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Global Issues

An endless game of whack-a-mole?

According to recent media reports, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has received a recommendation from Australia’s domestic security agency ASIO to formally proscribe UK-based extreme-right group Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) as a “terrorist organisation”. This recommendation comes hot on the

“Repair and Build”: Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq

The chronicles recount that, while praying in the little dilapidated church of San Damiano, Saint Francis of Assisi heard a voice: “Francis, go repair my church, which as you can see is in ruin.” Like his namesake saint, Pope Francis will travel to Iraq from 5 to 8 March on a double-repair

Being Chinese in Australia: Public Opinion in Chinese Communities

Amid debates on foreign interference, Australia-China relations and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lowy Institute’s Multiculturalism, Identity and Influence Project conducted a nationally representative poll of Chinese-Australians in November 2020 to better understand their outlook on life in

India’s Koo plots a digital coup

Facebook might be a social media behemoth, its reach and power made apparent when Australian users saw local news rubbed off their screens from Thursday in response to new media laws, but the platform is also just one among an ever-growing online milieu. China has WeChat, the world has Twitter, and

Antarctica: Working a rules-based system

Panic about China in Antarctica or shoehorning the continent into US-China geostrategic competition risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Australia’s interest in a peaceful Antarctica doesn’t fit such a binary view. Besides, where else would it be commonplace for Chinese, Australian and US

India, Canada and the new vaccine politics

The threat of wealthy countries hoarding vaccines for themselves and denying access to smaller and poorer countries has become the world’s primary cooperative concern. Yet how vaccine nationalism also attaches itself to pre-existing relationships between countries may become another part of this

Australia’s place in a decarbonising world economy

A welcome change is underway in the international effort to combat dangerous global warming. It will have big implications for the Australian economy. The United States, European Union and China – the world’s three biggest emitters – are now all targeting net zero emissions by mid-century (

Pacific development outlook for 2021

Pacific nations have mostly escaped the heavy death toll and hospital bed shortages faced by Western countries battling Covid-19, but the pandemic has dealt a disproportionately severe blow to the region’s economic ambitions. But with the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery in sight in China

What does America think the rules-based order is for?

This week we launched the latest project to emerge from the Lowy’s Institute’s Australia’s Security and the Rules-Based Order project, a debate feature on America and the Rules-Based Order. It’s a textbook example of constructive public debate. Each of the six expert participants

Helping Indonesia’s children in a time of pandemic

While the Indonesian government is taking important steps to improve pandemic management – appointing a new Health Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and preparing to provide a free vaccine for all – its attention is mostly focused on adults, people with underlying health conditions

Looking for the keys to Covid “success”

The Covid-19 pandemic is a dynamic global crisis. Infections are surging again in many places that had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks, and the severity of the pandemic has changed significantly over time in many countries. Over the last year, this invisible enemy has exposed

China and the Australian far right

Since the start of the pandemic, China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have become a key rallying point for a diverse array of political groups. This includes the Australian far right, which has seized on new opportunities related to China to radicalise and recruit throughout 2020. In

Can vaccines offer an exit plan from Covid-19?

As recently as six months ago, naysayers were warning, “We may never have a vaccine against Covid-19”. Yet a year after SARS-Cov-2 emerged, the first vaccine programs are already rolling out in the US, the UK, India, China, Israel, Chile, Indonesia and many other countries. Israel has already

Australia in focus at the UN Human Rights Council

Australia is a peaceful, prosperous nation that vocalises its support for human rights – and yet last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, one after another, countries voiced their concerns about serious human rights violations that are being committed in Australia, particularly relating

Using the Australian Open as a Tokyo test run

Focus on the upcoming Australian Open tennis tournament these last few weeks in the local media has been intense. Still, it’s possible that Olympics officials in Japan are monitoring the first tennis Grand Slam event of the year even closer than we are in Australia. As tournament organisers

Re-evaluating the military’s role in disaster response

Past global economic downturns have usually had a knock-on effect for military budgets, resulting in lower defence spending. After the global financial crisis led to the contraction of the world GDP in 2009, global military spending only recovered in 2015. With the World Bank predicting that the

The US and the next leader of the OECD

Although it may not regularly make headlines, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an important multilateral institution. With its standard-setting capability, the organisation’s 300 committees and 3300-member secretariat have carved unique policy niches on trade,

Why Twitter was right to dump Trump

President Donald Trump’s social media ban (aka de-platforming) has had some free speech advocates in conniptions, not just in America but across the world. In an ironic twist, China’s censored netizens have, with official support, also fancifully railed against the ban, suggesting that Weibo is

Resisting uncertainty, Malaysia is finding itself

Malaysia is in a quandary, desperately trying to figure out how to resolve political and economic questions. The fragmentation of the Malaysian market for votes is at a point it has never before experienced. In a country where ethnic politics have long dominated, there are the Malays, who are

A very British crisis

Returning to the country of one’s birth is a common experience for many Australians. In the more than 45 years since I first arrived in Australia, though, I have never been more astounded and appalled by what has happened to Britain in my absence, or more grateful that I no longer live there. I

What does the arrival of Covid vaccines mean for 2021?

On the eve of 2020, the first case of an unexplained SARS-like pneumonia was noticed in Wuhan. 2021 has begun with vaccines against Covid-19 already approved and mass vaccination campaigns rolling out. But we also begin the year with almost 85 million people confirmed to have been infected by

The unique power of TikTok’s algorithm

During an end of year break, The Interpreter is again featuring select articles published throughout 2020. This piece was originally published on 7 October 2020. Most people know TikTok as an entertaining app with an endless stream of snappy, addictive short videos that make them smile after a

Afghanistan’s unseen Covid crisis

During an end of year break, The Interpreter is again featuring select articles published throughout 2020. This piece was originally published on 12 August 2020. The most striking thing about the top Covid-19 treatment facility in Afghanistan is the lack of basic measures preventing the spread of

The vanishing hegemon

During an end of year break, The Interpreter is again featuring select articles published throughout 2020. This piece was originally published on 20 April. Has the corona crisis already changed the world? Many people certainly seem to think so. From doomsday prognoses of a collapse into a bio-

Covering the Covid shock on The Interpreter in 2020

From the first days in January this year, the question that dominated the outbreak was how upfront Beijing had been about the novel coronavirus that became known as Covid-19. Richard McGregor: So far, the handling of the crisis seems to have underlined one of the ongoing problems with the

Your most-read articles on The Interpreter in 2020

We had 70% more page views this year compared to last. With numbers like that, wry office jokes about a potential stock market float for The Interpreter took on a certain edge. It was thrilling to see the value readers put in our articles to help them try to make sense of a year of extraordinary

The strange connections of isolation

Today, as it has for nine months, the Australian government’s Smartraveller website tells me “do not travel”. Every country on the map is coloured red. To leave the country, I would need an exemption on compassionate grounds. Apparently it’s a high bar. For the last few years, I averaged

The modern sharing of Pacific “public goods”

The Covid-19 crisis has made the importance of data sharing more urgent than ever. For the island nations of the Pacific, ensuring a ready flow of information to support decision-making is critical. Robust data-sharing systems will be instrumental in helping countries collaborate with one another,

Favourites of 2020: Running for nothing?

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Any runner with a shoebox full of medals knows that

How extremist messaging co-opts emergency events

Australia experienced two major emergency events in 2020 – the summer bushfires followed shortly after by the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout these events, social media played a critical role in providing information, facilitating social connection and public discussions. However, there

Learning from an island in a pandemic

Through a quirk in circumstances, I presently find myself sheltering from the pandemic in Iceland. I wouldn’t consider myself stranded like other overseas Australians. I am here due to personal necessity and because the country is a relatively safe place. While the recent success of my home city

Avoiding a “lost decade” in the Pacific

The horror year that has been 2020 is thankfully coming to an end with a dose of welcome optimism, now that vaccines are on the way. But the end is still far from within sight for many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours. In a new Lowy Institute policy brief, we argue that the Pacific is

The wrong side won: Remembering John le Carré

The verdict of John le Carré (real name David Cornwall) on the outcome of the Cold War was: “The right side lost, but the wrong side won”. This ambiguous conclusion is attributed to le Carré’s favourite character, George Smiley, in his novel The Secret Pilgrim, but it is an unmistakable

Bringing space law into the 21st century

Throughout 2020, a renewed debate has taken hold over international legal frameworks and the governance of outer space. A flurry of outer space activities has ensured this debate has gained extra attention. These include China’s Chang’e-5 mission, which in December landed an unmanned craft on

Favourites of 2020: A lockdown loaf

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. A year like no other. From global pandemics to climate

PNG and the politics of the death penalty

Another season of turmoil has swept politics in Papua New Guinea. The Supreme Court has ruled the recent budget sitting to be unlawful, ordering the parliament to resume on Monday while the prospect a no confidence motion in Prime Minister James Marape hangs in the air. But for all the raucous

Favourites of 2020: Casting a line in Pacific fisheries

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. The evolution of Pacific fisheries management is a

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