Friday 23 Apr 2021 | 12:15 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Japan under Suga: The delicate balancing act

The calm but staunch assertion by China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe last month that the Japan-administered islands in the East China Sea belong to China is revealing of the challenges Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide will face in balancing Japan’s great power relationships. The “

Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

Resisting uncertainty, Malaysia is finding itself

Malaysia is in a quandary, desperately trying to figure out how to resolve political and economic questions. The fragmentation of the Malaysian market for votes is at a point it has never before experienced. In a country where ethnic politics have long dominated, there are the Malays, who are

Boys’ love brings edgy drama to China, and a backlash

For years, Chinese television dramas were the poor cousins of Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese soap operas. A 2018 Chinese remake of the Taiwanese show Meteor Garden is a good example. Following the tensions between a poor girl and four rich boys, the mainland version was unwatchable. A drama about

India launches its mammoth vaccine drive

India officially launches its Covid vaccination program tomorrow (16 January) in a major logistical exercise aiming to inoculate hundreds of millions of people. And with it, the hustle begins. India, just like China, will be looking to leverage the diplomatic benefit of its ability to manufacture

The cleric shell game in Indonesia

When Indonesian authorities recently banned well-known extremist group the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) – having first arrested its leader, Rizieq Shihab – many lauded the move as a bold pushback against radicalism. But, weeks later, the world was equally stunned to learn that

America’s troubles ahead in the Asia-Pacific

Donald Trump has now become the first US president in history to be impeached twice, this time for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s violence in Washington. Yet as the US reels from the storming of the US Capitol building – civil strife which some analysts had warned

Can Modi calm the farm?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been coated in Teflon: the kinds of policies and actions that would have brought down other leaders have barely left a dent in his impeccably tailored vests. But as it turns out, there is a chink in his armour: farmers. Specifically, 250 million of

Washington’s warped Asia policy debate

US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to select retired Army General Lloyd Austin to be his Secretary of Defense triggered a somewhat predictable set of hot takes among US academics and commentators. Aside from questions about what his appointment would mean for civil-military relations, a major

When China lashed out

On the wintry night of 27 November 1950, Chinese troops suddenly descended upon the US 1st Marine Division and the 31st Regimental Combat Team around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, less than 100 kilometres away from the China-Korea border. Having failed to dissuade the United States with words from

Russia and China team up on the Indian Ocean

Two recent naval exercises demonstrate the potential for Russia-China cooperation in the Indian Ocean, and how the two present a much greater threat to a continued US role and influence in the region than either would individually. Last year, South Africa hosted a maritime exercise with

Australia-Indonesia relations need to talk the talk

This year has been one of great tumult at Australian universities. Not least are the nonsensical proposals to axe Indonesian language programs by several universities, such as La Trobe, Western Sydney University and Murdoch. Australian universities are closing the door of opportunity to the

A dilemma for Pakistan as UAE cuts off work visas

For the struggling economy of Pakistan, foreign remittances from expatriates are lifesavers, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is country’s second-largest source of remittances. In the last five years, 1.3 million Pakistanis have found jobs in the UAE. In 2019 alone, Pakistani expatriates in

Bangladesh: Sculptures, statues and hard-liners

The High Court of Bangladesh has directed that action be taken against those involved in causing damage in recent weeks to sculptures, statues and murals in the country. At the same time, an influential minister in the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked individuals and

Favourites of 2020: Minister of Finance Incorporated

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. There are few occasions in life when my “2020 books read” spreadsheet

China’s online meddling goes beyond the Great Firewall

Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted on Twitter a fake image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a child holding a lamb. The Australian government was outraged, describing it as “disinformation”. This is just the latest episode of the

The Afghan inquiry and the question of responsibility

The politics in the fallout over the release of the long-awaited Brereton report into allegations of war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan threatens to overtake the actual subject of the inquiry. Even before China sought to insert itself into the issue, local introspection about what was

Indonesia’s Omnibus Law won’t kill corruption

Indonesia's new Omnibus Law has attracted a great deal of commentary. As a piece of legislation meant to make investing in the country easier, its provisions, including changes to labour rights and environmental protection, were controversial enough to spark mass protests. But one feature

North Korea’s very odd year

On 1 January 2020, the Workers’ Party of Korea published a report on its goals for the year, emphasising simultaneous economic construction and nuclear development. But with the coronavirus pandemic, a struggling economy and natural disasters, the country has faced a triple whammy. The unexpected

In the Philippines, a label can take your life

A civil war has been going on in the Philippines for over 50 years, waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with the armed guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA). The rebels boast a strength spread across 73 out of the country’s 81 provinces. Every president since the conflict

India’s farmers take on Modi

In one of the coldest winters in recent memory, and in the midst of a global pandemic, farmers from Punjab and Haryana, in their thousands, have laid siege to the Indian capital, New Delhi. Braving cold winds, water cannons, baton charges, tear gas, barbed wire and the heavy-handed might of the

China: Explaining that tweet

No doubt you have seen the offending tweet already. If you’re in the mood to be outraged, it is still pinned to the top of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian’s Twitter feed. Outrage was clearly on the minds of our politicians: the PM called a snap press conference to condemn the

What RCEP can tell us about geopolitics in Asia

Much of the economic gains from the newly signed mega trade deal known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will come from mitigating what is called the Asian “noodle bowl effect”. The deal will harmonise what have to date been separate rules of origin across the region into

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

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