Monday 27 Jun 2022 | 19:31 | SYDNEY
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Delivering promises will show steel in Quad

The German naval chief, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, lost his job during a visit to Delhi last month. During an interaction where he went woefully off-script, he urged the West to offer “respect” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and keep the focus trained on China, a “not so nice

Mauritius sets sail to Chagos

On Tuesday, Mauritius made good on a long-standing threat to Britain and sent a boatload of officials to visit the Chagos Archipelago without permission. This action has placed Britain, which administers the disputed island territory, in a very difficult position. Touted by Mauritian Prime

Getting ready for Trump as President 47

Paul Kelly’s recently published book, Morrison’s Mission: How a Beginner Reshaped Australian Foreign Policy, provides the most detailed account yet of the formation of the country’s foreign policy since Scott Morrison became prime minister in 2018 and is full of useful insights. The Forever

Philippine elections and the politics behind it

While broadly similar to other presidential forms of government, the Philippines’ system of choosing its leaders does hold some nuisances which reveal deeply-rooted problems in Philippine democracy. The following are some of the long-standing realities of its politics:   Leaders

Olympics not the only games this year

In 1971, two table tennis players – American Glenn Cowan and Zhuang Zedong from China – met on the tournament bus on the way to the world championships in Nagoya, Japan. The chance meeting between two athletes at a time when their respective countries were enduring a distant and icy

India’s northeast: An integral piece of the puzzle

Nowhere does India’s complex web of identities coalesce as much as in the country’s northeast, where the politics of identity and self-determination have led to internal and external security challenges. While security discussions usually focus on India’s western border, it is the northeast

Oslo talks expose the West’s Taliban dilemma 

Last week, Western officials held closed-door discussions with a Taliban delegation hosted by Norway in Oslo, making clear that humanitarian aid to Afghanistan would be conditional on an improvement in human rights in the war-torn country. The need for assistance is urgent, with the United

ASEAN and Myanmar: No sign of progress

The United Nations emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths has warned in recent months that Myanmar faces a worsening humanitarian crisis, including mass displacement and a dire need for food and aid for civilians. Talk of civil war has even escaped the lips of usually cautious officials.

China’s “common prosperity” is a Catch-22

The events of the latter half of 2021 show that Beijing is willing to tolerate significant economic pain to deleverage its property sector. For the Chinese Communist Party, the financial and social risks posed by the current state of the real estate sector are existential. At the end of the second

Living with a feared China and Russian-built chaos

To Western eyes, China’s wolf-warrior foreign affairs policy and Russia’s extravagant threats over Ukraine can appear cryptic. These seem designed not to make friends but rather to antagonise others. Moreover, Chinese and Russian actions don’t seem to be advancing their interests. Instead,

Indonesia standing between great powers

China recently upped its game against Indonesia in the South China Sea. It lodged an unprecedented protest over exploratory off-shore drilling for natural gas in waters known as the Tuna block, arguing this activity was a violation of China’s territory. Sanctioned by the Indonesian government, the

Solomon Islands: cops bearing gifts

The pre-Christmas announcement that Solomon Islands’ government was going to accept China’s offer of six police advisers and a swag of emergency riot equipment generated consternation in Canberra. The ABC’s Andrew Greene reported discomfit from his “defence and diplomatic” sources. The

China’s new reality

When it comes to the realm of soft power and cultural diplomacy, China’s efforts are often seen as either lacklustre or counterintuitive. Dwarfed by the cultural juggernauts of Japan and South Korea, Chinese cinema and music struggle to find Western audiences (video games are a very different

The D10 is dead, long live the … Network of Liberty?

After meeting Australian counterparts in the morning, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss delivered an address to the Lowy Institute on Friday which outlined how the United Kingdom will work with partners to build a global “Network of Liberty” to stand up for freedom and push back

Could minilateralism work in the South China Sea?

Tensions with China over the South China Sea have prompted Indonesia to invite maritime security officials from five ASEAN member states – Brunei, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam – to meet in February to discuss a possible joint response to Beijing’s growing assertiveness.

Australia–Japan defence cooperation in the grey zone

Over the last several years, the relationship with China has become increasingly awkward for both Australia and Japan. Other nations have also been similarly afflicted and sometimes more so. The expression “grey zone” is now used as a generic label for China’s new form of prickly interstate

Japan’s low-tech world

Japan is a high-tech country, right? It is, after all, the home of bullet trains, robots, computer games and all sorts of gadgets. But there is another side of the story: low-tech Japan. Most of the world now communicates by email, but our Japanese friends are still hooked on fax machines. While

Mongolia suffers under China’s zero Covid policy

Food shortages, inflation, hundreds of thousands of people without an income, and thousands of shipping containers stuck on the border, not to mention rising Covid-19 cases, job losses, closed businesses, a crippled export sector, and a decimated tourism industry: this has been the situation in

South Korea’s embrace of Australia goes beyond China

The elevation of a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between South Korea and Australia during South Korean President Moon Jae-In’s state visit last month has left analysts torn about its impetus. Is South Korea simply seeking to expand economic ties? Or are we witnessing a “quiet

Who cares about the Australia-China relationship?

Having a deep interest in power politics is still not the norm in Australia. Yet, an increasing number of its population appears genuinely concerned about what a more aggressive and autocratic China means for Australia and for themselves. Intensifying media coverage of the friction in bilateral

Whoever controls the spice, controls the universe

In the science-fiction classic Dune, the natural resource of “spice” represents the most valuable commodity in the universe, found only on the desert planet of Arrakis. Spice serves various purposes in Dune, but in both movie adaptations of the novel, Baron Harkonnen, former ruler of Arrakis,

Japan and Australia ties blossom

Japan and Australia this month formally signed a “landmark” Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), establishing a defence cooperation framework that will allow the stationing of troops in each other’s countries along with the staging of joint training exercises and disaster support. The long-

Fear, loathing and infighting in Kazakhstan

Over the course of barely a week, the normally placid Kazakhstan, best known in the West for being the unwilling object of humour in the Borat films (and perhaps also for being home to approximately 15 per cent of all Bitcoin mining), has endured a maelstrom. Events began on 2 January with


A rare spate of headlines out of Laos last month trilled about a new bullet train that runs from the capital Vientiane to China, with the government heavily in debt after the exercise. But the country was also recently included in a less than auspicious list. The International Monetary Fund ranked

Koreas: A tale of two Olympics

The presidency of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will be bookended by Winter Olympics – one defined by hope, the other despair. North Korea has confirmed it will not participate in the Beijing Winter Olympics because of the coronavirus and what it calls the “hostile policies” of the United States

Indian Ocean step-up

Like Australia in the Pacific, India has been pursuing its own Indian Ocean island step-up, largely driven by concerns about China’s growing influence in the region. This has included increased bilateral aid, investment, and security assistance to the island states. India is also trying to develop

Taliban takeover – Best of The Interpreter 2021

US forces and their allies debated the same question with varying intensity for 20 years after the 9/11 attacks. Afghanistan: To leave or not to leave? Syed Fazl-e-Haider: The Taliban has already warned the US-led forces against extending their presence and demanded they stick to the Doha

Myths that stir trouble in the South China Sea

US officials regularly present China as an aggressive and expansionist military power while Chinese state sources criticise the United States in similar terms. The verbal sparring has only increased concern about the prospect of a future war between China and the United States, with Australia as a

Pakistan and China: An unhappy union in Gwadar

A couple of months back, 70-year-old housewife Masi Zainab asked a charismatic local political leader, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch, to help mount a protest for the rights of the citizens of Gwadar, a port city in southwestern Pakistan. Within weeks, Masi Zainab was marching with thousands of

India remains divided about AUKUS

The jury in New Delhi is still out on AUKUS, the new trilateral security agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Three months after its announcement, the issue continues to split India’s security experts, with little consensus over whether it benefits New Delhi or is

India’s beauty and the beast

It has been a tumultuous 2021 for India: floods, fires, plague and pollution, but also healthy economic growth figures, a successful vaccination campaign, a UN Security Council non-permanent seat, and more visibility on the world stage in non-political ways. India also had an eleventh-hour soft

Hun Sen’s all-encompassing rule of Cambodia

While Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has kept the artifice of democracy in the country, with local commune elections to be held next year, his rule has been defined by illustrations of just how easily he can seize an opportunity to further secure and solidify his family’s power. On 2

China, Australia, and the Internet of Things

The world is being transformed by the Internet of Things (the IoT) as ever more devices and activities are linked through the internet and endowed with computing power. This transformation brings an exponential rise in the security challenges inherent in digital connections, especially connections

Australia’s “China” blinders on South Korea

Moon Jae-in’s visit to Australia brought out a troubling fact – amid the China threat hullabaloo, the ability to objectively analyse other diplomatic relationships has declined. Reported in Australia, the visit predominantly concerned strategy. The purchase of Hanwha’s K-9 howitzer and

Common prosperity meets the Belt and Road

China’s President Xi Jinping’s concept of “common prosperity” is slowly being internationalised. The most obvious manifestation of this came last month when Xi framed the Belt and Road (BRI) as a vehicle for achieving global common prosperity. While it is far from clear at this stage how