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Weekend catch-up: Trudeau, Xi Jinping and the Queen, cyber attacks, East Jerusalem and more

Weekend catch-up: Trudeau, Xi Jinping and the Queen, cyber attacks, East Jerusalem and more
Published 24 Oct 2015   Follow @SamRoggeveen

This week, in a stunning election result in Canada, the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau gained a majority in Canada's parliament, defeating the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Brendan Thomas-Noone said the new Liberal government has a chance to reinvigorate Canada's lagging foreign policy:

The election of Justin Trudeau presents a chance to reinvigorate Canada's traditional stances in foreign policy. There is also a chance to move away from old props that Canada has leaned on, such as peacekeeping. What was once a significant part of Canada's foreign policy and is still held up as a part of Canadian identity is no longer a reality — Canada is now the 66th largest contributor of peacekeeping forces, in between Mali and Paraguay.

But what Canada's role in the history of peacekeeping does reflect is a tradition of proposing innovative ideas in international affairs. There are opportunities in disarmament, the global environment and conflict monitoring and resolution. The tradition of foreign-policy innovation is one Canadians should be proud of, and something the new government could turn its attention to. 

Xi Jinping made a state visit to the UK this week (the US has critised London's courting of Beijing). Kerry Brown said that the most important aspect of China's relationship with the UK is the City of London:

The epicentre for all of this will almost inevitably be the City of London, the great financial district. For the internationalisation of China's currency, for the assistance to Chinese companies going global, and for the creation of a truly international interface outside of China between capital markets and their domestic financial services, London is a core partner. The City is hugely global, but it is not in the US. It also sits in Europe, China's largest market. Its location, its size, and the effort it has already put in to working with China, means the City has great tactical importance for both sides. The only problem is that the fruits of this collaboration are not easy to quantify, which is why, in order to look real, they have to be dressed up in impressive investments and solid projects generating quality jobs for the British and viable international companies for the Chinese.

David Kelly wrote on Chinese investment in the UK, and the different ways the two societies judge risk: [fold]

The deep issue was thus not the competence of China's technical firms and experts, but the linkages between levels of management, the tendency of people to be 'recreant' (ie. to find reasons not to carry out their responsibilities), undisclosed interests, jumbled lines of control, and so on.

So for President Xi's trip and the Hinkley project, the deep issue is not a list of solely Chinese malpractice, incompetence, or the like, but of the potential additive effects of two jurisdictions, each with governance issues. Those interested in such projects are inclined to dismiss such cavils as driven by a sour-grapes mentality or worse, xenophobia. It is worth pointing out as forcefully as possible that there is nothing xenophobic about maintaining high standards.

I reviewed the special episode of Q&A this week which focused on foreign policy:

But too often in the public debate, the risks of China's rise are framed as physical risks to Australian territory. There was an air of this in the tweets that were put on screen during last night's show, and on the odd occasion that this subject comes up in my conversations with non-specialists, I am sometimes asked 'What, so are they going to invade us?'. The question is always put with a tone of disbelief, and I reinforce this by saying that invasion is not the issue. But then I am asked: so what is the issue?

At that point, I give an answer similar to the one Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Fullilove gave on Q&A last night, when he said that Australia had an interest in preserving the rules-based order in our region. That's true; the rules-based order is a precious thing, and Australia benefits from its preservation in numerous ways. But given that this order is so difficult to define and that it changes mostly by degree (though sometimes all at once, when wars are won and lost), it can be a difficult principle on which to persuade people.

Continuing his series on internet wars, Fergus Hanson on how the line has been blurred on the use of cyber weapons during war and peace:

Cyber attacks should now be expected during times of war. Of far more concern though is the emerging norm in favour of conducting cyber attacks during peacetime. In 2012, the UK's then-Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey, even made the case to the Shangri-La Dialogue that cyber attacks were 'quite a civilised option.'

Practice would suggest several states agree. In 2012, it was revealed the US had been targeting Iran's nuclear program with cyber attacks. It was the first time a cyber attack had turned hot, doing physical real-world damage. In retaliation, Iran launched a major attack in August 2012 on the world's largest energy company, Saudi Aramco. 

In her latest piece on digital diplomacy, Danielle Cave refuted the arguments made in an op-ed in Fairfax on DFAT's digital strategy:

It is one thing to allow embassies, ambassadors and thematic areas of DFAT to open up Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and to use these to post announcements and soft power images of Australia. It is an entirely different thing to allow the diplomats using these accounts to project, advocate for and defend Australia's policy positions. The first is public relations and the second is digital diplomacy. Both are very important and Australia is doing only one well.

Euan Graham on the RAN's flagship, HMAS Canberra:

Commissioned only last year, at 27,000 tonnes Canberra is the largest warship the RAN has operated. The LHDs are 'cheap' compared with locally built warships, employing a mix of commercial and naval specifications. The LHDs have their detractors, as made clear in The Shallow Pool of Strategic Expertise in Defence. Arguments proffered against the LHDs include the claim that such large ships needlessly shoe-horn defence assets into protecting vulnerable platforms that can only operate in low-threat environments. Or they draw us into US-led 'expeditionary' roles exceeding Australia's defence requirements. Bah humbug.

Stephen Grenville on Asia's economies and capital flows:

The sequence since the financial crisis of 2008 goes like this: at first, foreign investors fled emerging markets as part of the generalised panic. Then, when they saw most emerging economies had come through the crisis rather well and, encouraged by the large interest differential created by the near-zero rates in the crisis economies, investors shifted more of their funds into emerging markets – the 'search for yield'. Of course not all investors did this. But global investors' portfolios are huge compared with the size of financial markets in emerging economies, so the flows pushed up exchange rates in the recipient economies (which of course reduced the international competitiveness of these economies), thus encouraging current accounts to move into deficit.

With violence flaring in East Jerusalem, Leanne Piggott wrote an update on the Israel-Palestine conflict:

If Israelis and Palestinians are to reach an agreement to end the conflict between the two peoples, the leadership on both sides will need to make compromises that will surely not be accepted by all of their respective constituents. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would lose the support of much of the religious and political right if he was to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas faces opposition to any kind of end-of-conflict deal with Israel from the Hamas leadership based in Gaza and the more radical elements within his own Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority based in the West Bank.

Will mobile phones be a significant help in responding to PNG's drought? Amanda Watson and Dan Jorgensen:

Data collection is an important part of a concerted approach. Detailed, location-specific data is essential to help identify the places where people are most in need of relief. Typically, much data collection is done in the field by teams travelling around the country. This will remain a valuable way to gather a range of information, including people's perceptions and perhaps water, crop and soil samples.

But some types of data could be collected remotely, which is faster and more efficient than on foot. For example, a series of key questions could be sent out via SMS to village leaders on a daily or weekly basis. This would permit a fine-grained understanding of local situations in real time, especially in remote areas. Where responses are of concern, follow-up phone interviews could elicit more detailed information.

World Polio Day was yesterday, and Sophie Désoulières and Samina Ahmed from International Crisis Group updated us on the situation in Pakistan:

It is clear recent advances made in the battle with polio will remain fragile while the militant networks are intact. If a lower polio infection rate is to be maintained, countering anti-immunisation propaganda will be essential. This requires building on initiatives to engage communities, to win their trust and enable essential services, particularly more pervasive immunisation and significantly improved public health and sanitation.

An interesting post from J Michael Cole on the belief in China that 'peaceful unification' will result through closer economic ties with Taiwan:

In the end, no matter how much money you throw at the problem, identity trumps all other factors. And for better or worse, one's identity isn't a rational choice based on the calculated maximisation of material interests. Shaped over centuries, Taiwan's complex and distinct identity is also inseparable from its recent development as a liberal democracy, which has acted as an antibody against the deepening authoritarianism and nationalist ideology in China (even ardent supporters of the Republic of China who tend to oppose Taiwan's de jure independence have made their democracy a non-negotiable item).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user John McCallum.

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