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“Black ships”, the Quad and space

At the first in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad in Washington in September last year, the four member countries came forward with an ambitious space agenda. A working group was giving the task of advancing a number of key strategic areas, including the exchange of satellite data with the

A required update for the EU-US Trade and Tech Council

The second EU-US Trade and Technology Council meeting took place in Paris at the weekend. An outcome of the EU-US Summit in June 2021, the TTC was established to strengthen and coordinate transatlantic cooperation and develop values-based approaches to global trade, economic and technology issues

Musk’s Twitter: Tweet freedom for Asia?

Now that Elon Musk is the sole owner of Twitter – pending formal regulatory and shareholder sign-offs – it’s fair to say that not only will this change the social media giant, it will impact the landscape of social media generally. That means there are implications for how information will be

China’s women “hold up half the sky”

Advocacy for women’s rights is on the rise in China, whether the censors like it or not. And feminism is gathering more support, highlighted in recent weeks across China’s social media through debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in an uncomfortable exposition of the country’s

Social media in times of war

The dominant narrative of social media during the ongoing war in Ukraine is often reduced to considerations of stopping the spread of dis/misinformation. Reducing social media’s capacity and power in this manner can not only ignore some of the other dangers of social media during crises, but also

Women’s participation in peace mediation

Mediation to end armed conflict has traditionally been dominated by men. With the conflict in Ukraine currently consuming global narratives on everything from human rights to defence of the so-called international rules-based order, the voices of women in this space remain, as is so often the case,

The election for the future of the internet

In September this year, UN member states will cast their votes for the next secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). While elections for bureaucratic positions in obscure, technical UN bodies normally pass unnoticed, the ITU has emerged as the major battleground in

Military operations in a more transparent world

In the past eight years, little short of a revolution has occurred in the world of “OSINT” – that is, Open Source Intelligence, information gathered from publicly accessible data – and especially Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), which analyses images gathered by assets from satellites to spies

Kip-to-currency?

A rare spate of headlines out of Laos last month trilled about a new bullet train that runs from the capital Vientiane to China, with the government heavily in debt after the exercise. But the country was also recently included in a less than auspicious list. The International Monetary Fund ranked

China, Australia, and the Internet of Things

The world is being transformed by the Internet of Things (the IoT) as ever more devices and activities are linked through the internet and endowed with computing power. This transformation brings an exponential rise in the security challenges inherent in digital connections, especially connections

Regulate against the machine

Book review: We, the Robots? Regulating Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of the Law, by Simon Chesterman (Cambridge University Press, 2021) From Tesla’s self-driving cars that can comfort your dog, to OpenAI’s large language model that writes decent essays and code, more and more

Digital authoritarianism not just a China problem

According to 2019 data from the World Trade Organisation, China is the largest global supplier of telecommunications equipment (generating US$296 billion compared to US$169 billion for the whole of the European Union) as well as office and telecom equipment (US$633 billion compared to US$363 billion

Semiconductors: the skills shortage

Semiconductors are foundational to the digital revolution. A global chip shortage – accentuated by US-China tensions, Covid-19, extreme weather events, as well as industry consolidation over the last decade – has galvanized attention around supply chain security. But alongside multilateral

Risks versus opportunities in national security thinking

National security thinkers follow a distinct pattern when they consider Australia’s future defence requirements. For most, the preferred point of view is risk-based. A policy response is framed in military-diplomatic terms, generally a proposal for increased capability and support for the ANZUS

Staying ahead in global tech leadership

On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping reiterated the longstanding Chinese goal of strengthening science and technology to help achieve national rejuvenation. China’s advances in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition have already

Gab’s gift to the far right

As major social-networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have increased their efforts at moderation to crack down on hateful and extremist content, they have become less attractive to adherents of the far right. In response, new platforms belonging to the right-wing alternative-technology

Is Southeast Asia ready for a US-China tech decoupling?

Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to

Violent extremism: The ghost or the machine?

The Australian parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is currently holding an inquiry into extremist movements and radicalism in Australia. It is only the second issues-based inquiry that this particular committee has conducted; the first was into the politically charged

Economic diplomacy: Patent politics and trade deal twists

Biden’s jab First it was new carbon emission cuts, and then a global minimum corporate tax. But it is hard to beat the Biden administration’s move to shaft the pharmaceutical industry lobby over vaccine patents for putting the US back at the heart of global public policy. The devil will be in

Taiwan: Renewing a southbound vision

For all the talk of cross-Strait military tensions – which are real – in the economic realm, Taiwan’s fortunes have been bound to those of China. Recognising the need to diversify, when Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016, she initiated what was dubbed a “New Southbound Policy”, with the

China’s leap into space

China has launched a new space station, the most ambitious project it has ever undertaken in spaceflight. Right now, the station is just a cylindrical module without a crew, but it will grow over time as more components are added. Although some media reports will cite this as China’s first space

In Singapore, Covid vs privacy is no contest

Life in Singapore during the pandemic has become about tracking, tracking, tracking. Wherever one goes, one has to scan QR codes that log entry into malls, restaurants, shops and office buildings. For those who have just arrived on the island, it might seem like an uncomfortable intrusion into

Facebook’s monopoly danger in the Pacific

The recent stoush between the Australian government and social media giant Facebook, with its eight-day-long ban of local news from its platform, had results that were not confined to Australia. Facebook’s block of Australian news also highlighted the vulnerability of information security in the

The greening of Bill Gates

Book review: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Penguin 2021) One of the more significant aspects of Bill Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the simple fact that he wrote it. After all, amid all of the significant work done by the Gates Foundation, it is hard not to

Unpacking vaccine passports

Vaccine passports are attracting a lot of buzz despite the World Health Organisation having repeatedly advised against them. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) hopes that blockchain-based digital apps will get people flying again. Tourism groups see them as a possible foundation for

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

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

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,

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