Friday 21 Jan 2022 | 00:55 | SYDNEY
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Asia

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

Economic diplomacy: A call to syringes, not arms

Going out or staying in With Australia experiencing its first recession in a generation, potential differences are emerging over whether future prosperity will come from more business integration with high-growth Asia or from preserving capital for economic sovereignty at home. These, of course,

Afghanistan’s unseen Covid crisis

The most striking thing about the top Covid-19 treatment facility in Afghanistan is the lack of basic measures preventing the spread of Covid-19. At the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital in Kabul last week, security guards at the gate were maskless. So too a taxi driver delivering an

Cambodia: Hard choices

Cambodia’s foreign policy has been largely driven by the politics of survival, as the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has an ambition to perpetuate its domination of Cambodian politics for at least another 50 years. Of course, this survival

Chinese dams and the Mekong drought

The latest reports from the Lower Mekong Basin are cause for growing concern that another period of drought will succeed that of 2019, affecting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Expected rainfall from late May through June and July has not arrived, and the level of water flowing in the river is

Cyber sovereignty cuts both ways

The White House's approach to managing the potential security threats posed by TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps is hardly a model of procedural justice. Without a clear legal or regulatory framework, the Trump Administration has issued executive orders banning transactions with the

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