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Weekend catch-up: Made in China 2025 and more

Chinese influence in Singapore, ABC broadcasting, DFAT on Facebook, and more: the week that was on The Interpreter.

Photo: tec_estromber/Flickr
Photo: tec_estromber/Flickr
Published 11 Aug 2018   Follow @lowyinstitute

The week that was on The Interpreter.

US President Donald Trump’s trade actions against China were inspired, in large part, by Beijing’s “Made in China 2025” industrial plan. Chengxin Pan:

For the same reason of global economic and technological interdependence, Trump’s punitive measures to stop China from upgrading its industry will not work. If anything, it could backfire.

Although Australia’s infrastructure project with Japan and the US was immediately compared to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the details for both plans are too vague to pass judgement. Peter McCawley:

A trilateral partnership between Australia, the US, and Japan sounds promising. The idea of investing in infrastructure and promoting economic growth is a step in the right direction. But unfortunately there is less to all of this than meets the eye.

A steady drip of stories about Chinese influence operations in Singapore have drawn much attention and comment in the city state. Kirsten Han:

To exert its influence and defend its interests, China doesn’t need to reach every Chinese Singaporean, it only needs to sway some towards sympathy for its position, and a willingness to fight in its corner.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has revived his strategy of building closer relations with Japan, but doing so is tied up with domestic political imperatives. Mina Erika Pollmann:

What will Mahathir base his legitimacy on? If it is economic growth pure and simple, then cooperation with Japan will be weighed against cooperation with China on purely economic terms. If Mahathir decides to base his legitimacy on being anti-corruption, and if the Malaysian public associates corruption with China, then the balance will tilt in favour of greater cooperation with Japan; likewise, if Mahathir decides to base his legitimacy on being a reformer and pushes ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Thai military government recently requested the extradition of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from the UK. Elliott Brennan:

What the UK does now will be telling. The UK would not only be loath to hand Yingluck over, but also lacks the information to do so. But it may ask her quietly to move on from her home in West London. The military will remain in the driver’s seat in Thailand for some time – regardless of the outcome of the elections, assuming the junta allows them to occur – thanks to the military-drafted constitution that upholds its position.

Bruce Dover and Ian Macintosh offer a new model for an Australian international broadcaster:

Under the current model, Australia has surrendered much of the hard-won broadcasting territory and influence it once held across the region. Other countries have moved in to occupy the space. We believe that without a new model and a new approach, Australia will simply fall further behind its rivals, and any voice we hope to project will be less a roar than a whimper.

Damien Spry on how DFAT should be using Facebook:

Don’t ever miss important local national days, especially memorials and remembrances. Do use local languages if at all possible, especially in videos, and – even better – tap into local cultural memes and make references to local people, places, food, events, and so on.

Following the cessation of the High Court of Australia acting as its highest appellate court, Nauru has established a new Court of Appeal and appointed three senior Pacific islander judges. Anna Dziedzic:

These judges have experience in the kinds of legal issues likely to come before the Nauruan courts, such as customary law, constitutional rights, and parliamentary procedures – issues that the Australian judges on the High Court lacked not only jurisdiction to hear, but also experience in dealing with.

Nicole de Souza comments on the cultural and political insights offered by the Japanese and Korean pop music industries:

K-pop idols can successfully sell albums in Japan, and Japanese singers can join K-pop groups. However, in a reflection of national rivalries, there will always be friction between the two competing industries.

Saudi Arabia escalated a diplomatic row with Canada that began as a Twitter argument over human rights. Grant Wyeth:

While this Twitter diplomacy – or lack of diplomacy – is a fascinating modern facet of international relations in itself, there is also an innovative underlying component of Canadian foreign policy that is instrumental in increasing the tension between the two countries: Ottawa’s recent movement to a more avowedly feminist foreign policy.

John Hemmings and James Amedeo on North Korea’s evolving strategy:

Pyongyang’s current strategy seems to offer symbolic gains – returning of remains, and site visits – instead of denuclearisation in order to get the Trump administration to declare victory and loosen economic restrictions. It has also done a bait-and-switch with a peace treaty as the path to denuclearisation.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan faces an uphill battle to control parliament and alleviate Pakistan’s economic problems. Adnan Aamir:

Arguably, the biggest challenge faced by Pakistan is in the form of an economic crisis. Khan built his election campaign around the idea of a prosperous future for Pakistan, and acknowledged the severity of the economic crisis in his victory speech.

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