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Her brilliant career

Book review: Sue Boyd, Not Always Diplomatic: An Australian Woman’s Journey Through International Affairs (University of Western Australia Press, 2020) I first met Sue Boyd in Hanoi, where she was Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam. She was an intriguing figure, combining a razor-sharp

Book review: The Ministry for the Future

Book review: Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (Hachette, 2020) The Ministry for the Future is a novel set in the near future which describes the disastrous consequences of a warming planet and the steps humanity takes to mitigate them. It is ultimately an optimistic story about

Favourites of 2020: Women make excellent spies

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 more recommendations and reflections. Okay, so 2020 wasn’t exactly a favourite year. I did learn how to bake a nice sourdough during

Favourites of 2020: Love on the Spectrum

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. Love on the Spectrum is a documentary series

Favourites of 2020: Evil Geniuses

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. Long before a certain New York real estate developer

Favourites of 2020: The moral ambiguity of spying

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. Like the best spy novels, Lauren Wilkinson’s

Favourites of 2020: Homeland Elegies

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 world has observed the United States under the

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

Favourites of 2020: Capturing a precarious moment

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 few years ago on a flight from New Delhi to Rome, I

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

Where America finds itself

“Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,” said the 17th-century French aphorist François de La Rochefoucauld. He might have added, had it existed at the time, the United States of America. No country, with the possible exception of China, has played as large a role as a symbol

Favourites of 2020: Minister of Finance Incorporated

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. There are few occasions in life when my “2020 books read” spreadsheet

Favourites of 2020: The politics of Tiger King

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. It seems like an eternity ago now, but it was only eight months ago that Tiger

Favourites of 2020: Memes

We debated whether “favourites” was really the right word for 2020. But given it’s been a tumultuous year, we figured a little consistency wouldn’t hurt for our end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors again offer their favourite books, articles, films

The safeguards in Australia’s intelligence ecosystem

Book Review: Peter Edwards, Law, Politics and Intelligence: A Life of Robert Hope (UNSW Press, 2020) It is the frustrating lot of members of the intelligence community in a liberal democracy to suffer the alarums raised by habitual conspiracy theorists, the slings and arrows of outrageous

Book review: The China bubble that never pops

Book review: Thomas Orlik China: The Bubble that Never Pops (Oxford University Press, 2020) Way back in 2001, Gordon Chang wrote a book entitled The Coming Collapse of China. Western analysts of China have been predicting a crisis ever since. Among the many concerns have been China’s massive

The false promise of regime change

Book review: Philip H. Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press 2020) Philip H. Gordon, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East during the Barack Obama administration, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

Book Review: Where borders aren’t always badlands

Book review: Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb (eds) Too Close to Ignore (Melbourne University Press, 2020) Borders have been in the news in Australia, with the novel if frustrating experience of interstate pandemic restrictions leaving residents unable to cross previously free borders to access

Book Review: The seeds of authoritarianism

Book review: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (Doubleday 2020) If democracy is the guiding light of a civilised world, wherefore that world if the light is flickering? This is the premise of Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy. And as the title

Book review: “The false promise of liberal order”

Book review: Patrick Porter, The False Promise of Liberal Order: Nostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump (Polity Press, 2020) A familiar response to the growing global disorder has been to lament the demise of the liberal or “rules–based” international order and to call for its restoration

Book review: Superpower showdown

Book Review: Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War (HarperCollins, 2020). Global relations are undergoing a dramatic shift. China is increasingly assertive internationally and repressive domestically. Examples of its brashness

Book review: The memory of a massacre in Thailand

Book review: Thongchai Winichakul, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (University of Hawaii Press, 2020) In the early hours of 6 October 1976, Thai police and right-wing thugs laid siege to Thammasat University in Bangkok, where thousands of

Book review: The making of Putin’s Russia

Book Review: Catherine Belton, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (HarperCollins, 2020) Last week, the Russian people voted to approve a constitutional amendment that resets the count on presidential term limits. President Vladimir Putin served his first

Book review: What’s holding China’s economy back?

Book Review: Dexter Roberts The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World (St Martin’s Press, 2020) With the US, Brazil and many European countries struggling to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, China seems to be emerging as an even greater economic and

Book review: The Indo-Pacific contest

Napoleon was prescient in that he said when China “wakes she will shake the world”. In the space of four decades, China has built up the world’s largest economy in purchasing power parity terms. It is the largest trading partner of virtually all of its neighbours. It has become a

Books for self-isolation: Revisiting Why Nations Fail

Ed’s note: In response to a call on The Interpreter for reading suggestions in the event of a stint in Covid-19 related quarantine, Scott Robinson wrote that he’d recently revisited Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. “I feel that we often forget the lessons of this

Book review: Contest for the Indo-Pacific

Book Review: Rory Medcalf Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won't Map the Future (La Trobe University Press, 2020) The first point that emerges from Rory Medcalf’s Contest for the Indo-Pacific is that in its origins, the Indo-Pacific concept was essentially a descriptive device – a “

Book review: Where Power Stops

Book review: David Runciman Where Power Stops, The Making and Unmaking of Presidents and Prime Ministers (Allen and Unwin, 2019) It’s an odd feeling to enjoy a book and the questions it asks, but to then be hesitant to recommend it. Where Power Stops, The Making and Unmaking of Presidents and

Book review: A very private enterprise

Book Review: Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by Christopher Leonard (Simon & Schuster, 2019) Kochland tells the astonishing story of Charles and David Koch, known simply as the Koch brothers. Charles, who might be described as a modern-day

Book review: Betraying Big Brother

Book review: Leta Hong Fincher, Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China (Verso, 2018) In China, a country of contradictions, a feminist movement emerged when women connected with each other using technology and social media. Through interviews with young women, and in

Favourites of 2019: Babylon Berlin

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. There are perks to being unfashionably behind the cultural curve. By letting new shows, books and tech percolate in the court of public opinion for a few

Favourites of 2019: Yangyang Cheng

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Or in this instance... For me, this year will be remembered as one where the world could no longer ignore the realities of the Chinese party-state. I realised

Favourites of 2019: The Trauma Cleaner

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Sarah Krasnostein’s deeply affecting The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster is about exerting order over chaos.

Favourites of 2019: The Twitterverse

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Or in this instance... The best thing I have read this year, and the worst, is Twitter. Is Twitter an echo chamber? Sure, if you want it to be. Twitter is

Favourites of 2019: Slow Horses on Spook Street

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. And because I'm the editor, I'll send myself in to open ... It’s a delightful scene. The wizened old spymaster, retired from a storied yet secret

How many Cold Wars does it take to make a “new” one?

The Cold War is not an easy term to define, which makes its increasing use as a term of reference for any great power conflict today problematic. When any “new” Cold War is announced, what exactly about the “old” Cold War is being invoked? Traditionally, the grand narrative of the Cold War

Book review: China, the US, and the big break

Book review: Paul Blustein: Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System (CIGI Press, 2019) Paul Blustein has produced an enviable bookshelf of behind-the-scenes reportage on international economic institutions, both as a journalist (for The Washington Post and The

Book Review: The original corporate raiders

Review: William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire (Bloomsbury, 2019) In his new book, The Anarchy, renowned historian William Dalrymple tells the remarkable story of how the East India Company (EIC) managed to replace the mighty Mughal

Review: Australia, real and imagined

Review: Tim Watts, The Golden Country: Australia’s Changing Identity (Text Publishing 2019) Summer reading bins have been well stocked with memoirs by retired Australian parliamentarians casting experienced eyes over political lives lived hard and full. It’s not often we find engaging books

Film review: Torture, lies, and videotape

The Report, directed by Scott Z. Burns. Opens 14 November in Australia. More than a century ago, the US invasion of the Philippines turned from a supposed act of liberation into a war of insurgency and operational confusion. Desperate to uncover plots, the Americans took to extreme measures.

Asia’s diversity, made all the same

Book review: The Future is Asian – Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century, by Parag Khanna (Simon & Schuster, 2019) In The Future is Asian, Parag Khanna provides readers with a rollicking ramble through the economy, society, culture, politics, and international relations of Asia

An educated idealist is still a believer

Book review: The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, by Samantha Power (Harper Collins 2019) Samantha Power, an Irish immigrant whose tenacity and intellect earned her a place at Yale and Harvard and led her to become a war correspondent in the Balkans, rose to prominence when her 2002 book, A

Book review: Common enemies

Book review: Common enemies: crime, policy and politics in Australia–Indonesia relations, by Michael McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2018) Next month marks the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombing, which on 12 October 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people and injured 209 others. The attack

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