

Economic diplomacy: Spilled milk and foreign wages

Taking one for the team Spare a thought for Japanese company Kirin, which entered Australia in the vanguard of new ambitions for Asian economic engagement but is now a victim of an undeclared trade war with China. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s move to prevent Kirin selling its unsuccessful Lion

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

A measure of change in Myanmar election

Myanmar’s next general elections are planned for 8 November, with more than 1100 parliamentary seats to be decided in the Lower House, Upper House and across state and regional parliaments, and for ethnic entities. The National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Army-aligned Union Solidarity and

The killings in the Philippines grow more brazen

Earlier this month, days after Manila went back into a hard lockdown due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, unidentified assailants slipped past the Philippine capital’s strict quarantine measures and approached the home of Randall Echanis, a left-wing party leader and longtime activist. When

Kashmir, a year on from the change

It has been a little over a year since the Indian government under Narendra Modi curtailed the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The article had given the state a certain degree of autonomy, including its own flag, constitution and freedom to enact

Hidden seams in the UAE-Israel deal

The main questions about the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a week ago are why did it happen and what will it change? It’s pretty clear what US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get out of the deal – both leaders

The Democrat and the world’s biggest democracy

Given the high degree of political participation by the South Asian diaspora in the US that I’ve written about before, it seemed an inevitability that a person with some degree of Indian ethnicity or culture would make it onto a presidential ticket. The question was never if, but who. Would it be

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