Tuesday 18 Jan 2022 | 09:13 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Is Southeast Asia ready for a US-China tech decoupling?

Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to

How strong is Duterte the strongman?

The 2016 presidential race in the Philippines looked like the perfect time for Rodrigo Duterte to come to power. The country was coming off of Noynoy Aquino’s soft and ineffectual presidency, and there was a sweeping sense that voters were keen on the unconventional. In stepped Duterte, who spoke

Thailand’s overcrowded prisons hit by Covid-19 surge

Thailand emerged from the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the best performing countries in the world in terms of minimising cases and deaths. But 2021 has been a different story. A surge in infections since the beginning of April has seen thousands of new cases each day and a spike

Myanmar is not the next Syria

The deteriorating situation in Myanmar has led some observers to issue warnings of a “new Syria”. The two scenarios are not without broad similarities. In mid-April, civilians in Myanmar were being killed at a higher rate than in 2011 Syria, when a crackdown on protests sparked a brutal civil

South Korea’s green goals

Last year, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in launched a climate-change policy branded as a “Green New Deal” as part of a wider stimulus package for the country’s pandemic-afflicted economy. This sat alongside a commitment to achieve a net-zero carbon emissions target by the year 2050

How Gaza occupies Indonesia’s identity wars

Indonesia’s public debate over the issue of Palestinian rights was reawakened by the latest violence, which claimed at least 243 lives in Gaza and 12 in Israel before an eventual ceasefire. Social media was especially animated by vehement arguments as most Indonesians – 86.7% of whom identify as

PNG can’t turn a blind eye to the conflict next door

A video recently surfaced on social media in Papua New Guinea, featuring a group of about 20 men, gathered around their apparent leader, declaring war on Indonesia. “People of East Sepik,” the leader says, referring to one of the two provinces which stretch along PNG’s northern coastline

“Flexible” is the new North Korea policy buzzword

South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a boost in his outreach to North Korea last week after talks with US President Joe Biden. Biden announced he would be open to a summit with North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un on the proviso that Kim would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons during a

ASEAN’s huge gamble on Myanmar

It has been a month since the ASEAN Leaders met with Myanmar junta Leader Min Aung Hlaing on 24 April in Jakarta to discuss the situation in Myanmar. The meeting itself and the outcome of it – the Five-Point Consensus – has been applauded by some as a rare win for ASEAN, given its limitations in

Australia-China relations: More hurdles ahead

A recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald found that Australian media outlets quote the Global Times more often than they quote either China’s President Xi Jinping or members of the Chinese embassy in Canberra. This diet from a daily tabloid – viewed in the media industry as a source of

Duterte the defier

On 20 March, the Philippine government’s National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea reported that more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels, with suspected members of China’s maritime militia on board, had congregated around Juan Felipe Reef (aka Whitsun Reef) and appeared to be neither

Lessons from the recent cyclone in Timor-Leste

The cyclone which hit Timor-Leste on 4 April was traumatising. We were awakened at 3 am by heavy rain and winds gusting at more than 125km/hour. Water began to flood into our house, and 15 minutes later we had to escape by swimming. The water reached almost two metres. Throughout, I had to keep

A rare test of China diplomacy

The term “political science,” as many have observed, is somewhat of an oxymoron. Of all fields of scholarly pursuit, politics is comparatively ill-suited to the processes of the scientific method. Political systems and policies cannot exactly be isolated in a laboratory. The “data sets” of

London and Hong Kong: Financial centres in parallel peril

There is a curious parallel between Hong Kong and London as financial centres in potential decline due to the recent loss of a unique position. Historically both cities were crucial nodes in the global network of the British Empire. More recently both functioned at a critical junction between the

Russia–China: An Unholy Alliance?

Russia and China’s verbal sparring with the US over competing visions of multilateralism last week in the UN Security Council exemplified the closer ties forged over recent years between Moscow and Beijing. The burgeoning relationship undoubtedly offers mutual advantage for both countries –

Myanmar and a new kind of civil war

In early 1989, I was passing through Bangkok when a friend from a Western embassy invited me to what she called “a secret meeting”. She knew that I was a Myanmar-watcher, but what interested her most was the fact that I had published a couple of books on terrorism and urban guerrilla warfare.

India’s Covid-19 wave is spreading south

Images of the pandemic in Delhi that currently saturate the international media depict ailing patients struggling to find beds, oxygen and medical attention. Amid a highly privatised healthcare terrain with underfunded public hospitals, access to Delhi’s hospitals has long depended on one’s own&

Andrew Peacock’s Timor legacy

Since his death on 13 April, tributes to former Australian foreign minister and leader of the federal opposition Andrew Peacock have flowed from across the political divide. He has been remembered as a huge figure who left an “indelible” mark on Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Former Liberal

Do Belt and Road projects provide local benefits?

In a virtual meeting with a group of African students in late April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked a question, implicitly, about China: “Are they bringing their own workers with them, or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?” Blinken

China’s innovation dilemma

It has long been conventional wisdom that China would struggle to become an innovative nation. China’s controlled society, with lack of freedom of speech and expression, propaganda and censorship, together with an education system that emphasises rote learning and memorisation have been judged to

Economic diplomacy: Patent politics and trade deal twists

Biden’s jab First it was new carbon emission cuts, and then a global minimum corporate tax. But it is hard to beat the Biden administration’s move to shaft the pharmaceutical industry lobby over vaccine patents for putting the US back at the heart of global public policy. The devil will be in

Biden’s North Korea plans come into view

The Biden administration recently announced it had completed its North Korea policy review. The White House, through several public statements in recent days, dropped crumbs of details about its approach towards the Kim Jong-un regime and its advancing nuclear weapons program. Depending on the

Is North Korea expertise all talk?

Among Russia, Middle East–North Africa, China and North Korea watchers, there’s a recurrent debate – one responsible for snide comments at conferences, heated social media arguments and even, from what I’ve witnessed, physical altercations. It revolves around one question: Can you be an

India’s power illusion

India was proud to boast about being the “world’s pharmacy” as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, particularly after other members in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue asked India to mass-produce Covid-19 vaccines for export across the world. Indeed, high-minded government decrees about

Pakistani Taliban turn on China

A deadly bomb blast rocked the Serena Hotel last month in Pakistan’s south-western city of Quetta, leaving five dead and 12 critically injured. The bomb exploded just as a VIP guest and his entourage were barely five minutes away from the site. He was Nong Rong, Ambassador of the People’s

Australia keeps calm while China carries on

Now that the Morrison government has cancelled Victoria’s Belt and Road agreement with China, Australia is bracing for retaliation from Beijing, probably by way of further trade sanctions. When that retaliation arrives, what should Australia do about it? There’s an old saying that “living

India: Smoke and mirrors

Watching a Hindu cremation, in which the body is burned on an open funeral pyre, is a profoundly confronting experience. The body is placed onto a cement platform. A pyre is built around it, with wood stacked in a triangular tunnel to allow the fire to breathe. Ghee is scattered around the

China’s climate pivot could reshape the economic future

Diplomacy is not always diplomatic. This fact of international life was on full display during the recent meeting of top US and Chinese diplomats in Alaska. It has also frequently characterised the long-running United Nations climate negotiations – often with the same protagonists. A Chinese

Taiwan: Renewing a southbound vision

For all the talk of cross-Strait military tensions – which are real – in the economic realm, Taiwan’s fortunes have been bound to those of China. Recognising the need to diversify, when Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, she initiated what was dubbed a “New Southbound Policy”, with the

Some reflections on the “anonymous Xinjiang paper”

During an event to launch the China Story Yearbook at the National Press Club in Canberra on 21 April, the Director of the Australian National University’s China in the World Centre, Professor Jane Golley, stated that she had received an anonymous “scholarly” article that “debunks much of

China’s leap into space

China has launched a new space station, the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken in spaceflight. Right now, the station is just a cylindrical module without a crew, but it will grow over time as more components are added. Although some media reports will cite this as China’s first space

Response to Myanmar coup shows need for UN reform

It’s been almost three months since Myanmar’s military junta seized power from the democratically elected government. More than 700 protesters have been killed, and more than 3000 arrested. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has said that the military is likely committing

Guiding Myanmar away from ruin

On 4 January 2012, at the beginning of what was commonly assumed to be Myanmar’s transition to democracy, the government-run New Light of Myanmar published an editorial that contrasted “the violent conflicts, protests and bloodshed” that mark other countries’ transitions to democracy with

Pakistan’s extremist dilemma

Pakistan is at a crossroads, with a choice either to become hostage to religious groups or to take independent foreign policy decisions. After making an apparent shift away from its policy of tolerating extremist religious organisations, Pakistan’s government last week surrendered to the demands

Indonesia raises ASEAN’s bar on Myanmar

For much of his presidency, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo has taken a mercantilist view of foreign policy, pushing the country’s diplomats to promote trade and investment while keeping their heads below the parapet on most thorny international issues. Indonesia’s inward-looking approach compounded

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