Friday 22 Jan 2021 | 05:44 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Power in Asia in five charts

How should one think about power in Asia? Headlines would suggest that US-China competition is all that matters. But although the US and China wield substantially more power than most, there are still 24 other players in the regional game. Recognising the different ways these states generate and use

Progressive politics in Thailand’s polarised polity

Book review: Duncan McCargo and Anyarat Chattharakul Future Forward: The rise and fall of a Thai political party (NIAS Press, 2020) Youth-led protests in Thailand in recent months have rocked the army-backed ruling elite which has been politically ascendant since a military coup in 2014

Keeping West Papua on the agenda

When Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman addressed the UN General Assembly last month, he echoed a concern that has often been expressed by his predecessors, not about the Pacific directly, but about alleged human rights abuses in West Papua. “The world is taking a selective approach

Pakistan gets on the TikTok ban wagon

Pakistan has become the second South Asian nation after India to ban Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.  The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 9 October banned TikTok in the country after  ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok, failed to “put in place effective

The many trails of Ant Group

When the last of the big four state-owned Chinese banks listed a decade ago, one could be forgiven for thinking that the age of mega Chinese financial listings was over. After all, with financial services being such a strategic sector for the Chinese Communist Party, who would have thought that the

North Korea’s new missile

To restore your faith in the power of social media, I suggest logging on to Twitter just after a North Korean weapons parade.  Maybe “faith” is too strong a word here. In the heady days of 2011, we dared to hope that Twitter and Facebook would be the tools that toppled dictatorships all

China’s vision of sovereignty for the next world order

President Xi Jinping grabbed headlines last month with the announcement that China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is aiming for carbon neutrality within 40 years. Xi’s speech, to the UN General Assembly, gave no details about how this would be achieved, beyond a

Stepping past the fatalism trap

The Australian government is fatalistic about its ability to shape the future of the Indo-Pacific region. This stems from longstanding assumptions – as Coral Bell wrote more than 50 years ago, Australians “remain fully and inescapably vulnerable to the diplomatic stresses arising in Asia, on

A Quad of consequence: Balancing values and strategy

What makes the Quad foreign ministers conversation this week in Tokyo consequential? Probably the strategic setting – a pandemic, global economic contraction and an accelerated Sino-US strategic competition on one hand, and rising regional tensions from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and

A dose of climate realism about China’s carbon pledge

In 2009 China was blamed for destroying the Copenhagen conference on climate change, leaving the world with no successor to the Kyoto Protocol. In 2015, along with France and the United States, its leadership helped make the Paris Agreement a reality. And in 2020, China is the first major greenhouse

Timor-Leste’s youth leave or get left behind

A crowd of young Timorese standing in front of the Portuguese Embassy in Dili has become a familiar sight in recent years. They are hoping to acquire a Portuguese passport, which represents an opportunity for a shot at a better future in Europe. But why are these young people so eager to leave their

Smart China choices

Australian commentators often appear eager to paint Australia’s China choices in stark binaries. “The money or our sovereignty: China leaves us no choice” is one representative headline. Continued bilateral escalation could prove them right. But both states have an interest in trying to get

In Bangladesh, Covid adds to a list of maladies

The Covid-19 situation has had a devastating effect on the local economy, the brunt being borne by the country’s export-oriented garments industry. It has propelled owners of various businesses – and that includes the media sector – into showing employees the door, and with rising unemployment

The unfinished Chinese civil war

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) war with the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) started in the 1920s, hit pause during the decade of anti-Japanese war and the Second World War, then culminated in an immediate post-war period with the remnants of the KMT fleeing to Formosa/Taiwan in

Duterte’s vaccine promise is a political placebo

As early as April, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte set a P50 million (A$1.45 million) reward for anyone who comes up with a vaccine for Covid-19. Since then, Duterte has assured the public that inoculations for the virus will soon be readily available. The administration went so far as to

China-India: Talk is cheap, but never free

There is no end in sight for the ongoing China-India border crisis. In June, China and India’s border dispute along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) resumed after a decades-long halt to the fighting, with the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of casualties on the Chinese side

Colonialism and cultural erasure in Xinjiang

On 17 September, the Information of Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China released a White Paper, “Employment and Labour Rights in Xinjiang”, detailing the Chinese Communist Party’s “proactive employment policies” in the region. The paper is clearly part of China

Economic diplomacy: A snapshot of overseas investment trends

Going outOne of the big questions facing Australian companies in the new world of reshoring and diversification is how to get the balance right in a time of disruption and power shifts. The federal government and two recent independent reports have told business to invest more in Asia, against the

The South China Sea map that wasn’t

On 9 September, the US embassy in Hanoi published on Facebook a map of Vietnam on a poster to commemorate the 25th anniversary of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations. At first the map did not attract much attention, given both countries had celebrated the occasion on 11 July, the official date of the

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

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