The Ebola crisis in West Africa is getting worse. This week the first patient diagnosed in the US passed away and the virus has spread to Europe, with a nurse being treated in Madrid. Catherine King MP, the Federal Shadow Minister for Health, argued that now is the time for Australia to act:
Australia is a prosperous and generous nation and our government should do all it can to assist. Australia's medical professionals are rightly regarded as among the world's best and brightest, and if we act now, we have a chance to join with other nations to bring this epidemic under control and spare thousands of lives. If we fail, the ability to control this epidemic will be lost, and the world will face a health crisis the UN warns poses a threat to world peace and international security.
Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Annmaree O’Keeffe said that Australia must work to strengthen developing country health systems in order to counter the virus:
The real limitations of developing-country health systems was reinforced earlier this month when Medecins Sans Frontieres rejected a A$2.5 million grant from the Australian Government to support its Ebola work in West Africa. Instead, it wants Australia to provide specialised civil and military personnel to the affected countries. Australia's Foreign Minister has countered that the Government will not put Australian health workers at risk when there is no safe evacuation plan in the case of infection.
Christopher Kremmer on the possible budget cuts to the ABC:
The most likely outcome of the current review of ABC news operations will be reduced levels of funding and staffing in overseas news bureaux. Correspondents will be expected to do more with less. However, my understanding is that the closure of the New Delhi bureau, a regional hub for coverage of eight countries including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is not among proposals forwarded to the ABC Board by news division managers.
Were China a rogue state like North Korea itself, this might not matter. But it is increasingly clear that prestige and rank matter to China a great deal. China's concern for its 'international status' (guoji diwei) borders on obsession, what Pichamon Yeophantong calls 'identity management.' Beijing has repeatedly cowed Hollywood into altering films that portray China in a negative light; Confucius Institutes have provoked a substantial academic backlash in the West as propaganda vehicles for Beijing; the 2008 Olympics were famously marketed as China's global 'arrival' as a superpower, and so on. If China is this concerned with its global image, it cannot help but debate the costs of its relationship with North Korea.
There are signs of warming relations between Tokyo and Beijing, but still hurdles to overcome says Murray McLean:
Critical issues would certainly need to be covered off before a constructive leaders' meeting could occur. The standoff over whether there is, or is not, technically a 'dispute' over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is the first matter needing to be finessed. Any wording proposed for referring to differences of approach to questions of ownership will require sensitive negotiation. A possible compromise on terminology might refer to there being a 'diplomatic difference' rather than a legal dispute between the two countries on the matter of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The historical issues which regularly obstruct normalisation of the relationship will also require deft handling. Notable among those will be China's demand that Prime Minister Abe agree not to make another visit to the Yasakuni Shrine while in office.
Julian Snelder explored China's growing nationalism:
How do we explain the apparent contradiction between China's hostile nationalism and its great globalisation project? Wouldn't war itself be greatest of all threats to its ambition? And why are the very countries demonised most by China's nationalism also attracting Chinese talent and wealth? There are many possible explanations. Of course people emigrate for many reasons, practical and personal. Perhaps China will prevail either in peace or war, and is spreading its reach confidently. The affluent 64% who want to emigrate probably aren't the same hard 64% who want to man up against Japan. Perhaps outsiders just don't 'get' China. Or maybe folks are simply hedging their bets. Maybe the odds of war really are rising, and Chinese are voting with their feet.
In Indonesia, there have been setbacks for democracy since the election of Jokowi. Catriona Croft-Cusworth on the legislative bill that aims to transfer the power to directly elect local regional leaders from the people to Regional Legislative Councils:
The end of direct elections does not automatically spell an end for democracy. But in the Indonesian context, the end of direct regional elections means the end of a functioning mechanism that was letting reformist non-elites take power. Any way you look at it, that's a setback for democracy that the incoming government will be tasked with trying to undo.
Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Stephen Grenville argued that the G20 needs to take up the prescriptions of the latest IMF World Economic Outlook:
There is no denying the importance of the Fund's main message that there are many infrastructure projects which are not only viable (especially at today's low global interest rates), but which would also spur lagging global growth. This seems likely to be a widely held view at Brisbane's G20 meeting. Improving global growth while at the same time fixing the infrastructure shortage is a compelling idea. But, as usual, 'between the idea and the reality...falls the shadow'. The G20 needs to turn the generalities into operational prescriptions, like having the World Bank restore its detailed project appraisal capacity and for the credit-rating agencies to improve their capability to sort the beneficial projects from the lemons.
Cheryl Saunders on the recent Fiji election and its constitution:
The challenge of constitutional implementation extends beyond the performance of elected institutions to the rest of the constitution. Often, one of the first tasks following the introduction of a new constitution is the creation of all the other institutions for which the constitution provides. To some extent, this is necessary in Fiji as well.
Religion is playing a complex role in the conflict in southern Thailand, finds Zachary Abuza:
Yet this conflict is not about religion, it's essentially about ethnic identity (it's not always easy to desegregate the two as ethnicity is largely identified with religious affiliation). Malays, who comprise 80% of the region's two million people, are Muslim and feel there is no space for them among the three pillars of the Thai state: the nation (ethnic Thai), the King (who is worshiped like a god), and religion (Buddhism). There is a palpable fear among the Malay of being assimilated into Thai culture, and of losing their ethnic and linguistic identity. Religion is an essential part of that identity.