Monday 19 Apr 2021 | 06:44 | SYDNEY
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Asia

The limits of Zoom diplomacy in Asia

Say it quietly, lest the wrath of the pandemic gods be triggered. But the wheels of in-person diplomacy are starting to turn again across Asia. The smiling handshakes are gone, replaced by awkward elbow bumps and socially distanced photo opportunities. The negotiating tables have been moved further

Economic diplomacy: Spilled milk and foreign wages

Taking one for the team Spare a thought for Japanese company Kirin, which entered Australia in the vanguard of new ambitions for Asian economic engagement but is now a victim of an undeclared trade war with China. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s move to prevent Kirin selling its unsuccessful Lion

Where next for MIKTA?

After seven years, the informal middle power partnership bringing together Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia (MIKTA), has achieved less than optimists envisioned, but lasted longer than pessimists imagined. MIKTA emerged from the G20 in 2013, bringing together middle powers

A measure of change in Myanmar election

Myanmar’s next general elections are planned for 8 November, with more than 1100 parliamentary seats to be decided in the Lower House, Upper House and across state and regional parliaments, and for ethnic entities. The National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Army-aligned Union Solidarity and

The killings in the Philippines grow more brazen

Earlier this month, days after Manila went back into a hard lockdown due to a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, unidentified assailants slipped past the Philippine capital’s strict quarantine measures and approached the home of Randall Echanis, a left-wing party leader and longtime activist. When

Kashmir, a year on from the change

It has been a little over a year since the Indian government under Narendra Modi curtailed the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The article had given the state a certain degree of autonomy, including its own flag, constitution and freedom to enact

Hidden seams in the UAE-Israel deal

The main questions about the normalisation agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced a week ago are why did it happen and what will it change? It’s pretty clear what US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get out of the deal – both leaders

The Democrat and the world’s biggest democracy

Given the high degree of political participation by the South Asian diaspora in the US that I’ve written about before, it seemed an inevitability that a person with some degree of Indian ethnicity or culture would make it onto a presidential ticket. The question was never if, but who. Would it be

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

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