Thursday 04 Mar 2021 | 05:35 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Thailand: Another dissenter disappears

On 4 June, Wanchalearm Satsaksit – a self-exiled Thai political activist living in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh – vanished. He was almost certainly abducted. CCTV footage shows him taken away in a black car. His sister, who was on the phone with him when he was seized, told BBC Thai that he

North Korea may have benefited from the pandemic after all

Recent news reports about North Korea reopening its schools and easing its restrictions on border trade with China after more than four months of coronavirus-related closure indicate that normalcy is returning to the Hermit Kingdom. While it would be far-fetched to fairly evaluate Pyongyang’s

COVIDcast: Xi Jinping and COVID-19

COVIDcast is a Lowy Institute pop-up podcast for anyone interested in understanding the effect of coronavirus on global politics. Each week for the next few weeks, Lowy Institute experts will sit down to discuss the implications of coronavirus for the world. In this episode of COVIDcast, Richard

Hong Kong: What China stands to lose

China’s recent national security legislation and ensuing crackdowns in Hong Kong are a certain sign of the Chinese Communist Party’s fragility as it deals with its economic woes amid Covid-19. Xi Jinping’s latest move to suppress political dissent is a blatant, but failed, attempt to convey

China toys with a new propaganda technique: Irony

As the world struggles with the Covid-19 crisis, the US and China have been locked in a heated propaganda warfare over the handling of the virus. Hitting back at President Donald Trump’s claim that “China let it spread”, Chinese official media angrily accused the US of “groundless accusation

The case for Australian strategic ambiguity

It is June 2021. An American destroyer sailing near a reef held by Beijing in the South China Sea has had a collision with a Chinese frigate that was attempting to drive it off. Both vessels have suffered multiple fatalities and, damaged, are at anchor near the reef. While who was at fault is

The gravity of China’s space base in Argentina

For most people, the first things that likely come to mind when imagining Patagonia in South America are mountains, glaciers, lakes and fjords. But there is also a lesser-known tourist destination: the visitors centre of a Chinese-owned space station in remote north-west Patagonia, Argentina. In

New Zealand and China: Contending with words and actions

New Zealand was one of the more than 130 countries which, at the recent World Health Assembly, sponsored a resolution setting up an independent inquiry into Covid-19 – a proposal initially rejected by China. New Zealand also backed Taiwan gaining observer status at the World Health Organisation,

China and Japan’s island dispute

When I was a news hack in 2012, I had the good fortune of interviewing Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister. He was only 16 days into his new post, and he was doing a four-nation swing of Asia. While he initially sounded tentative, he started to grow more comfortable as he spoke about the

In India and Africa, women farmers lack land rights

In October 2016, women from across the African continent met at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a charter of demands pushing for women’s right to use, control, own, inherit and dispose land. The Women2Kilimanjaro hike’s demand for more inclusive land rights proved not to be in

Who really killed the Quad 1.0?

The tale has become accepted diplomatic folklore. In the telling, it was Australia, back in 2008 in the early days of the Rudd government, that decided to scuttle the then-nascent Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the four-way talks also involving Japan, the United States and India. To compound

The local cost of rising India-China tensions

India-China tensions have recently escalated at two Himalayan flashpoints: Ladakh and Sikkim. On 5 May, scuffles broke out between Chinese and Indian soldiers near Pangong Tso, a lake that straddles the border in Ladakh. At the same time, there were skirmishes near Nathu La, a mountain pass that

Seychelles: Truth, justice and Australia

Australia has not usually had a high profile in the Indian Ocean island states such as Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar. This despite Australia’s huge Indian Ocean littoral, presence of three oceanic territories, mutual Commonwealth links and substantial investment. Inter-governmental visits

The Trump card in the Sino-Indian rivalry?

As worrying details about the month-long India-China border dispute continue to pour in, Donald Trump, in his signature style, has muddied waters in two significant ways. First, on Wednesday morning, he tweeted: “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and

Another pearl in China’s string?

The Cambodian island of Koh Rong, long a backpacker’s haven, lies just a quick boat ride from Sihanoukville, a city that has come to symbolise the governmental intimacy of Cambodia and China. Omnipresent Chinese-owned casinos, along with frequent reports of criminal behaviour, have turned

Rohingya in Malaysia, doubly trapped

For some people living in the Ampang district in eastern Kuala Lumpur, self-isolation is nothing new. The area is known for its concentration of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, nestled in the grimy apartments and neighbourhoods of this former tin mining centre, and they haven't been going out for a

Hong Kong: System override

At first glance, the latest protests in Hong Kong may seem like a carbon copy of what happened in 2019. On 24 May, thousands of pro-democracy protesters crowded into one of the city’s busiest shopping districts, only to be met by riot police with tear gas and water cannons. Officers arrested at

How is an advanced Australia faring in the Asian century?

China’s barley tariffs have thrust the challenges of trade into the headlines with a prominence rarely seen in the popular Australian media. Although a crucial basis of national prosperity, the “trade” side of Australia’s international engagement has seemingly always had a lower profile than

In Afghanistan, one step forward, but peace still a far leap

Last week, Afghanistan’s top two politicians, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, signed a power-sharing agreement in Kabul, ending their eight-month standoff over September’s presidential elections. The deal allows Ghani to remain president, while giving Abdullah control of the top peacemaking

The battle for a Covid vaccine risks losing the “war”

Leaders of nations around the globe have resorted to the language of warfare to characterise their fight against Covid-19. From US President Donald Trump, who declared himself a “war president”, to China’s Xi Jinping committing to a “people’s war”, to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris

The tangled web of India-China relations

The present phase of India-China relations emerged from the desire and imperative to reset relations after the Doklam standoff in 2017 and the realisation that, despite the persistence of major differences between them, India and China have significant areas of cooperation both in the bilateral and

West Papua: Looking for an opening

When the world is grappling with the kind of calamity few of us have experienced before, it can be easy to forget other crises. Climate change springs to mind. So, too, does the record level of human displacement around the world, a problem largely driven by conflict. That brings us to the long-

India’s Covid-19 tracing app: Power in the right hands?

Governments around the world are working hard to convince their populations to download the various Covid-19 infection tracing apps. As well as potentially helping to stymie the spread of the virus, the app download numbers serve another purpose: they could be read to indicate how much trust there

Covid-19: The need to aid Asia to open up

Two things about the public health and economic impacts of Covid-19 are now clear. First, with just a few exceptions, most affected countries have suffered egregiously, and in many cases unnecessarily. This is a tragic situation. Second, the response has been mainly left to the national

Why Vietnam embraces multilateralism at this uncertain time

Today the mere mention of multilateralism leaves many jeering that the heyday of international cooperation has past. Isolationist politics appear preferred. Yet Vietnam’s recent activism in multilateral forums appears to demonstrate that Hanoi does not believe that cooperation is a faded luxury.

The Taliban’s empty promises of peace

In a Covid-19 world, there is perhaps little that can still shock and surprise. Still, this week’s brutal attack by Afghan insurgents on a clinic in a hospital in Kabul’s western suburb of Dasht-e-Barchi, during the holy month of Ramadan, made for particularly horrific news, given the targets

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