Wednesday 27 Jan 2021 | 18:02 | SYDNEY
What's happening on


After the referendum, Thailand remains a nation divided

Official results of from Sunday's referendum show that two-thirds of Thais backed the junta-drafted constitution and support enhanced powers for a military-backed senate in selecting a prime minister. Many see this referendum as a test of confidence in military rule, in effect since 2014 when

Lydia Khalil on Q&A

Last night Lydia Khalil, counter-terrorism expert and Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow, went on a US-election focused episode of Q&A, an ABC current affairs panel show, along with Bob Carr, P. J. O'Rourke, Linda Tirado and Crispin Rovere (who has written frequently for The Interpreter on

French submarines and Australia’s 21st century economy

The politics behind the decision to build the Australian Navy's new French-designed submarines in South Australia have been analysed to death. But what about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the high-tech program will play a key role in boosting the economy’s competitiveness and

Jihadis and Vietcong redux

During the Vietnam War the Vietcong coined the term 'hanging onto the belts' of the enemy as a way of blunting the United States' overwhelming superiority in fire support.  In essence the tactic required the Vietcong to fight  American and allied forces in such close quarters that indirect

How Islamic State controls 'lone wolves' in Europe

The New York Times revealed more details last week about the activities of Islamic State’s external operations unit, the Amn al-Kharji. Central to the report was an extensive interview with returned German foreign fighter Harry Sarfo. This isn’t the first time Sarfo has spoken to the

Green power has a long way to go

One factor driving energy policies across the world is repeated claims by activists that green energy is gaining substantial market share over its despised fossil fuel competitors. These claims, made for the likes of the Danish, German, Californian and even Chinese grids, are distorting the energy

Jeffrey Grey: 1959-2016

All staff at the Lowy Institute were saddened to learn of the untimely death of Professor Jeffrey Grey of the Australian Defence Force Academy. Professor Grey was a highly regarded military historian, specialising in the First World War.  Last month, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the

Xi Jinping: A four-year report card

Kerry Brown is the author of CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, just published by I. B. Tauris. Were China a multi-party democracy and had Xi Jinping been elected by competitive elections in 2012 for a five-year term, a process of assessing his achievements over the last four years would be

Along the Karakoram Highway: A photo essay (part 2)

The storied Karakoram Highway (KKH), a modern incarnation of the ancient silk road, is the primary ground transport link between China and Pakistan, and the highest paved road in the world. The existing Highway, completed in 1978, is undergoing a major reconstruction. Along with other transport and

Singapore’s existential serve on the TPP

Let’s set aside the car-crash TV distraction of Trumpmageddon for the moment (though ‘Trumpnado’ might better reflect the production standards) and briefly consider something more serious: life, death and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  If you want to get a sense of how the fate

Quick Comment: Andrew Scobell

In this Quick Comment, the Lowy Institute's International Security Program Director Euan Graham talks to RAND Corporation's Andrew Scobell on how China perceives US strategy and decision-making, China's past experience with alliances (and the relative absence of contemporary Chinese allies), and

Along the Karakoram Highway: A photo essay (part 1)

The storied Karakoram Highway (KKH), a modern incarnation of the ancient silk road, is the primary ground transport link between China and Pakistan, and the highest paved road in the world. The existing Highway, completed in 1978, is undergoing a major reconstruction. Along with other transport and

Time to double down on economic engagement

The Lowy Institute analysis 'Making the Most of the G20', which argues the G20 should be at the centre of Australia's approach to economic engagement, explores many of the themes that will be aired in this debate. Australia's enviable economic performance over the last quarter-century has given us

End of the line for Rudd's UN bid

Prime Minister Turnbull's refusal to nominate Kevin Rudd for UN secretary-general (SG) last week, claiming Rudd wasn’t ‘well suited,’ almost certainly ends his chance at running for the UN’s top spot. It was an unexpected twist for UN watchers, including myself, who have

Myanmar's Ma Ba Tha fades with barely a whimper

All it took was Yangon Chief Minister Phyo Min Thein saying 'We don’t need Ma Ba Tha' at a meeting in Singapore, and three weeks later 'the face of Buddhist terror' appeared meek and terrified itself. Ma Ba Tha, the abbreviation of what in English is the Patriotic Association of Myanmar, is

Laos: Struggling to get out of China's shadow

Laos probably hoped for more from last week's ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting. US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith (Photo: US Dept of State) In the lead up to the event held in the Laos capital of Vientiane, many wondered if the South China Sea

How well did the IMF handle the 2010 Greek crisis?

'IMF admits disastrous love affair with the euro led to immolation of Greece'. So runs a press headline about the IMF Independent Evaluation Office (IEO)'s new report on the 2010 Greek crisis. It was already widely accepted that the IMF's handling of the crisis was badly flawed, so the IEO's

Life after THAAD: Shifting relations on the Korean Peninsula

By Nicholas Welsh, an intern in the Lowy Institute's International Security Program. In the face of rising regional tensions in the South China Sea, North Korea last month launched three ballistic missiles as part of a mock nuclear strike against US ports and airstrips embedded in South Korea. In a

Weekend catch-up: Putin, Penny, Peter and more

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter. As cracking yarns go, Russia allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee's emails and giving them to WikiLeaks for distribution, all purportedly in the name of undermining Hillary Clinton and

The G20 is a policy no-brainer for Australia

The G20 is a policy no-brainer for Australia, and we should be actively engaged in the forum.  This is one of the basic conclusions that my colleague Hannah Wurf and I outline in our Lowy Institute analysis, Making the most of the G20, released today.  The position may surprise those

Same horse, different jihadi: JAN rebrands

Any marketer will tell you that when you think you've got a good product but it's not selling, then it's time to change the marketing. With that in mind, we should lend little weight to yesterday's announcement by the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), Muhammad al-Jawlani, that his jihadi group has

Geoeconomics and geopolitics: India's tightrope

Two recent events have brought into sharp focus a growing divide between India's geoeconomic and geopolitical strategies: India's failed bid for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in June – essentially scuttled by China – and the Modi Government's desire for closer defence

Quick comment: Sir Lawrence Freedman

In this Quick Comment, historian Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King's College London, considers the Permanent Court of Arbitration finding on the South China Sea from China’s point of view. Freedman also compares and contrasts today’s sense of all-consuming

Cambodia's colours nailed firmly to China's mast

Cambodia is once again at the heart of ASEAN problems in relation to the disputes associated with the South China Sea. Reports that it has not been possible for the ASEAN ministers meeting in Vientiane to find an agreed form of words about the issue should surely be no surprise, however regrettable

Trump, Putin and information warfare

The recent DNC hack, which led to the leaking of emails purporting to show favouritism towards Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, is another example of the arms race moving into cyberspace. It has also sparked a frenzied hunt for the perpetrator, with Russia the most logical candidate. Undermining

Daesh’s first big stand in Kabul

The release of the United Nations’ mid-year report on civilians casualties (CIVCAS) in Afghanistan came two days after ‘the deadliest single incident recorded by the UN in Afghanistan since 2001’. Eighty civilians were killed and as many as 290 injured in a suicide attack on peaceful

A five-point human rights agenda for DFAT

Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Julie Bishop will remain as Australia’s foreign minister and that Frances Adamson, an experienced diplomat, will start a five-year stint as the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Boeng kak community

G20 Chengdu meeting: Falling from the 70th floor?

Another G20 meeting has come and gone. At the conclusion of their two-day gathering in Chengdu, finance ministers and central bank governors sent a signal that they remain firmly focused on monitoring emerging economic events. Once again, though, the G20 can be accused of kicking the can down the

Movie trailer: A Tale of Love and Darkness

First-time director Natalie Portman also stars in this adaptation of Israeli novelist Amos Oz's memoir. According to IMDB, the film is 'A story about the childhood of Oz in Jerusalem and his youth in the Kibbutz during the British Mandate and the first days of the state of Israel. The plot describes

What we know about Penny Wong and foreign policy

Over the weekend Bill Shorten, leader of the opposition, announced a fairly major reshuffle of the Labor shadow ministry. Tanya Plibersek has left foreign affairs for the domestic battleground that is education; Senator Penny Wong (formerly of the trade and investment shadow ministry) will take her

Globalisation and income distribution

Many political pundits see widening income disparities as the key factor in the Brexit vote and associate these with a single cause — globalisation. There is no doubting that income distribution within individual countries has become more unequal in recent decades, but is globalisation the

It's not looking good for the TPP in US Congress

Are the Blue Dog Democrats to blame for US inaction on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement? Well, at least partially.  With the World Trade Organization stalling, regional agreements like the TPP are the next best option for making international trade easier and cheaper. And with

Three reasons why Malaysia's Najib isn't going anywhere

Money stolen from the troubled Malaysian state fund 1MDB was laundered in jaw-dropping ways: multi-million dollar real estate in Manhattan, Beverly Hills and London; art worth US$130 million; and funding for Hollywood movie The Wolf of Wall Street, among others.  The US Department of Justice (

Black Swan 2020: China's NEO that goes geo

As an analyst of regional security, I spend much time absorbed with the usual suspects; nuclear proliferation, arms modernisation, territorial tensions, plus a panoply of non-state challenges from terrorism, cyber and other domains. While the divisions between state and non-state security concerns