Friday 13 Dec 2019 | 01:00 | SYDNEY
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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

Should you lie to your children about reality?

Is the world currently too awful to contemplate for the so-called “snowflake generation”, which apparently can’t face the realities of life in even the most fortunate of nations? Should responsible parents attempt to insulate their offspring from some of life’s less pleasing aspects for as

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

Chart of the week: Data, data, everywhere

Think about your habits on any given day. Check the weather on your phone in the morning? Data. Touch on a ticket to catch the bus or train? Data. Or drive a car through a toll gate. Data. Get out your phone again to scan the news feed? Data. Check in on Facebook? Data. Log in to the computer at

Renting influence: China in the Pacific

Reports of a planned Chinese naval base on a Pacific island nation’s territory in 2018 helped supercharge policy makers’ attention on China’s strategic intentions and rapidly growing economic influence in the island nations of the south Pacific: what Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison

Chart of the week: Where countries lie abroad

How many – and where – diplomatic missions are established can be an important signal of priorities and challenges for a country’s foreign policy. For example, of the 61 countries included in the Lowy Institute’s Global Diplomacy Index, Ireland has boosted its network the most since 2017,

China-US trade war: For all the bark, not much bite

It is now nearly 17 months since the Trump administration began collecting 25% tariffs on the first tranche of Chinese imports to the US – time enough to evaluate the economic impact the trade war so far. That impact? Surprisingly little. It is certainly true that comparing the first nine

Chart of the week: The climate cost

Two years ago, Scott Morrison walked into the Australian parliament brandishing a lump of coal. “Don’t be afraid. Don't be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” Morrison said, the nation’s treasurer at the time. We can only assume that he didn’t know then that in 2019 he would be

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

Globalisation’s next wave: Podcast out now

The mass commercialisation of artificial intelligence, machine learning technologies and automation, combined with outsourcing to lower income countries is about to cause massive upheavals and job losses in developed economies. That’s according to my guest in this episode of Rules Based Audio,

Book review: The chance to actually change the climate

Book Review: Ross Garnaut, Superpower: Australia’s Low-Carbon Opportunity, La Trobe University Press, 2019) If anyone in Australia deserves the somewhat overused epithets of “public intellectual” or even “policy entrepreneur”, it’s Ross Garnaut. Over a long and distinguished career, he

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

Russia’s southern strategy

“Valiant breaks London–Cape record by 54 mins”, led the 9 July 1959 edition of the Cape Argus. The arrival of the sleek, white-painted, and still highly classified long-range British nuclear bomber, which represented the cutting edge of Britain’s new Cold War airborne nuclear deterrent, drew

Signs of a deal between US and China, and a rethink

It is not yet agreed, may yet fail, and is anyway unlikely to settle matters, but the impending “phase one” trade deal could be a useful ceasefire in the US economic war with China. Two years on from the US initiation of penalty tariffs on China, it is also a convenient moment to point to a few

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

Chart of the week: Trump and the US-Australia alliance

Donald Trump is about to be the third US President in history to be impeached. Australians won’t be surprised – he’s never been popular here. But Australia’s alliance with the United States is another story. No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office, be it George W. Bush or Barack Obama

October in Syria: Podcast out now

October 2019 saw two major new developments in Syria which have shifted the geopolitics of the region: US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from north-east Syria, abandoning its allies the Kurds and allowing Turkey to invade; and the death, days later, of the Islamic State

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.

How Africa is breaking China’s neo-colonial shackles

If there’s any indication of how Africa is moving up on everyone’s agenda, look no further than the first edition of the Russia-Africa Summit, which saw 43 African heads of state converging last week on Sochi. Beyond the fact that the summit reflects the brisk trade Moscow does with the

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

The next phase of the Belt and Road: Podcast out now

After Malaysia became the first country to tear up its corruptly overpriced BRI deals in 2018, this year has seen a shift in the rhetoric around China’s grand strategy. The second phase of the Belt and Road Initiative is shifting focus from grand infrastructure projects like ports and rail to

Monday is a public holiday

Monday is a public holiday and publishing will be light. We’ll be back with more insights on the world from tomorrow. For those of you getting a break, enjoy! Getting your galahs in a row (Photo: Diana Padron/Flickr

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

North Korea under Kim Jong-un: Podcast out now

Episode 10 of the Lowy Institute’s new podcast, Rules Based Audio, is out today. In Socialist Paradise: North Korea under Kim Jong-un, the Washington Post Beijing bureau chief and author Anna Fifield talks about how the strange, closed country is changing under its young leader. And

At sea, safety is just as important as security

The extraordinary rescue of crew from a stricken South Korean freighter off the US coast this week might have taken place on the other side of the world, but it serves as a reminder that safety of life at sea is a challenge everywhere. Closer to home, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has made

Can Japan catch up in the economic scramble for Africa?

Recently, China entered the market as an exporter of used cars overseas. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce revealed the populous African nation of Nigeria as one of the destinations for 300 cars in the first batch of freight. The vehicles included brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai,

In Java, the water is running out

Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents. For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has

Disinformation and democracy: Podcast out now

In May 2016, before Brexit and Trump, the right-wing populist Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines amidst a co-ordinated disinformation and trolling campaign on social media. In a nation of 105 million where Facebook is embedded into everyday life, political

Keep calm and fly on … unless someone stops me

Shame is a powerful emotion, but is it powerful enough to save the planet? Almost certainly not. But the question has assumed unexpected prominence as the sensitive Scandinavians and the schoolgirl activist Greta Thunburg spearhead a campaign to encourage us to fly less, simply because it’s the

Hong Kong Protest City: Podcast out now

In the latest episode of the Lowy Institute’s new half-hour podcast, Rules Based Audio, I’m talking to Lowy Institute Research Fellow Ben Bland and Hong Kong-based Financial Times journalist Primrose Riordan about the roots of the ongoing political unrest in the city, and where it

Climate change is a national security issue

If only a minister of the Morrison government would be as forthright in identifying climate change as a massive destabilising force in Australia’s region as the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has been. In a private speech in Bowral in June, General Campbell is reported to have sounded

Congo’s Ebola outbreak: sounding a global alarm

As the one year anniversary of the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province draws near, the World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has sounded the global alarm about this most recent outbreak of the deadly virus. Over 2500 cases and

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

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