Sunday 09 Aug 2020 | 00:34 | SYDNEY
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Global Issues

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 Beirut explosion and the plight of Syrian refugees

When you have the privilege of working in international relations, there are some experiences that stay with you for life. There are the places you go and the people you meet. Conversations that start at the roundtable, continue into dinner, and often go late into the night. At airports and hotels,

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

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

Covid and crime: Twin tests for Papua New Guinea

There must be days when Papua New Guinea Police Commissioner David Manning wonders what he has signed himself up for. On Friday night, he revealed that his officers had found a ute-load of plastic-wrapped cocaine, just days after discovering an Australian-registered light plane that had

Defending Australia in a high-tech future

The recently announced $270 billion commitment to expand Australia’s military capability sets the tone for a deteriorating strategic environment. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are only part of the answer in aligning Australia’s response to this challenging future. It

Melbourne or Washington, all politics is local, again

We all see the world through our own eyes. But this truism is so often forgotten. In Melbourne, where I live, a curfew has just been imposed, businesses shuttered, troops are increasingly seen on the streets, and the local premier is warning darkly of “what further steps” might follow if

Under the influence: Peddling conspiracy in a pandemic

Celebrity sells – it always has. But in the digital age, the boundaries of celebrity have changed. Once it was the prerogative of movie, sports or music stars to front a fashion label or promote perfume. But nowadays the marketplace is saturated with any number of online lifestyle and wellness “

American carnage, take two

With fewer than 100 days until the next election, US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he’s done with the coronavirus. Last week, he shifted his talking points to align with the advice of public health experts, but he gave no indication that he actually planned to focus on improving

Europe, united in recovery – for now

It took four days and a “historical” summit for the heads of states and governments of Europe to finally agree on the recovery plan that should help the European Union face the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Celebrated by a recovery in local stocks, the agreement last week

UN report on US killing of Iranian commander misses the mark

In the early hours of 3 January 2020, missiles fired from US drones killed ten people near Baghdad airport. Drone strikes by the US are almost commonplace these days, but what made this particular strike noteworthy was its target: General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, a unit of

The world can still prosper from free trade

Did anyone notice that the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), the revised NAFTA, entered into force on 1 July? If not, do not be too concerned, as the Covid-19 crisis has probably affected that as well. Still, this deal is (without getting too much into the weeds of whether it is

Interesting times for TikTok

From Delhi to Washington to Canberra, the future of the digital economy may be heavily influenced by how one question is answered: What to do about TikTok? The popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance has been at the centre of a storm of controversy. Concern

A nervous watch on the Three Gorges Dam

To understand China, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on what is happening inside the country. Much of the current international discussion about China focuses on China’s plans to expand its overseas influence – both in Asia and beyond. But as the legendary American politician Tip O’Neill

Is Huawei in the UK a canary in the coalmine?

It is not a coincidence that Britain’s turnaround on using Huawei for its 5G infrastructure happened at the height of the pandemic. Covid-19 brutally brought back the realisation that international value chains are only as strong as their weakest link. This new awareness made plain that

Social credit: The next China risk for Australian business

As China recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, the apparatus of the state is about to be devoted to a new form of social control. By the end of 2020, China plans to introduce its national social credit system. For some, this evokes dystopian visions of a surveillance state, monitoring more than a

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

Economic diplomacy: Covid recovery, from Singapore to the EU

Labour pains High-end guest workers play such a big role in Singapore’s carefully constructed economy that they even have their own technocratic acronym: foreign PMETs – for professionals, managers, executives and technicians. But in one of the many deglobalisation cracks wrought by Covid-19

Australia’s Russia problem (and how to solve it)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update goes some way to preparing Australia to compete in a new multipolar, Indo-Pacific–anchored strategic environment. But a notable absence from the document is Russia. This matters. Australians too often speak of Moscow’s irrelevance and weakness since the end of

Philippines government driving jeepneys off the road

After almost four months of lockdown measures due to Covid-19, the Philippines government in June eased restrictions for the majority of the country. But even as public transport systems slowly got back to running, something was missing: the distinctive jeepneys, still banned from plying their trade

Costly cargo: The plight of seafarers in a pandemic

Amid the many consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of seafarers around the world are now locked onboard their ships with expired contracts and unable to get home. In a normal month, approximately 100,000 seafarers leave their ships and are replaced by others, but travel

The cost of conspiracy in muddling public health messages

A spike in coronavirus cases across Melbourne has seen local hotspot suburbs largely locked down and some 3000 people in public housing towers prevented from leaving home at all. But the sharp reminder that “This is not over” which now flashes on freeway signs across Australia’s second largest

COVIDcast: The future of globalisation

In this episode of COVIDcast, Roland Rajah, Lowy Institute lead economist, sat down with Pascal Lamy to discuss the future of globalisation. Lamy has served at the peak of global trade and economic governance. He was the Director-General of the World Trade Organization for 8 years, from 2005 to 2013

Economic diplomacy: Diversification dilemmas

Costing the D word Diversification might be the word of the moment in the lexicon of Australian trade debate, even though few advocates make much attempt to explain how it will actually work. But now we have two interesting efforts to quantify just how selected reductions in trade with China in

International law takes a step towards Asia

As the historical development of international law has been dominated by European principles and doctrine, there is an argument that public international law has always been associated with a Western-centric view of the world. Moreover, major public international law judicial organs such

China’s pipeline dream in Pakistan

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one of the flagship projects of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It initially attracted US$46 billion in investment, which was later increased to $62 billion by April 2017, to support large-scale “infrastructure construction” and industrial

Finding compromise in the Chagos Islands saga

The Chagos Archipelago of 54 islands, formerly administered as a dependency of the British Colony of Mauritius, was excised from Mauritius by the UK in 1965, three years before independence. It was renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and its inhabitants (about 1500 people) were

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