Monday 19 Feb 2018 | 17:10 | SYDNEY
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China: the web closes in

The era of easily exploitable internet loopholes in China appears to be ending. Starting on 31 March, Beijing will ban non-licensed Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) via which Chinese residents privately access blocked websites, such as Google, Facebook, and The New York Times. Chief Engineer of

China’s agenda behind inter-Korean talks

The first two weeks of 2018 have seen a significant thaw in inter-Korean tensions. In the highest-level talks between North and South Korea since December 2015, Pyongyang agreed to send a delegation to the 2018 South Korean Winter Olympics. China welcomed the developments, which it considers, in its

Understanding China’s approach to aid

International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells' remarks about China's aid to the Pacific are part of a long tradition of concern in Australia. Yet while some Chinese aid projects are less than perfect, as my colleague Jonathan Pryke notes, Fierravanti-Wells' sweeping

Calm the alarm on Antarctic krill fishery

There is periodic hyperbole surrounding the future use of the Southern Ocean krill fishery, often sensationally blaming a future threat from China. Yet krill are in no danger of being overfished. China’s krill take is currently a miniscule portion of catch limit under the present international

A turning point in US economic relations with China

The US appears to have reached a turning point in its economic relationship with China. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump accused Chinese policy makers of perpetrating the ‘greatest theft in the history of the world’ and blamed their foolish and incompetent American

China and North Korea: Following the paper trail

Bill Gertz, senior editor of The Washington Free Beacon, specialises in scoops. But even by his high standards, his 2 January story that states a ‘(s)ecret Chinese Communist Party document reveals covert support to North Korea, including missiles, increased aid’ was a major coup. If true, Gertz

Best of The Interpreter 2017: China's influence

Former senator Sam Dastyari cetainly found that history repeats itself as farce. Or as Stephen Conroy, the former Labor defence spokesman that Dastyari infamously contradicted over the South China Sea, would later observe, it took a 'unique set of abilities to

Xi saves sea slugs on the sea floor

This post is based on Episode 16 of The Little Red Podcast, featuring Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi of the University of Technology, Sydney. My first culinary meeting with a sea cucumber - bêche-de-mer or BDM in its processed form - came out of curiosity. After nearly two decades travelling and

Saying the unsayable in Australia’s relations with China

The issue of influence by the government of the People’s Republic of China in Australian public and political life reached a turning point with the resignation of senator Sam Dastyari. It concluded a year of forceful reporting and vitriolic debate about China in Australia, fuelling a steady flow

China: Contradictions in climate leadership

This article is part of a series for the Australia-UK Asia Dialogue, co-hosted by the Lowy Institute and Ditchley Foundation, and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Xi Jinping had a good year in 2017. It began on the international stage

Mistrust of Australia is growing in China

Over the past year or so the mood in Canberra has soured toward China. Indeed, of the countries unsettled by China’s rise and its increasingly confident and assertive foreign policy, Australia is now among the most outspoken in its criticism of Beijing’s behaviour. This change has been visible

Risk aversion in domestic Chinese politics

The 19th Party Congress was a watershed for the Xi administration. Feverish speculation about candidates for promotion the Politburo Standing Committee is over, but their policy significance much as before: enigmatic. There is a natural interest in factional or interest group allegiance. It is now

No need to self-censor in the face of China

The recent decision by Allen & Unwin to drop Clive Hamilton's book on Chinese influence illustrates that China need not exert much effort in influencing us. We're doing the job ourselves. Hamilton's book Silent Invasion: How China is Turning Australia into a Puppet State was pulled, according

The long reach of China’s United Front Work

China’s official state mouthpiece, the Xinhua news agency, last month declared 'Enlightened Chinese Democracy Puts the West In the Shade.' While Xinhua maintains the fiction that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its 89 million members represent the majority of the people, it also '

Censorship is superfluous in Xi’s ‘New Era’

Tiny children sit in a row on miniature wooden chairs, their attention focused on a television screen showing Chinese President Xi Jinping in full oration mode, in incongruous juxtaposition beside the candyfloss-pink play castle of their kindergarten. In hospitals, patients have Xi beamed to the

The move to one-man rule in China and beyond

The much anticipated 19th Party Congress has come to a close in China after a week of painstakingly constructed public displays of Chinese Communist Party successes, goals, and virtues. Held every five years, the event offers rare insight into the intentions of the Chinese leadership and the future

Australia’s One-China Policy and why it matters

Australia is in the midst of a vociferous debate over China. Reporting and commentary on Chinese Party-state sway over Australia's public and political institutions has been met by a strong pushback by those who emphasise the opportunities presented by China's influence. The

Beijingers keep calm and carry on

In the lead-up to the 19th National Congress this October, Beijing has been undergoing some physical changes. As yet more gleaming architectural marvels are being unveiled, other parts of the city are being cleaned out and 'tidied up', with buildings being knocked down or bricked in. Many have been

China: No country for old men?

On 18 October the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will kick off, and the new makeup of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) will be revealed. The policy direction and success of President Xi Jinping's next term depend on who makes the cut. A mostly informal set of rules

The thought and messaging of Xi Jinping

What rides on a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) slogan? These days, a lot. It's surprising for those who saw the launch of Jiang Zemin's tepid 'Important Theory of the Three Represents', which provided ideological cover for capitalists to join the Party, and Hu Jintao's even more underwhelming '

Doklam: Paths ahead for India and China

As the India-China standoff at the Doklam tri-junction area enters its second month, it is clear this is the most serious crisis between the two countries in 30 years. There are several ways in which it might develop. Unilateral concessions and Chinese escalation are unlikely, with the local

The battle for Southeast Asia's soul

Media headlines are stolen by talk of China’s island building in the South China Sea and whether Australia should join in Freedom of Navigation operations with the US Navy. But in truth this is a sideshow to a much larger ‘battle’ underway: not a clash of opposing armies but the gradual

Countering China’s submarine operations in South Asia

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka earlier this month, reports emerged that the Sri Lankan government had turned down China's request for a submarine docking in Colombo harbor. Beijing, apparently, wanted one of its submarines (ostensibly on its way to the Gulf of Aden for '

How China snubbed Singapore at the Belt and Road summit

Among the 29 Heads of State who converged on Beijing for the Belt and Road Summit earlier this week were leaders of seven of the ten ASEAN states. One leader was noticeably missing: Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Various observers have noted this absence, including Hugh White, who

In China, changing online attitudes towards Korea

Additional research by Zixin Wang, an intern in the Lowy Institute's East Asia Program. Shen Zhihua, a world-renowned Chinese scholar of the Cold War, recently proposed that 'North Korea is China's latent enemy and South Korea could be China's friend'. His comments, made at Dalian University of

Australia needs to show some force

Last week key treaty allies South Korea and Japan joined the US Navy's 7th Fleet for separate joint exercises in the waters west of Japan in a demonstration of force against Pyongyang's latest taunts of nuclear war. However powerful this demonstration may have been, it was still missing one key US

China’s financial concerns

The China bears have been around for years, continuously predicting the end of China's stellar growth story. In 2012 Michael Pettis expected annual growth to average 3% over this decade and in 2015 Tyler Cowen warned of an imminent disastrous financial collapse. So far, so good. China's

How China and Russia avoided the Thucydides trap

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper A Wary Embrace. Other debate posts can be found here. With every energy or arms trade deal and joint veto in the UN Security Council, the question of whether Russia and China have formed an alliance becomes more salient. These two

The Xi-Trump Summit: Rearranging the furniture

In his inimitable way, US President Donald Trump promised major things with the Chinese president’s visit to Trump's residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. In the end, this particular informal summit, if it is remembered at all, will be because of the intervention Trump ordered, almost minutes before

China and Russia: Friends with strategic benefits

This post is part of a debate on Bobo Lo's Lowy Institute Paper A Wary Embrace. Other debate posts can be found here. Is the relationship between China and Russia just an axis of convenience – a limited partnership with no real empathy between the two parties, spiced by deep-seated and well-

Quick comment: Bobo Lo on China-Russia relations

This week the Lowy Institute launched its latest Penguin Special, A Wary Embrace, on the future of China-Russia relations. The author, Dr Bobo Lo, is in Sydney for the launch, and he sat down with me to talk about why he thinks China-Russia relations will remain largely transactional, and why Russia

Lam’s election a jolt back to reality for Hong Kong

Ever since the popular John Tsang lost the Chief Executive election to the Beijing-anointed Carrie Lam on 26 March, Hongkongers are finding ways to accept a reality they wanted to avoid: a polarised Hong Kong under Beijing's grip for the foreseeable future. Despite being a pro-establishment

China's huge industrial ambitions

The RAND Corporation has just published a new report on Chinese investment in the US aviation sector. Given the air of concern in Australia and sometimes the US over Chinese investment in strategic industries (remember when China's CNOOC tried to buy US oil giant UNOCAL?), the tone of the report is

Li’s Australia visit: ‘Nothing to be afraid of’

Chinese President Xi Jinping's speech at Davos in January presented China as the natural protector of the global order after the abdication of the US from the position. Premier Li Keqiang's four-day visit to Australia (which starts today) will demonstrate that China is still keen on presenting

What to expect from Li Keqiang’s Australia trip

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's week-long visit to Australia (and New Zealand) comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity spurred by US President Donald Trump's disruption of the international relations equilibrium. Li's main objective is promoting trade and investment, particularly through President

Dear foreign policy elite: You’re obsolete

Rex Tillerson recently completed his first trip to Beijing as Secretary of State. Since then, a slew of critics have panned Tillerson for supposedly handing China a ‘diplomatic victory’ because a joint media conference includes phrases like ‘win-win’ and ‘mutual respect’ - notions these

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