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Weekend catch-up: China's tech bubble, and more

Mahathir redux, Russian military exercises and Taiwan's pacific allies: The week that was on The Interpreter.

Photo: Surian Soosay/Flickr
Photo: Surian Soosay/Flickr
Published 8 Sep 2018   Follow @lowyinstitute

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Analysts optimistic about the prospects of the Chinese economy often cite the countries powerful tech industry. Elliott Zaagman:

The Chinese Communist Party seems to be using the same approach to tech as they have to infrastructure development: top-down, centrally planned and directed. This led to a great deal of waste and corruption as well, but there would also be a road, bridge, or skyscraper to show for it. The same model is being applied to technology development, an area which is far less tangible. Waste and corruption are certainly evident in China’s tech boom, but it is not yet clear what else it will produce.

Francis Hutchinson on Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad’s second stint prime ministership:

At present, Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan have committed to a two-year time frame, after which the prime ministership is to be passed to Anwar Ibrahim. Yet, recent polls indicate a high degree of popular support for Mahathir. And, the senior statesman has stressed how much work there is to be done, stating that he could potentially stay a little longer if he is “wanted”.

China’s unreliable statistics make economic analysis of the world's second largest economy difficult. Frasier Howie:

China’s rise and economic development truly is impressive, but China is full of big numbers which can lead investors or businessmen astray.

From 11–15 September Russia’s Far East will host the largest Russian military exercise since 1981. Stephen Blank:

By virtue of being in Asia, Russia can minimise the need to alert Western observers as to what is happening and circumvent existing treaties. Therefore, there is every reason to believe, along with Russian military correspondent Pavel Felgenhauer, that Moscow is rehearsing a global war scenario along with other smaller ones that may build into that.

Taiwan has been losing diplomatic allies. Will Solomon Islands be next? James Batley:

A diplomatic switch by Solomon Islands to Beijing is by no means a sure thing following next year’s elections; the Taiwanese will certainly work hard to prevent that. Even so, the chances of it happening must be assessed as greater than at any time over the past several decades.

Jenny Hayward-Jones on what the change in Australian prime minister and foreign minister means for the Pacific:

The dynamics are a little different now. Island states, with other aid and investment partners available to them, have more leverage over Australia and New Zealand. With Australia’s credibility on climate change at its lowest ebb, it is not in a strong position to assert its interests in the region.

Another blasphemy case involving a woman complaining about the volume of the call to prayer has raised questions about religious freedom in Indonesia. Sidney Jones:

The standard should be the equality before the law of all citizens under the Indonesian constitution. The protests against her sentencing are heartening, but the courts seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

Nick Bisley and Bec Strating on Asia’s order beyond the great powers:

Ultimately, orders are not only established through great power bargains and balance of power configurations, but also through the collective consent or acceptance of regional, middle and even small powers. To overlook the interests and activities of non-great powers in favour of focusing on Sino-US competition neglects important dynamics in the ways in which orders are shaped, changed and maintained.

Stephen Grenville on US President Donald Trump’s trade policy:

Trump’s active opposition to free trade stems from his background in real estate and his belief in the ‘art of the deal’. He was never going to accept the ‘in principle’ case for free multilateral trade. Bilateral negotiations were favoured over multilateral. He could use America’s heft to get the best deal. 

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