Friday 22 Jan 2021 | 05:23 | SYDNEY
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Asia

India heads towards economic autarky

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar this week made the clearest statement yet that India intends to head back down the road of economic autarky – for strategic reasons. This would represent a U-turn on almost 30 years of trade liberalisation, with profound effects for India’s role

Indonesian cleric re-enters the fray

The return of Jakarta’s notorious cleric Rizieq Shihab portends more upset in Indonesia’s devastating year of pandemic and recession. But for the thousands of Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, who gathered at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport just outside Jakarta to welcome the religious leader’s

Gauge-changing train is no game changer for China

Railways are a natural pillar of overland transport for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given their large capacity. But there is an obstacle to getting direct services across the borders and into neighbouring countries: different rail gauges. With the exception of North Korea, which uses

Why Russia will not return the Kuril Islands to Japan

The decades-old dispute between Russia and Japan over the status of the Kuril Islands is far from over. Tokyo, which refers to the islands as the Northern Territories, still insists on a peace treaty with Moscow that would result in Russia’s return of at least two out of four islands to Japan,

End of the road for Hong Kong’s opposition camp?

For more than two decades, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers played a game rigged against them. On 11 November, they had finally had enough. “We are facing a totally new paradigm,” said Wu Chi-wai, head of the Democratic Party and convenor of the opposition camp. “We choose to stand

Japan-Australia: The chance to sweeten the deal

Typically, much of the initial foreign policy interest in a new (or slightly revised) Japanese government tends to look towards the United States – to consider the adjustments necessary to the alliance, to plan the first face-to-face meeting, to determine the nickname that will characterise

Leading by example: Two different responses to China’s rise

Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) stand as critical security partners with the United States, and have supported the open, rules-based international order for well over half a century. Both have shed blood in this mission, standing with the US in every war since the Korean war

A chance for the US to change its tune on justice

On Monday last week, 72 countries at the United Nations offered their “unwavering support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them were Australia, Canada, the UK, France and others that have signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. In doing so, these states expressed

China’s problematic lending comes home to roost

On 13 November, the finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss action to help poor countries struggling to pay debts. A key issue will be getting China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, to play a more active role. The push by China’s&

Economic diplomacy: A headless WTO, selling the Asian farm

New world order The leadership of the World Trade Organisation may be the first test of whether the world can move on with normal life amid the divisions and recriminations as the US recovers from a bitter election. In one of its last international policy moves, the Trump administration last week

A Trump legacy?

The “who won” question isn’t quite resolved. Bleary-eyed pundits fossicking over every county result are making about as much sense – and as much noise — as a flock of seagulls scrabbling for chips on the beach. Joe Biden might just have the numbers. But Donald Trump hasn’t been blown

Book review: The China bubble that never pops

Book review: Thomas Orlik China: The Bubble that Never Pops (Oxford University Press, 2020) Way back in 2001, Gordon Chang wrote a book entitled The Coming Collapse of China. Western analysts of China have been predicting a crisis ever since. Among the many concerns have been China’s massive

Coming soon: A neutral South Korea?

Around five years ago, I submitted an article to a leading strategic studies journal detailing how options previously considered extreme – such as abandoning the US alliance, acceding to China’s dominance, declaring a position of neutrality and/or securing a nuclear weapons capacity

Taiwan: Rising stakes for Australia

The Taiwan Strait is a key hotspot in the intensifying US-China rivalry, where the two superpowers’ spheres of influence overlap. Beijing claims the area as a uncompromisable “core interest” of sovereignty and territorial integrity, while the US seeks to maintain its close economic, political

Why Kim Jong-un will soon miss Donald Trump

If US President Donald Trump loses the 3 November election, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will be first in line to mourn Trump’s departure from the White House. Despite a rocky start (those months of “fire and fury” seem a lifetime ago), the Trump-Kim relationship has grown incredibly in

Seychelles: New man, changing strategic environment

The election of Wavel Ramkalawan as President of Seychelles breaks the 43-year stranglehold of the party of former dictator France-Albert René. For Australia and the West, the election result removes many old assumptions about the central Indian Ocean and presents some new risks and opportunities

Thailand: Military, monarchy and the masses

At the heart of Thai street protests is the country’s inability to agree how power should be gained and used. What we are witnessing is a break from the past. The new king is more assertive than his father. And the junta’s five-year enforced hiatus in politicking has given rise to a new

Economic diplomacy: Japanese investment takes a Toll

Will the bell Toll? The quiet flood of Japanese investment into Australia over the past few years amid at times mounting alarm about much lower levels of Chinese investment has been regularly noted here. But the astounding story of corruption and mismanagement inside the largest single Japanese

A real-life Bollywood soap opera, with a political twist

When things get grim in India, the usual way of dealing with it is to look towards Bollywood for some distracting relief. This time, however, it’s not the latest musical providing distraction, but rather the imbroglio over the suicide of a popular movie actor, which was blamed on his girlfriend

Can China be a peacemaker in Afghanistan?

“China would be welcomed as an arbitrator in negotiations [for peace in Afghanistan] and should not leave matters of such a great importance solely to the US.” So said Maulana Samiul Haq, the so-called “Father of the Taliban”, in 2018. Peace talks between the Afghan government and the

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