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Weekend catch-up: Barack or Donald?

Senate race debate, Australia’s Navy, and disappearing Deng Xiaoping: the week that was on The Interpreter.

Photo: Pete Souza / White House
Photo: Pete Souza / White House
Published 18 Aug 2018   Follow @lowyinstitute

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Australia is better off with US President Donald Trump than we were with President Barack Obama, former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer argued in an op-ed this week. Stephen Grenville:

It is the narrowness of Downer’s vision that jars: ‘What’s in it for us?’ Success is judged by our ability to do a special deal to protect our steel exports from the Trump tariffs. Of course, our own interests are paramount in international relations. But these interests have global dimensions that Downer ignores.

The Australian political debate was forced to talk about race this week, after newly appointed Senator Fraser Anning delivered a maiden address that praised the White Australia policy and called for a plebiscite on non-European migration. Daniel Flitton:

What was missing then is needed now – an effort to reinforce and celebrate the contemporary strength of Australian identity. This goes beyond condemning racism on convenient social media platforms and demands real-world conversations with colleagues, neighbours, and strangers about their everyday experience.

David Brewster argues that we should bring Australia’s Navy home from the Middle East:

Many naval practitioners now struggle to justify Australia’s naval deployment to the western Indian Ocean. There is a feeling that we’re there because we’re there because we’re there. It is institutional inertia that is keeping us there. And inertia is not a good way to make decisions about the allocation of limited resources.

Unprecedented numbers of women in Seoul are rallying against molka – the use of hidden cameras to take images and videos of a sexual nature that are distributed online – in what has been called the biggest recorded women’s movement in South Korea’s history. Gabriel Wilder:

These marches have harnessed the momentum of the #MeToo movement kickstarted earlier this year in South Korea, when a high-ranking woman in the judiciary spoke publicly about the sexual harassment she had experienced in her position. It led to a string of high-profile men being ousted from their positions as women’s stories were finally given credence.

Graeme Smith summarises some of the key points from this week’s Little Red Podcast on the Belt and Road Initiative with Dirk van der Kley and Peter Cai, who argued:

There’s been an obsession in China. It’s stretched back decades. Every Western industrial country sets the international standards. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an international law, or the technological standard, the industrial standards. The Chinese are basically the rule-takers, not rule-setters.

The Cyberspace Administration of China recently installed a new director, Zhuang Rongwen. Sarah Logan and Graeme Smith:

He was previously the deputy director, and has been involved with United Front work from his stint as the deputy director of the Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs. More importantly, Zhuang has been a Xi Jinping acolyte since the president’s days as the governor of Fujian province.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has slowly reshaped the official narrative of Chinese history to minimise the role of his predecessor Deng Xioping. Geremie Barmé:

Shortly after Xi Jinping’s rise, Deng Xiaoping began to disappear. He was disappearing because Xi was claiming some of his most popular moves as his own. 

Pro-independence politician Andy Chan delivered a speech at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office had tried to stop. Stuart Lau:

At the heart of the fiasco are a few key questions. What cost should Hong Kong pay to make Xi feel safe? What is the balance between China’s authoritarian politics, on the one hand, and an outward-looking, pluralistic society it aspires to be perceived as, on the other?

Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations with only 17 countries and the Holy See but the island state’s diplomatic strategy is no less active for it. Lauren Dickey:

In some cases, notably Taiwan’s relationship with the US, informal relations provide additional security assurances. In other cases, such as Taiwan’s formal relations in Central and South America or the Pacific islands, diplomacy is linked to Taiwan’s ability to maintain foreign relations – a marker of sovereignty.

Ghulam Ali on what Prime Minister Imran Khan will mean for China–Pakistan relations:

Khan started his foreign policy by further consolidating ties with China, expressing the resolve to take advantage of CPEC to draw investment and learn from Chinese experience against corruption and poverty.

Last week, South Korea announced preparations for another summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un. Khang Vu:

Seoul and Pyongyang need to reach a certain level of mutual trust and engagement before talks about denuclearisation can commence. Moon’s determination to move ahead with this agenda reflects North Korea’s and South Korea’s decisions to send ministers from unification and economic departments for talks ahead of his next summit with Kim.

And Meghan Fitzpatrick on the likelihood of a peace treaty between North and South:

The Republic of Korea did not sign the 1953 armistice, and South Korean officials are well aware that any treaty would fundamentally alter the nature of the US–South Korean defence alliance.

Australia’s Department of Communications is now reviewing submissions on the issue of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia-Pacific region. Wanning Sun:

We have now truly entered the post-broadcasting era. While many locations in the Asia-Pacific region still do not have extensive internet coverage, the most populous Asian countries – India, Indonesia, China – are highly digitalised.

Lucie Greenwood on the prospect of trilateral cooperation with China in delivering Pacific aid:

Rather than providing a rationale for not working with China, the failure of Chinese companies to deliver is one reason why New Zealand and Australia should persevere with cooperation. If their strengths – especially the use of best practices for aid delivery – can improve Chinese aid project outcomes, developing climate resilience among Pacific island countries is a more foreseeable goal.

Donor countries must factor religion into development work in the Pacific, argues Bruce Hill:

Christianity is often seen as a foundation of national identity in most parts of the region, and anything that might weaken it tends to be regarded as a threat. Our current secularism is not exactly looked on with favour by many in the islands – something which we don’t always grasp.

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