Monday 30 Mar 2020 | 23:08 | SYDNEY
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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

Book review: Hidden histories of Australia’s cameleers

Book review: Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia, by Samia Khatun (University of Queensland Press, 2019) A decade ago, Bangladeshi-Australian writer and historian Samia Khatun sat on the floor of the 150-year-old mosque in Broken Hill and opened up a thick volume from the bookshelf

Xi Jinping: much more than just one man

Book Review: Xi Jinping: The Backlash by Richard McGregor (Penguin, Lowy Institute, 2019) Richard McGregor has written a dazzling account of the first six years of the Xi Jinping era and what he sees as the “backlash” to Xi’s increasing authoritarianism domestically and assertive foreign and

Book review: Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia

Book Review: How to Defend Australia, by Hugh White (La Trobe University Press, 2019) Defence commentator Hugh White never shouts from the rooftops, and his new book How to Defend Australia is written in the same measured tone that has long driven his more strident critics crazy. Yet if White

Book review: The Great Successor

Book Review: The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong-un, Sun of the 21st Century, by Anna Fifield (Hachette, 2019) Anna Fifield’s The Great Successor is a wonderful narrative, weaving together Kim Jong-un’s childhood (and adulthood) basketball

Film review: On Her Shoulders

On Her Shoulders, a documentary film by Alexandria Bombach, follows young genocide survivor Nadia Murad in her global cause against sexual violence for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. Women and girls in her community were subjected to widespread and systematic sexual

Book Review: Utopia For Realists

Book Review: Utopia For Realists, And How We Can Get There, by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, 2017) Rutger Bregman shot to public fame calling out billionaires at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. “1500 private jets flying in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about

Film Review: The Wandering Earth

In a recent visit to Australia, I was treated to Barrie Kosky’s audacious staging of The Magic Flute. I hoped it could offer me a break from writing, speaking, and thinking about contemporary China, but something rather odd happened instead. As Mozart’s opera unfolded, the libretto summoned me

Book Review: A Partnership Transformed

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Book review: Winners take all

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Film review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Jackson achieves magnificently his professed goal of making a film about the human experience of the war. The commemorations marking the centenary of the First World War were so regular that by 2018 a degree of commemoration fatigue seemed to have set in. Was there anything more than could be said

Book Review: the Clinton fiction

Review: The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Aldred A. Knopf, 2018) Former US President Bill Clinton is a man of singular gifts – a highly intelligent policy wonk with an unmatched capacity to connect with voters through mastery of what we are obliged these days to

Book review: Grappling with the legacy of Barack Obama

Book review: The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House, by Ben Rhodes (Random House, 2018). The slew of books that find their way to the shelves once a president has departed are often cagey, self-interested and read suspiciously like job applications. Ben Rhodes tries hard to avoid