Monday 24 Jan 2022 | 02:19 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Maldives: India first or India out?

Recent protests in Maldives against India’s influence in the country calling for “Indian military out” has led the Maldives government to respond by reiterating its “India First” policy. This has highlighted the difficulties that both countries face in building a stable strategic

Vietnam: “Let them eat steak”

There are plenty of ways to squander good will. Vietnam’s communist party has picked an oldie but goodie, with a twist (of salt). Minister for Public Security Tô Lâm has been caught eating a terrifically expensive steak, prepared by a celebrity chef after meeting his French counterpart to

Palau faces the dragon

In 2015, tourism officials from the tiny Micronesian island nation of Palau likely scratched their heads in bewilderment at incoming figures on visitor arrivals. A record number of tourists had touched down that year in the archipelago, but more perplexing was the figure of 91,174 visitors from

The Indo-Pacific Operating System: How can America shore up the regional order?

Five essays from experts from, or based in, Southeast Asia provide a sense of the region’s complexity and the nuance with which any effort to shore up – or rebuild – regional order must grapple

Minorities under attack in Bangladesh

Last month, a series of attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh shook the country’s typically pluralist outlook. The violence began after a Facebook post from Comilla district in the southeast of the country alleged that the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, had been desecrated at a Hindu

Myanmar: Totalitarian terror shouldn’t fly on our watch

For many Australians, their first-hand experience with the military is the welcome sight of the Australian Defence Force assisting our community in times of drought, flood and fire. It is unimaginable for most Australians that in 2021, a nation’s military would embark on an overt campaign of

China’s digital currency: Next stop, Africa?

In April 2020, China was the first major economy to pilot a digital currency, the e-yuan or e-CNY. The e-CNY, which will eventually replace physical cash and is currently being tested in Chinese cities, is integrated with the Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) system and data processing

Planning for progress in Timor-Leste

After two decades of independence, development in Timor-Leste is exemplified by growing economic activity in Dili, the country’s capital city. Businesses are emerging on various corners, new infrastructure and public buildings are being constructed, and much improved information and communication

Is Australia relevant?

Last week, Singapore’s Education Minister Chan Chun Sing addressed the Fullerton lecture series on US-China relations and his own country’s foreign policy. Chan, a leading member of the so-called “4G” or fourth-generation of Singaporean politicians, echoed some familiar refrains about the

Thailand’s regressive royal insult law

At a recent anti-government rally in central Bangkok, one of the leaders of a youth-led movement demanding sweeping political reforms carried a message etched in blood. After addressing the crowd on a rainy Sunday evening on 31 October, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul used a razor blade to

Australia-Indonesia: burn the boats

Last week, Australian Border Force released photographs of burning Indonesian fishing vessels allegedly caught fishing illegally in Australian waters. Border Force reported it had found 16 Indonesian vessels operating unlawfully near the Rowley Shoals Marine Park off the northern coast of Western

China: rejecting rubbish

On hearing Beijing had instituted the ominously named “Operation National Sword” it would have been easy to imagine Chinese warships crashing across the Taiwan Strait or perhaps submarines emerging from the depths of the South China Sea. But this “sword” had a different edge. On 31 December

India’s answer to China’s ports in Sri Lanka

On 30 September, Adani Group, India’s largest private port operator, signed what has been reported as a US$700 million agreement to build a new container terminal in Sri Lanka. The deal to jointly develop the Colombo West International Container Terminal (CWICT) with Sri Lanka’s largest listed

Filipino migrants are agents of change

The Philippine labour diaspora is one of the largest in the world with around 9 million people or 10 per cent of the population working overseas, and sending massive remittances (US$33.5 billion in 2019) that contribute to the economy. Yet the popular construction of the Filipino migrant is that of

Sport between India and Pakistan is not just that

Cricketing salutations can be baffling. Why did India’s men’s team captain Virat Kohli hug Pakistani player Mohammad Rizwan, and team mentor M.S. Dhoni greet Pakistani players, after India’s defeat last week to Pakistan in cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup in Dubai? India’s leaders seemed

Arms control is not just about arms

Relations between Russian and the United States have been rocky since the 2014 Crimean crisis. Washington imposed various sanctions on the Kremlin in the aftermath of the annexation, accusing it of violating Ukrainian sovereignty. US charges of Russian interferences in the 2016 and 2020 elections

Telstra’s Digicel Pacific challenge

The deal with the government insulates the telco from financial risk. But accepting the role of Australia’s lead business ambassador in the region makes it no set-and-forget investment. This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review on 29 October 2021

Just how serious is Xi about climate change?

As the leaders of world’s largest carbon emitters meet in Glasgow in the coming days, it is still undetermined whether the single most influential individual of the group will show up. Despite pleas from his counterparts to attend in person, it currently appears that China’s President Xi Jinping

The legal case for defending Taiwan

In a recent discussion in The Interpreter of whether it would be legal to come to the defence of Taiwan, Ben Saul concludes that “a betting person might be tempted to back the more conventional legal answers favouring China”. This misrepresents how the creative use of international law underpins

China’s education diplomacy in Central Asia

Once upon a time, parents in Central Asia sent their children to Moscow or St Petersburg for higher education. Now, some of them are opting for China instead. China has become an increasingly popular destination for many Central Asian students after Russia – meaning Chinese-educated Kazak and

ASEAN muddles through on Myanmar

Diplomacy is messy. Officials, politicians and (dare I say) think-tank analysts relish the highfalutin talk of rules, treaties, norms, values and principles. But, more often than not, it all comes down to realpolitik and the art of possible. A case in point is the unprecedented decision by the

China’s economic sanctions made Australia more confident

China has singled out several Australian industries with economic sanctions since May last year, imposing hefty tariffs on Australian barley and wine exports, while throwing up barriers to other products including timber, lobster and coal. Beijing’s action has largely been seen as a response to

US-China: tiers of cohabitation

As strategic tensions between the United States and China calcify so too does the conclusion that they have entered into “a new Cold War”. Indeed, the strenuousness with which both countries avow that they must avoid such an outcome would only seem to confirm that judgment. One reason the

If pushed far enough, would Myanmar leave ASEAN?

The decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations not to invite Myanmar’s military leader to two related summits in Brunei on 26–28 October raises an intriguing question: if pushed far enough, would the junta in Naypyidaw take Myanmar out of the regional grouping? Myanmar’s military

India’s AI conundrum

Late last month, people across the globe gathered online for the second Annual Artificial Intelligence for Information Accessibility Conference (AI4IA), organised by UNESCO. Fittingly for an AI conference, it was hosted on the Gather.Town platform, which allows for virtual customisable spaces to be

Australia, Indonesia and climate change

In February 2020, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo made a state visit to Australia and addressed a joint sitting of the Australian parliament. This was a rare privilege granted to only a few world leaders, and Indonesia’s popular president – known as Jokowi – used the opportunity to

Would a war over Taiwan be legal?

Australia’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for “solidarity” with Taiwan in the face of China’s “intimidatory sorties” testing its air defences. As the war drum incessantly beats, would a war against China to defend Taiwan be legal? For all the abstract talk about a rules-

AUKUS: Why Beijing didn’t go ballistic

China was expected to be furious about the recently signed AUKUS security pact. After all, it is generally believed that the deal to provide Australia with technology to build nuclear submarines and the associated cooperation with the United States and United Kingdom amounts to a significant

Vietnam had seemingly conquered Covid. Then Delta spread

Ho Chi Minh City and the wider south in Vietnam finished its 24-hour-a-day Covid-19 lockdown of three months last week, allowing people to venture out to buy food rather than wait for soldiers to coordinate deliveries to their homes. Soldiers had manned barricades between precincts as part of social

Thailand’s military and human rights

Despite its appalling past record of often-deadly violence against junior military ranks and its fellow citizens, there are some signs Thailand’s army may be starting to change for the better. On 30 September, a military court indicted nine of 13 soldiers who beat and tortured a fellow soldier

Australia should donate surplus vaccine to Indonesia

In the middle of this pandemic, every vaccine is precious. Australia should give its spare locally-made AstraZeneca vaccines to friends in Indonesia. Indonesia has a vacuum of need for vaccines that is predominantly being filled by China, and yet Australia happens to have millions of spare doses

Australia-Korea minilateral: A potential win-win

The Australia-Korea relationship is in its sixtieth year, and although trade, historic and strategic links are strong, security cooperation is less advanced. Earlier this year, on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the two countries agreed in-principle to elevate their relationship to “

The Duterte double

On 25 August, Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention to seek the second-highest post in the Philippines government in next year’s elections. “I will run for vice president,” he said. “I will continue this crusade [against] insurgency, then criminality [and] drugs.” But by 2 October

China and the future of the Antarctic mining ban

China’s fast-growing logistical and scientific capability in Antarctica and more active participation in Antarctic affairs continue to draw attention and scrutiny. In recent years, China has notably spoken about striking a “balance between protection and use” in the Commission for the

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