Sunday 24 Jan 2021 | 16:50 | SYDNEY
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Asia

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.

India, Australia and containing the China challenge

Australia’s strategy on engaging India has long revolved around the so-called “three Cs”: cricket, curry and the Commonwealth. In light of the changing status of bilateral relations in 2020, let’s add a couple more Cs to the list: China, and containment of. On Friday, it emerged that

Moon’s North Korea vision up in smoke? Not so fast …

North Korea’s demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong on 16 June sent a powerful visual message to the world that North-South relations were degrading. But perhaps equally telling were South Korea’s handling of the destruction and the subsequent personnel and policy

Social credit: The next China risk for Australian business

As China recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, the apparatus of the state is about to be devoted to a new form of social control. By the end of 2020, China plans to introduce its national social credit system. For some, this evokes dystopian visions of a surveillance state, monitoring more than a

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

Taiwan tiptoes in cross-strait relations

“The hills will be toppled and the earth will quake,” warned a metaphorically-minded Su Chi, former secretary-general of Taiwan’s National Security Council, ahead of Taiwan’s presidential elections last year. “If Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen were to be re-elected … cross-strait

The kind of test the world doesn’t need

In May, the Washington Post reported discussions within the Trump administration about the possibility of conducting the first US nuclear detonation test since 1992, ostensibly as a countermeasure to the nuclear programs of China and Russia. Last month, officials said no tests were planned, but, in

Twisting India’s Chicken’s Neck

Indian officials claim that China is continuing its build-up along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between India and China in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh region. New satellite imagery supports the claim that not only is the People’s Liberation Army holding ground

Obstacles remain for Pakistan dam backed by China

Over the last decade, the demand to build a new mega-dam intensified in Pakistan. The proposed Diamer-Bhasha dam, 320 kilometres from the border with China in the north, was an obvious choice, because all provincial governments agreed to its location. At 272 metres high, it would be the highest

Philippines government driving jeepneys off the road

After almost four months of lockdown measures due to Covid-19, the Philippines government in June eased restrictions for the majority of the country. But even as public transport systems slowly got back to running, something was missing: the distinctive jeepneys, still banned from plying their trade

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