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Xi Jinping in 2018: Any closer to the truth?

In 2016, I published a study of Xi Jinping, CEO China: The Rise of Xi Jinping (I B Tauris). This book has subsequently been reissued in paperback, and in 2018 I did a shorter overview, The World According to Xi with the same publisher. For one reason or the other, other the last few years I have had

China takes off for the Moon, tethered by politics at home

Early on Saturday morning, China launched the Chang’e 4 robot spacecraft on course for the Moon. If all goes well, it will become the first spacecraft in history to soft-land on the far side of the Moon, probably in early January. This would be a tremendous achievement for China and for the

China, where not all media are created equal

Journalists in China are routinely harassed by police and even imprisoned for trying to cover stories that local officials do not want to get in the news. In 2018, the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, which ranks the performance of 180 countries according to media and journalist

The forces needed to protect the Belt and Road

Last week’s attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi by Baluchi separatists underlines China’s growing vulnerabilities in connection with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These are likely to get worse and may ultimately lead to China assuming a new and quite different security

Signalling a whole-of-Australia approach to China

One of the most challenging aspects of Australia’s bilateral relationship with China is finding new ways to signal our interest in the big issues that are shaping the future of the region – a task almost as difficult as deciding amongst ourselves what those issues are. The signalling of

Xinjiang: outrage is not a policy

If the outrage about China’s forced re-education camps serves to do anything, it will be to again demonstrate that we have very short memories. Worse than being simply misguided, our outrage risks being ineffective.In Myanmar, despite all the warning signs which myself and many colleagues

How China changed its language on speech

The Heart Eyes Emoji is one of the most commonly used icons in today’s digital communications worldwide. The smiling face with heart-shaped eyes generally means adoration and love towards someone or something. It is not necessarily a romantic gesture, but it shows a level of approval and

Friends like these … allies and the Pence speech

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech was tasty red meat for anyone desiring a more confrontational US policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Pence’s speech reflects a strengthening bipartisan consensus in Washington, and suggests that a long-term policy of competition and confrontation

Killing Chimerica

Over a decade ago, the term “Chimerica” was coined to describe the symbiotic relationship between the US and Chinese economies. While offshoring manufacturing to China and opening access to US markets and universities benefited American interests, it also saw China’s share of world GDP jump

The geopolitics of China’s tax reforms

The continued legitimacy of the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping, as it was with former president Hu Jintao, depends on two main pillars: improvements in people’s material wellbeing and a strong sense of national pride. The notion that the government will improve the Chinese people’

Reconciling with China in the Pacific

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Wang Yi struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone, expressing the wish to partner with Australia in the development of the Pacific

Shifting sands in Hong Kong

October is usually one of Hong Kong’s nicest months. The notoriously hot, humid, and rainy summer is gone, and the incoming autumn brings the city a pleasant, warm temperature alongside a stunning clear blue sky. But the usual cheerful vibe has dissipated this year. Not only have&

See the difference: CGTN’s Australian gambit

Last month, billboards popped up around Australian capital cities, urging commuters and shoppers to “see the difference” as a panda and a kangaroo writhe in a harmonious embrace, while marsupials that look to have been penned by Guardian cartoonist First Dog On The Moon look on. Most commuters

Xi Jinping Thought, beaming live tonight

American broadcaster Edward Murrow, lamenting the viewing habits of the population in the 1950s, paraphrased Karl Marx: “If television and radio are to be used to entertain all of the people all of the time, then we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.” More

Pence on China: reviving a neoconservative dream

Ever wondered who is now the culprit for many of the woes of the United States? Then look no further than a major speech delivered by US Vice President Mike Pence last week. Given just days after the “leaked” photos showing close encounters between US and Chinese destroyers in the South

“Chinese rice bowl!” Backing state-run enterprise

In a somewhat surreal PR move countering the Trump administration’s trade war against his country, Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled over 1,000km out of the capital last week to the northeast of the country, visiting wheatfields and oil refineries. Posing with farmers and factory workers in

China’s aid: the image boost

Mounting accusations of Chinese debt traps, trade imbalances, and neocolonialism in Africa made for a heady backdrop to this month’s meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China’s Xi Jinping made clear he was having none of it. In his keynote speech to African leaders gathered in

Belt and Road: more than just a brand

For all of its grandiose ambition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an enigma. The debate about Beijing’s intentions continues. Is it a grand strategy? Or merely a clever repackaging of commercial activity, aimed at internal audiences? In light of increasingly apparent

The Sino-Russian entente

Russia’s Vostok-18 exercises have received significant attention, thanks mainly to the Kremlin’s grand announcements about their scale. If Russia’s defence ministry is to be believed, up to 300,000 military personnel from all services will take part. Notably, they will

Where next, Jack Ma?

On the morning of Monday 10 September, China’s most famous billionaire announced plans to step down as head of the company he founded. Jack Ma (马云) revealed he would leave his role as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, the e-commerce and internet behemoth that he has led for its entire

China’s Muslim ban

At first, Chinese authorities in her village in Xinjiang removed the crescents from the mosque, Auken told me. Then the imam and the boy responsible for the call to prayers disappeared into custody. Authorities began requiring everyone in the village to gather for the weekly Chinese flag-raising

PNG: new friend versus old, APEC and polio 

The condemnation of China last week by Nauru’s President Baron Waqa at the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting may have been bolstered by Taiwan’s substantial investment in that tiny Pacific nation of 13,000 people. Nauru is one of six Pacific countries to have diplomatic relations with

China’s trans-Himalayan tango with Nepal

Crossing the China-Nepal border via Tibet and the Himalayas is as formidable as it has been for centuries. To drive from Tibet’s capital city Lhasa to the Gyirong checkpoint bordering Nepal’s Rasuwa takes at least 15 hours – if weather condition allows. That is why, during my meeting with

Political blackmail in the Taiwan-China contest

Last month, El Salvador announced it will establish diplomatic relations with China. Under the “one China” policy, this meant El Salvador had to break official diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The end of the 47-year relationship marks a disturbing trend with the excuse countries have used to break

China’s tech bubble

In the four decades that have followed China’s initial stage of post-Mao “Reform and Opening Up”, the world has learned to expect great things from the Middle Kingdom’s centrally-planned economy. It has established itself as the low-end “factory of the world” and orchestrated an

The threat within: Pakistan’s ties to China

Last month, a suicide bomber in Pakistan’s Balochistan province attacked a passenger bus transporting 18 Chinese engineers from Saindak town in the southwest to Dalbandin Airport. The engineers were on their way home for a holiday after working on the Saindak Copper-Gold project.

Lies, damn lies, and Chinese statistics

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and of course to that list should be added Chinese statistics. After reporting three quarters of 6.8% GDP growth – even though the economy and corporate sector has been shaken by deleveraging, trade wars, and an ever more volatile exchange rate – the official

Will Solomon Islands abandon Taiwan?

Over the last couple of years Taiwan has been steadily haemorrhaging diplomatic allies. Countries from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean have switched allegiance to Beijing, leaving just 17 countries maintaining formal relations with Taipei. The largest bloc of such countries is in the

Chinese “birth tourism” shows citizenship evolves

Several years ago, while living in Southern California and pregnant with my twin sons, I began hearing news reports about maternity hotels. Baffled neighbours were asking why so many pregnant Chinese women were coming and going into homes east of Los Angeles, why the garbage cans were piled high

Belt and Road: China’s biggest brand

Most public discussion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) tends to paint it as a coherent strategy of the Chinese Communist Party. One school argues that this strategy is largely economic in focus, the other major approach focuses on the political drivers. What both need to consider is

Huawei in Australia: the 5G fear

The Australian government has officially blocked Chinese telecommunications firms, most notably Huawei, from providing equipment to Australia’s new 5G mobile phone networks, citing concerns over national security. While the issue in question regards some of the world’s most sophisticated

China takes on Hong Kong’s press club 

On Tuesday, the usually crowded Central district of Hong Kong, the very heart of the financial hub, experienced an unusual flare of tension. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club hosted an event featuring Andy Chan, the 27-year-old leader of a fringe party promoting Hong Kong independence from

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

CAC-handed: tensions in Chinese internet control

Facebook’s farcical entry into, and withdrawal from, the Chinese market in July appears to confirm a widely held view of the Chinese state’s power to police its online spaces. We like to think of China’s internet as not only bordered but also tightly controlled, subject to the

Disappearing Deng

It started as soon as Xi Jinping had secured power over the party-state of China. First he was selected to head the Communist Party in November 2012, and then, in what was a mere formality, he was endorsed the following March as President of China. Along the way, he also became Chairman of the

The Belt and Road’s difficult embrace

This article is based on episode 26 of the Little Red Podcast, featuring Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute, Dirk van der Kley of the Australian National University, and Louisa Lim from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. Last year my most decorated PhD student Colonel

Indo-Pacific: where is the money coming from?

Such is the excitement about China’s role in Asia that the mere whiff of anything to do with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is enough to cause a media flurry in Canberra. It happened again a few days ago. Two pieces of news triggered headlines about the BRI in the Australia media. 

Beijing’s maritime gifts

China’s growing naval and paramilitary might receives daily attention. But what of China’s emerging role as a provider of capacity to coastal states in the Indo-Pacific? Improving their maritime domain awareness has traditionally been the preserve of the “Quad” countries: the US, Japan,

ASEAN might not be the way

Former senior Australian diplomat Geoff Raby’s substantial article written for the Asia Society and reproduced in the Australian Financial Review this week continues his “realist” approach to discussion of Australia’s foreign policy choices. It’s another piece

China: vaccines and rumours from Zhongnanhai

Last week, rumours began swirling around Beijing about possible factional infighting within the Chinese Government involving President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. The rumours seemed troubling, with Chinese commentator Li Yee saying:  Online reports last Friday night

Xi Jinping, Senegal, and China’s West Africa drive

Xi Jinping’s choice of Senegal for a state visit on 20–21 July, his first visit to West Africa, en route to the BRICS summit in South Africa, suggests that China seeks to deepen cooperation in a region that has seen comparatively less Chinese engagements than elsewhere in Africa. In using

Tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat

The US is moving quickly to follow through on Trump’s threats to further escalate his trade war with China (now is as good a time as any to say that the trade war has officially started). Last week the US imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with another US$16 billion to be

Assessing Duterte’s China investment drive

When President Rodrigo Duterte visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 2016, he came home with an agreement that earmarked US$24 billion worth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development aid for the Philippines. Many of the deals were eventually

US Navy sails into Taiwan sunset

It’s inevitable that, when the US sails warships through the Taiwan Strait, it will be interpreted as a broader diplomatic statement or even a protest – in this case, perhaps about North Korea, or the US–China trade spat. But these transits are more common than you might think. According to

China business and China threats

China has loomed large in the Australian economy for two decades. Be it the demand for iron ore or coal, or the education, property, and tourism markets, the Australian economy has boomed with China’s wind in its sails. As China is now the world’s second largest economy, its global

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