Wednesday 23 Sep 2020 | 07:57 | SYDNEY
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Global Issues

Muddled messages as Britain seeks to stay alert

After the seven weeks of lockdown, which had managed to suppress the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the British people on the evening of Sunday 10 May to explain the next steps. Restrictions were to be eased, but moves would be tentative and contingent, checking

Covid-19 and foreign policy: What’s changed, what hasn’t

A lot of ink is flowing about the “new normal” that will prevail post-crisis. A brief look at four different international issues offers a glimpse of what this “new normal” in international cooperation might be. The first concerns global health. Leaving aside for the moment the call by

America’s rudderless Covid response

Projecting optimism about US recovery from the coronavirus pandemic requires one to take the long view. America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, relative to the rest of the world, has been abysmal. The US has more than 30% of all cases, despite being home to only 5% of the world’s

For Australia, a testing friendship

It’s got nothing to do with Covid-19, but a fascinating short passage in Malcolm Turnbull’s new memoir is illustrative of the challenges Scott Morrison faces in dealing with US President Donald Trump, and how much Australia can rely on the US as it squares off in an increasingly sharp rhetorical

Vietnam defies the odds on Covid-19

If you want to see real Olympic-level panic-buying, head to a Vietnamese supermarket a week before Tet, or Lunar New Year.   Yet when the coronavirus broke out in China, Vietnam, with which it shares a border, there was only an hour or two of panic-buying before things settled down to

Weight on the scales

A few months back – only in January, yet seemingly a very different time ­– Mike Mazarr and I offered some initial reflections on America’s and China’s contrasting “theories of influence”. The article prompted a series of contributions, including an initial rejoinder from Sam Roggeveen

Samoa’s constitutional crisis: Undermining rule of law

While the global community struggles to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, Samoa is embroiled in a constitutional crisis. The South Pacific nation is frequently lauded for its good governance and regional leadership. The current crisis, however, has exposed fault lines around race and identity that

Creating a Pacific bubble

The success in containing the Covid-19 pandemic in both Australia and New Zealand has led to a novel idea – the opening up of trans-Tasman travel as long as each country is able to keep infections under control. It would be a ray of hope and normalcy, and an economic plus for both parties. While

Beyond Covid, might China overreach?

A major disruption and the emergence of a global threat in the shape of a pandemic may have been expected to foster closer global cooperation. While this may momentarily be true, as countries cooperate to strengthen their healthcare infrastructure and in seeking effective cures and vaccines, there

Coronavirus: The end of sexist economics?

As coronavirus spreads, government spending, and lots of it, has been the order of the day. Most of the analysis has focused on the economic impact of these responses, with scant attention paid to the impact on gender. Yet the pandemic has exposed the gendered fault lines of the economy,

The prospects for China’s post–Covid-19 economy

While the Canberra political establishment has been sparring with China’s Foreign Ministry – and with Australian billionaires – much of the corporate elite has begun puzzling how to slipstream China’s post–Covid-19 economic recovery. Optimists hope that Beijing will summon a massive

Covid-19 and development banks in Asia

The Covid-19 pandemic means that more low- and middle-income economies are more reliant on multilateral development banks. Despite the media focus on “mask diplomacy” (or the lack of it) from individual countries, most notably China, development bank lending has been the largest external source

Bob May – Professor of Everything

I have known two “professors of everything”: George Seddon and Robert May. Seddon, who ended his days in Fremantle, Western Australia, had chairs in geology, English, environment, and philosophy. The connection, he told me, was language. May’s fields were chemical engineering, physics, maths,

Information warfare in the theatre of Covid-19

Chaos is a ladder, said Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Crisis is an opportunity, Sun Tzu didn’t say in The Art of War. Either way, in the United States, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and “infodemic”, political chaos is a clear and present danger, and an opportunity, in the covert and

Beyond the buzz: A primer on swarms

In the world of emerging technologies, few concepts evoke excitement like swarms. The power of the swarm is in its natural formation – from bees, to schooling fish and flocking birds – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Swarms can achieve far more complex tasks than single entities

New Zealand: Running the marathon

Earlier this week, New Zealand moved out of total lockdown into a phase of continuing control on social movement, but with an opening of widespread economic activity. Schools reopened partially. It is estimated that about half a million people returned to work after a stand down of five weeks.

Is this the Kindleberger moment?

In 1973 Charles Kindleberger wrote his now acclaimed book on the Great Depression. He argued that it was “great” because the global economic system had lost its hegemon – in less exotic terms, its system manager. In the interwar period, the UK was the system manager, but given the grievous

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