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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

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

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

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

Australia’s shifting mood on climate change

At the beginning of 2020, Australia’s national conversation was dominated by the catastrophic bushfires raging throughout the country. The fires killed at least 34 people, burned through more than 11 million hectares and destroyed nearly 6000 buildings. In March, the first scientific assessment of

Australia-UK trade agreement: Good, boring policy

Australia and the UK kicked off free trade agreement negotiations on 17 June to speeches and video presentations so triumphant as to border on self-parody. Yet for all the pageantry and scorn, a trade deal between Australia and the UK is fundamentally a commonsense policy that warrants neither

Closing the book on Asia

This is not a propitious time to proclaim to the world that Australians are not interested in India, Japan, Korea and all the nations of mainland Southeast Asia. That, however, is what the National Library of Australia has done by announcing it will stop its systematic collecting of materials about

Climate change makes Covid-19 politics look easy

Covid-19 has been an extremely difficult challenge for national policymakers. If policy and politics are about managing competing interests and prioritising different constituencies, the varied national Covid-19 responses point to the acute challenges of getting this balance right. How do we

In India and Africa, women farmers lack land rights

In October 2016, women from across the African continent met at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a charter of demands pushing for women’s right to use, control, own, inherit and dispose land. The Women2Kilimanjaro hike’s demand for more inclusive land rights proved not to be in

Mauritius, Diego Garcia and the small matter of nukes

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is a key part of the US global military network. The dispute over sovereignty of Diego Garcia is heating up, with the UK coming under increasing pressure to cede it to Mauritius. Mauritius has indicated that if it regained control over Diego Garcia, it would allow

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,

As Africa prepares to fight Covid-19, China steps up

As China slowly begins to recover from Covid-19 and re-start its economy, it is seeking to position itself at the head of the global virus response and fill the void in humanitarian assistance created by Western paralysis. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where China has a long history

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

Lockdown: A dilemma for the economic optimists

Everyone – including economists themselves – jokes about economic forecasting failures. But the intrinsic difficulties are compounded for the international economic agencies, especially the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Their

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

Limiting the global economic fallout from Covid-19

Panic has now set in over the Covid-19 global pandemic. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly, especially in Europe and the US, and severe public-health measures are being put in place and are set to intensify. At the same time, economic policymakers are deploying their own emergency policy responses

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 “

In Africa, the US plays catch-up with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced his first trip to Africa, 15–19 February, with stops in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Angola. The choice of these three countries demonstrates that the US remains focused on security and economic investment issues in Africa, and, in the case of Angola, is

Chart of the week: Trust in China

Almost 30,000 cases of coronavirus have been officially confirmed, amid reports of Chinese authorities increasingly cracking down on information at the epicentre of the crisis. With governments around the world imposing travel bans, as well as local Chinese communities being unfairly stigmatised,

Solastalgia: A malady for our age?

Some words capture the zeitgeist, or the spirit of the times. We’ve been talking about “globalisation” for decades now, until it’s become a comfortable part of our intellectual furniture. Pretty soon we might have to get used to talking about “de-globalization”, though, as trade wars and

Public holiday: Australia Day

Monday is a public holiday for Australia Day, and posting will be light on The Interpreter. Normal publishing will resume on Tuesday. This photo from Flickr user denisbin shows the beginnings of the art trail on grain silos in north-western Victoria. Silos throughout the Mallee and

Learning from extinction

They called the last one Martha. I’d never heard of the passenger pigeon until a couple of years ago, these small birds that once flew in great nomadic flocks across North America in numbers dense enough to blacken the sky, taking hours to pass. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 3 and 5

Japan has struck low in climate ambition

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has repeatedly pledged that his country would lead global efforts to address climate change. Increasingly, however, Japan is facing scrutiny over the gap between its lofty rhetoric and the reality of its climate policies, which include ongoing support for coal-

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

Economic diplomacy: Two big-C issues

Change of pace If Australia’s bushfire crisis has done one thing to inadvertently calm the national zeitgeist during the holiday season, it is in the way climate change has suddenly returned to supplant China as the country’s biggest wicked problem. But in reality, these two big-C issues

Jakarta is flooding and its governor is sinking

Jakarta welcomed the new year with a new record — the heaviest rains in decades. The deluge left parts of the Indonesian capital under 5 metres of water, which triggered landslides and cut off whole neighbourhoods. Before the water finally receded this week, at least 60 people were dead 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

Climate leadership: An idea whose time has come?

Julie Bishop’s seemingly belated call for Australian leadership on climate change has drawn some predictable criticism. Why, it might reasonably be asked, didn’t she do something about it when she had the chance as foreign minister? It’s a good question. The answer, and Bishop’s own defence

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

Best of The Interpreter 2019: The rising climate chorus

The annual Lowy Institute poll has tracked Australian attitudes on the environment for more than a decade, a mirror of the political vicissitudes in the country. The 2019 results led Matt McDonald to ask, are Australians more worried about climate change, or climate policy? One fascinating feature

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

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