Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 06:30 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Photo essay: Phnom Penh and China-backed building boom

Phnom Penh was long known as a relatively low-rise city, at least compared to towering neighbours such as Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, and Singapore. These cities all saw their skylines shoot up in recent decades – long before Phnom Penh’s belated boom – as their country’s economies

China’s slam dunk of the NBA is a game changer

The US trade war against China launched by President Donald Trump has hitherto lacked a clear moral dimension. There are economic arguments – that China insists on tilting the playing field by blocking certain foreign companies, forced local partnerships for foreign firms, or intellectual property

In search of clarity on Hong Kong’s future

Under the constitutional principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, as stated in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years after the 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule. As a reassurance, Deng Xiaoping, the

What Russia wants in a multipolar world

Last week, Russia’s Ambassador to Australia, Alexei Pavlovsky, delivered a keynote address at the Australian National University on Russia’s strategic architect and former foreign minister, the late Yevgeny Primakov. Reflecting on the speech, it is evident that policy makers, pundits, and the

China, a low-productivity superpower

In the space of just a few decades, China has risen to the rank of a world power, and certainly an Asian regional power. And now China and the US have locked horns in a great-power struggle over trade, foreign investment, intellectual property, technology-transfer policies, industrial policy, cyber

Towards a peaceful and inclusive Asia

Small states are states too. They have their own agency, their own interests, and their own preferences, and it is important they do not see the world through the perspectives offered by the US-China binary. This was the main point of the speech I gave this month in Beijing as Malaysia’s Deputy

How Africa is breaking China’s neo-colonial shackles

If there’s any indication of how Africa is moving up on everyone’s agenda, look no further than the first edition of the Russia-Africa Summit, which saw 43 African heads of state converging last week on Sochi. Beyond the fact that the summit reflects the brisk trade Moscow does with the

Messy is the new order: Succession time in Malaysia

If events go according to schedule, Malaysia is set for a leadership transition in 2020. Speaking to a Wall Street CEO conference immediately after the May 2018 election, the then–newly minted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that he will stay in office for one or two years before handing over

Soft power, hard weather: Japanese resilience

Typhoon Hagibis was the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in decades. The storm’s ferocity was extraordinary, and the level of destruction immense. At least 78 people have been killed, and more than 230,000 evacuated. Notably the typhoon, the 19th to hit Japan this year, struck the east coast

Victoria takes the initiative with China

I thought to myself, here’s Xi Jinping walking past, here’s a chance to ask him a question. But instead he just gave me a wan look and a bodyguard quickened a step to put himself in the way, allowing the delegation to brush by before I got a word out. It was Vice President Xi back then, in

Finally, some plain talk on the Quad

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. Australia’s foreign policy analysts can be very grateful for these candid remarks, because they should prompt Canberra to rethink its policy stance on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “

Antarctica and the China test

At the current meeting in Hobart for CCAMLR, the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Australia is once again moving to establish marine sanctuaries off the east of Antarctica with the support of the US, Europe, and a coalition of environmental organisations. And

Hong Kong protesters need a narrative – now

As the demonstrations roll on in Hong Kong, the narrative surrounding the protests is as unclear as the tear gas clouds in Causeway Bay. While the visual drama tells a certain story, and the #fivedemandsnoless hashtag gives some clues, it’s difficult for many looking on around the world to discern

China’s own “Great Delusion”

In his 2018 book The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, international relations scholar John Mearsheimer argues that many of America’s post–cold war foreign policy failures have ultimately been the result of a misguided strategy of a pursuit of “liberal hegemony”, an

Facebook, the Rohingya, and internet blackouts in Myanmar

The role of social media, particularly Facebook, in facilitating hate speech and spreading disinformation in countries such as Myanmar has undermined assertions by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his platform promotes “well-being”. Nevertheless, the United Nations has argued that internet

Dispatches from the front (row)

Only last week The Interpreter featured an article about the pitfalls of importing a major international sporting event into a country that didn’t have enough domestic interest or emotional investment to support it. That may have been the case in Qatar, but having just returned from two weeks and

Could Australia unlock the Kashmir question?

The Indian government’s lockdown of the strategic and volatile region of Kashmir is entering into its third month. Thousands of troops are deployed in the valley with shoot on sight orders in place, the internet remains cut off, while mobile phones lines have only just been restored.

Plogging along: India-China struggle to find momentum

You may have seen photos in recent days of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hunched over a beach, picking up rubbish. While the images presented an opportunity for media to write about ocean pollution, there was actually an even bigger event at play: an informal summit between India and China.

The Wiranto attack and the ISIS impact

The stabbing attack last Thursday by an ISIS supporter on Wiranto, Indonesia’s top security minister, was a shock for several reasons. Attacks on senior officials in Indonesia are very rare, though terrorist attacks on police are common. Protection proved to be disturbingly lax – the stabber got

China and Catholicism, an unhappy marriage

China’s Christians are suffering again, as Beijing continues to implement leader Xi Jinping’s policy of “sinicisation” of religion that, in effect, means making adherents to all religions more loyal to the ruling Communist Party, rather than to their conscience. It is now a little more

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

Asia’s diversity, made all the same

Book review: The Future is Asian – Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century, by Parag Khanna (Simon & Schuster, 2019) In The Future is Asian, Parag Khanna provides readers with a rollicking ramble through the economy, society, culture, politics, and international relations of Asia

The next phase of the Belt and Road: Podcast out now

After Malaysia became the first country to tear up its corruptly overpriced BRI deals in 2018, this year has seen a shift in the rhetoric around China’s grand strategy. The second phase of the Belt and Road Initiative is shifting focus from grand infrastructure projects like ports and rail to

Afghanistan: Water management for peace

In the optimistic view, Afghanistan is closer to peace today than at any time in the past decades. The presidential election last weekend may have been hampered by low turnout, and US negotiations with the Taliban have halted, but one of the factors which can significantly contribute to maintaining

Poles apart: The long shadow of US-China competition

From trade to cyber, from the South China Sea to outer space, strategic rivalry between the United States and China is shaping the international order. The polar regions seem no exception. At the recent Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council held in Rovaniemi, Finland, US Secretary of State

Can the ICC bring justice to Myanmar?

More than 700,000 men, women, and children, many identifying as Rohingya, crossed the border from Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh in 2017, fleeing violence at the hands of the military and security forces. A UN Fact-Finding Mission was established to determine the facts and circumstances

Violence in Papua could get worse

Violence has swept across Indonesian Papua in the last six weeks, starting with racist taunts against Papuan students in East Java, and moving back to Papua where protests against racism turned into larger pro-independence demonstrations. On 28 August, police opened fire on demonstrators in Deiyai

In Sri Lanka’s election, bumps ahead

The race for Sri Lanka’s presidential election is heating up, with the vote slated for 16 November. On 11 August, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, became the candidate of the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP). The SLPP is a Rajapaksa-backed political party that

India’s RCEP reticence

Despite the modern proliferation of free trade agreements, there is an enormous gap between free trade as it is understood and advocated by those who benefit from it, and free trade as it is practiced today. The understanding of economic integration is diverse and complicated – at its heart sits a

Book review: Common enemies

Book review: Common enemies: crime, policy and politics in Australia–Indonesia relations, by Michael McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2018) Next month marks the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombing, which on 12 October 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people and injured 209 others. The attack

Myanmar: postage stamps and political signals

Myanmar’s former military regime often used new issues of the country’s postage stamps to send political signals, not only to its own people but also to the international community. It appears that this practice is also being followed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s quasi-democratic

Stalemate leaves Rohingya refugees trapped

It has been two years since the forced exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, and for about a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, there is no sign of returning in the foreseeable future. The growing uncertainty of repatriation, diminishing international aid, and an aggrieved local host community have

Malaysia’s dangerous racial and religious trajectory

When Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition ruled the country, it faced an opposition that campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption, free and fair elections, and greater democracy. BN, led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the largest and most dominant party, ruled

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