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Weekend catch-up: the Taiwan Strait, trade wars, and ASEAN’s aftermath

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Farewell for Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escort ships, Hong Kong (Photo: Xu Dongdong/Getty Images)
Farewell for Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escort ships, Hong Kong (Photo: Xu Dongdong/Getty Images)
Published 24 Mar 2018 

The week that was on The Interpreter.

China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning sailed through the Taiwan Strait, and China’s coastguard was placed under military command. Euan Graham:

This represents a retrograde step from the viewpoint of civilian control over China’s maritime law enforcement. More ominously, it suggests China is prioritising organisational changes designed to streamline PLA command and control for war-fighting purposes.

Richard McGregor interviewed former Wall Street Journal reporter Dinny McMahon about his new book, China’s Great Wall of Debt: Shadow Banks, Ghost Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle:

The reason debt has ballooned is because the need for fast growth is hard-baked into the political system. At the highest level of government, fast growth is necessary to realise Xi Jinping’s vision of national rejuvenation.

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit wrapped up on Sunday. Greg Earl:

Sitting in the largely lifeless media centre of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s $56-million grand diplomatic gambit, it was hard not to be struck by the irony of Australia’s earnest embrace of the ASEAN way, with its emphasis on consultation and non-intervention.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad used the summit to continue their pre-election bickering. Amrita Malhi:

Najib’s team in Australia seized the opportunity in a much more polished manner. Malaysia’s opposition will not be able to criticise this performance as easily.

The Trump administration has threatened, and now imposed, tariffs on China for appropriating the intellectual property of US businesses. John Edwards:

Tangled in this coming dispute are much bigger issues for the US, China, and the rest of the world. One is the extent to which the US may wish to obstruct China’s declared intention of becoming a leading competitor in high-technology industries. Another is the extent to which the US wishes to frame trade disputes with China as those between a “liberal international order” created and sustained by the US and a state-directed transactional and opportunistic challenge by China.

The US Federal Reserve is beginning to lift interest rates and unwind quantitative easing. Stephen Grenville:

Rather than a wholesale global retreat of capital from emerging economies, what seems more likely is that individual countries might come under pressure because of idiosyncratic vulnerabilities.

Clive Hamilton’s book Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia has restarted a debate about Chinese Communist Party influence in Australian politics. Rory Medcalf:

The issue of foreign interference needs to be addressed in a context of respect for the rights of Chinese-Australians. Racially charged partisanship needs to be avoided, otherwise a window will be opened for new modes of influence by Beijing, especially at election times.

The Chinese Government recently announced the creation of a new international development agency. Denghua Zhang:

The establishment of China’s independent aid agency could be linked to efforts to restructure China’s diplomatic team. It is expected that Wang Qishan, the former anti-corruption tsar newly appointed Vice-President by the National People’s Congress, will advise President Xi Jinping on China’s foreign policy. With such a powerful figure overseeing China’s overall foreign policy, it will be much easier for Beijing to coordinate its nearly three-dozen aid agencies.

Sinclair Dinnen on the experiences of Pacific Islands police who served in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands:

Pacific Islands police contributed to all aspects of the mission’s policing activities. But many officers also emphasised their unofficial role as intermediaries between Australian and New Zealand police and members of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and broader Solomon Islands community.

The target date for the Bougainville independence referendum – 15 June 2019 – is fast approaching. Nicole George on the challenges faced by women in Bougainville:

Terms such as independence and sovereignty have, for more than two decades, inspired Bougainville’s people in their struggle for self-determination. Yet pervasive gendered challenges in this environment suggest that even if independence provides an impetus for economic development in Bougainville, as many hope, it is a mistake to assume that increased earning will easily advance women’s well-being, physical security, or autonomy. 

Indonesia will host a dialogue between Indonesian and Aghan Islamic clerics at the end of March, although Taliban representatives pulled out. Ahmad Rizky M. Umar:

Indonesia has been well-regarded for its quiet but decisive mediation role in conflict resolution processes in Cambodia the 1980s, as well as for its actions in achieving peaceful resolutions to internal religious conflicts in Ambon and Aceh. But is this experience sufficient to justify a greater role for Indonesia as an effective and impartial peace broker in Afghanistan?

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