Saturday 05 Dec 2020 | 05:49 | SYDNEY
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Asia

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

The invisible during the pandemic

Recently in Singapore, several migrant workers attempted suicide at their dormitories, with at least one death. According to the authorities, some of them did so because they failed to get employers’ permission to leave the city after purchasing flight tickets (in Singapore, a migrant worker’s

Brookings Report: Historical tensions and contemporary governance challenges in Southeast Asia: The case of Indonesia

In this report published by the Brookings Institution, Ben Bland explains why Western nations need to engage with Indonesia in its own right, not as a part of plan to counterbalance China. To do so successfully, they need to develop a much better understanding of the long-running (and ongoing)

The way to post-Covid recovery in the Indo-Pacific? Act now

Australia plans to spend a lot more on defence to confront what Prime Minister Scott Morrison says will be “a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more dangerous, and that is more disorderly”. A chorus of voices have responded that Australian foreign policy risks becoming unbalanced, with

The Najib verdict and the test of Malaysia’s institutions

Last week saw Najib Razak become Malaysia’s first former premier to be convicted in court – an unenviable title in anyone’s book. Facing seven charges of money laundering, abuse of power and criminal breach of trust, Najib has been sentenced to jail for 12 years, and given an extraordinary

Brunei, ASEAN and the South China Sea

On 20 July, after a long period silence on the issue, the Brunei Darussalam Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement declaring that it “maintains its two-step approach in addressing the South China Sea”. As bland as this statement sounds, it represents a critical development in the tiny

Book review: Superpower showdown

Book Review: Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War (HarperCollins, 2020). Global relations are undergoing a dramatic shift. China is increasingly assertive internationally and repressive domestically. Examples of its brashness

US–South Korea: Working group blues

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in’s appointment of new national security advisers has attracted attention, given their pro-détente stance in spite of North Korea’s latest provocations. The incoming team has rolled out an ambitious agenda to break the stalemate between the North and South

Battle for Hong Kong takes on a new shape

Last week marked the first anniversary of one of the more significant moments during the protests in Hong Kong during 2019. The Yuen Long incident, on 21 July 2019, is remembered by many peaceful protesters as a mob attack by white-shirted thugs who many believed to be government-backed members of

On China, the US speaks loudly but carries no stick

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has busily tried to smooth out what has been a fairly ragged Asia policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library last week was the culmination of a number of set-piece acts intended to emphasise a yet

Book review: The memory of a massacre in Thailand

Book review: Thongchai Winichakul, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (University of Hawaii Press, 2020) In the early hours of 6 October 1976, Thai police and right-wing thugs laid siege to Thammasat University in Bangkok, where thousands of

Modi’s pandemic gambit

As the world tries to make sense of the daily debacle of Donald Trump’s response to Covid-19, there’s another democratically elected leader moving in a similar trajectory. India’s Narendra Modi, the man who 15 weeks ago placed his country’s 1.3 billion people under lockdown, is today

Interesting times for TikTok

From Delhi to Washington to Canberra, the future of the digital economy may be heavily influenced by how one question is answered: What to do about TikTok? The popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance has been at the centre of a storm of controversy. Concern

A nervous watch on the Three Gorges Dam

To understand China, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on what is happening inside the country. Much of the current international discussion about China focuses on China’s plans to expand its overseas influence – both in Asia and beyond. But as the legendary American politician Tip O’Neill

Is Huawei in the UK a canary in the coalmine?

It is not a coincidence that Britain’s turnaround on using Huawei for its 5G infrastructure happened at the height of the pandemic. Covid-19 brutally brought back the realisation that international value chains are only as strong as their weakest link. This new awareness made plain that

Singapore’s election: Why aren’t the winners smiling?

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has won its 13th consecutive general election since Singapore became an independent country. PAP won 83 out of 93 seats, a spectacular performance anywhere else. So why isn’t the ruling party smiling? In this election, PAP obtained 61.2% of the popular vote.

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