Monday 24 Jan 2022 | 01:50 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

Asia

Chinese warplanes overhead Taiwan (or maybe not)

China’s PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF) latest flights into the Taiwanese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) have gained people’s attention. The arcane ADIZ term denotes a block of airspace established over, and usually somewhat beyond, a nation’s territory in which any unknown approaching

In defence of AUKUS

When Barack Obama announced the rebalance to Asia in 2011, he also revealed the rotational deployment of US Marines to Darwin. In the intervening decade, however, additional changes to US regional posture have been few and far between. As a result, leading US defence expert Michèle Flournoy has

Could India join the Five Eyes?

As the United States grapples with China, Washington is seeking to build a tight-knit security network in the Indo-Pacific. Among those measures is a possible expansion of the Five Eyes, as the intelligence sharing arrangement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United

Is China’s “age of ambition” over?

Of the many great books that have been written on contemporary China, there are few that I can recommend more highly than Evan Osnos’ Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Having spent much of my own early career in Beijing, Osnos’ writing captures the emotional

Meet Japan’s new PM

In a fiercely contested vote on Wednesday, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) chose Fumio Kishida as party president. He is now set to form government as Japan’s next prime minister. In the runoff vote, former foreign minister Kishida comprehensively defeated his nearest rival

Indonesia: painted politics

Street art has been much discussed across Indonesia’s airwaves in the last couple of months. Three spray-painted murals expressing a critical perspective on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were quickly covered over by officials, igniting heated debates about free expression

China’s declining Pacific aid presence

In November 2018 Port Moresby was a sea of red in the build up to the APEC leader’s summit. Chinese flags covered every road of Papua New Guinea’s capital while “China aid” was emblazoned – literally – on every traffic light. With China’s President tacking an official two-day state

AUKUS + Indonesia

The debut of AUKUS – the trilateral military grouping between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – has sent a shockwave across the Indo-Pacific. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government seems to have turned its back on Australia’s newer partners in Asia in favour of older

Yemen: the search for leverage after Afghanistan

Concerns are growing about the ramifications of the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The ripple effects of the pull-out and its urgent consequences have bolstered Islamist ambitions – not only in Afghanistan but beyond. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a “real danger (

Australia’s real leverage in China’s CPTTP bid

When China applied earlier this month to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the renamed 11-nation trade pact spanning Asia and the Pacific, Beijing seemed to hand Australia the rare diplomatic gift of leverage. Australia, like other existing members of

Economic diplomacy: After AUKUS in trade, aid and technology

Waiting line China is now the top export and import partner for 12 of the other 20 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group and a top one-way partner for five others. The US score on this measuring stick is two and one. This is one very basic way of seeing how China’s bid

Can the China model be accommodated in the CPTPP?

On 16 September, China officially applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) comprising Australia and 10 other members. The free-trade pact is the most extensive in the region, and accounts for almost 14 per cent of global GDP. Before pulling

By land or sea: Thailand perseveres with the Kra Canal

In 1677, the Thai monarch Narai the Great had a dream. He sent an engineer south to investigate the possibility of excavating a vast waterway through the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, known as the Kra Isthmus, with the hope of opening a direct trade route between Siam and Burma – imagine

AUKUS and the CPTPP: It’s all about China

China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) just hours after announcement of the new tripartite AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) security partnership may – or may not – have been coincidental.

Myanmar’s extreme Buddhist nationalists

In a surprise move, Myanmar’s ruling military junta announced on 6 September the release from prison of Ashin Wirathu, a controversial Buddhist monk whose sermons have been blamed for inciting anti-Muslim violence over the last decade. In a statement, the military said it had dropped charges

China – a lonely superpower

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia move to form a new AUKUS grouping, various reports have emerged of a “new Quad” led by China and featuring Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Iran’s imminent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and plans for the four countries to

North Korea’s calculated restraint

September is an important month for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to make a last ditch attempt to revive relations with a recalcitrant North Korea before the presidential election next March. To such an end, his administration has sought to use major inter-Korean anniversaries this month,

Beyond Fortress Australia

The reality of living in a pandemic has dawned on Australia. Covid cases at the time of writing are high and still climbing. The virus is here to stay. Equally clear is that ring-fencing the country from the world — the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy — is no longer viable

Tokyo2020+1 wraps up as Japan’s next race begins

No sooner was the Paralympic flame extinguished, with the athletes filing out of Tokyo’s National Stadium for one last time, that all sporting psephologists turned their eyes to the next big race, the runners positioning themselves for the sprint to become Japan’s next leader. The date of formal

Diagnosing Indonesia’s health challenges

In July, Indonesia was dubbed one of the global epicentres for Covid-19. Media reports warned of a health system collapse and cemeteries overwhelmed with burial demands. But a little more than a month later, Indonesia’s situation seems to be improving. The second week of September marked seven

The right climate for Indonesia-United States cooperation

Indonesia is feeling a little ignored. The recent visit by US Vice President Kamal Harris to Vietnam and Singapore led to speculation that Indonesia was not a priority for the Biden administration. “Snubbed again, Joe?” read one local headline. A few weeks beforehand, US Defence Secretary Lloyd

Candour, at last, on China – but then what?

The most important foreign policy speech by a cabinet minister so far this year was delivered last Monday. That Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was the speaker was a little surprising. A little less surprising was that he identified an ascendant, muscular China as a first order threat to the country’s

Economic diplomacy: Australia Inc’s new world order

Risky business Australia’s sovereign wealth fund – the Future Fund – was established 15 years ago when the rivers of gold from selling iron ore to China were just starting to flow and country was only about half-way through its record-setting 28 years of economic growth. The Future Fund’s

An Afghan test leaves Australia’s principles wanting

When the Taliban emerged from the wastes of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the international community was caught completely off guard. Intelligence on the ground was pretty much non-existent and whatever policies that followed in dealing with this new threat reflected this deficiency. Subsequent events

China’s digital currency takes shape

China’s financial system is changing. The country’s new Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) – a digital payment and processing network run by the Central Bank of China – and its digital currency, the digital yuan (e-CNY), is expected to completely replace physical cash. Unveiled

The evolving Taliban-ISK rivalry

The attack on evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport by the Islamic State- Khorasan Province (ISK, ISKP, or ISIS-K) triggered much speculation about the Afghan Taliban’s ability to constrain terrorism in the country. But it also served as a reminder of the intense rivalry between the Taliban and

Japan’s nuclear identity and the complicated endgame

Book Review: Akimoto Daisuke, Japan’s Nuclear Identity and its Implications for Nuclear Abolition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) It has been rare in recent years for the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan to pass without controversy, invariably concerning remarks made by the prime

Rich, hot and popular: the taming of Chinese celebrities

Chinese celebrities are in trouble with the Chinese Communist Party. The Party has cracked down on a number of Chinese celebrities, including the billionaire actor and filmmaker Zhao Wei (also known as Vicky Zhao). Zhao has drawn the ire of the Party and as a result, her online presence has been

Did 9/11 change our world?

We asked six experts, “Did 9/11 define our world? If so, how? If not, what did?” After each of their responses to these questions, editor Lydia Khalil challenges the experts with questions that delve deeper into their rationales and reasons

Europe and the South China Sea 

In the 16th century the Portuguese were the first Europeans to navigate the South China Sea and lay eyes upon the thousands of islands and reefs that lay in these waters. Long years have passed since the days in which European navies played a major role in the seas of Asia. However, in recent years

Thai lives matter, too

Last week, Thailand had its own moment akin to the death of George Floyd in the United States. Although it lacked the racial overtones of Floyd’s murder, the helplessness of the victim, the public reaction, and the following demands for police reform all resonate. On 22 August, a video went

Sharpening deterrence

“If you want peace, prepare for war.” The idea that states can avoid war by strengthening their military is attractively simple, and the advice, attributed to Roman author Vegetius, has proved enduringly popular. In modern strategic lingo, it’s embodied in the buzz word “deterrence”.

Will Jokowi pull off a three-peat?

On 13 August, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, granted an audience to Bambang Soesatyo, Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), to discuss how to advance some “limited” constitutional amendments. The country’s press was immediately abuzz with interest

Australia’s seaborne trade: Essential but undefendable

Thomas Shugart’s excellent Lowy analysis Australia and the growing reach of China’s military is by far the best thing I’ve read on the specific defence implications for Australia of China’s swift emergence as a maritime power. It not only explains how China’s maritime forces have developed

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