Tuesday 17 Dec 2019 | 01:22 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Pacifying Australia-China relations

Australia and China cooperating in the Pacific Islands? At first glance it seems absurd. Australia-China relations are hardly warm and glowing right now. Just in the last few weeks, there’s been a focus on alleged espionage courtesy of Wang Liqiang, claims of attempted political

Afghan peace is elusive but not impossible

The need for a negotiated withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has increased in urgency after the Washington Post this week published an explosive article outlining the “Afghanistan Papers”, which documents that the US government long has concluded its efforts in Afghanistan were futile and

Aung San Suu Kyi: Why defend the indefensible?

This week, the world was treated to an extraordinary sight. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner once hailed as “the bravest and most moral person in the world ... the immaculate heroine who allows us all to feel a little better about human nature”, sat in the International Court

Strength in numbers in the eastern Indian Ocean

India is the most capable resident power in the Indian Ocean, but its expanding military footprint is uneven and reliant on partnerships with likeminded states. India’s military posture and activities have been largely weighted to the western Indian Ocean. A recently published Asia Maritime

The Gambia v Myanmar: Day 1

Yesterday, Gambia commenced its arguments in the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, relating to the application of the Genocide Convention and the Rohingya. After filing its application on 11 November, in which The Gambia initiated the case at the ICJ and also asked the

When price hikes pour fuel on the fire

The word “protest” has become part of the common vocabulary in the last few months, with demonstrations in Hong Kong, the Middle East, India, and across Latin America making headlines around the world. The recent protests in Iran, particularly, have brought into focus a longstanding issue:  

On the trail of the Pope in Japan

Pope Francis visited Japan between 23 and 26 November. It was a busy time that followed directly on from the Pope’s equally busy visit to Thailand. He toured Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. He met with Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Abe Shinzō. He spoke with survivors of the atomic attacks,

The Wang Liqiang case in Cold War perspective

The recent publication of Peter Hartcher’s Quarterly Essay Red Flag: Waking Up to China’s Challenge coincided with fast-breaking stories about Chinese espionage and influence operations in Australia, the leaking of the Xinjiang Papers from inside China, and the overwhelming victory by Hong Kong

Reconsidering Australia’s China debate

The recent allegations of Chinese espionage and election interference – and the subsequent doubts cast upon them – have reignited the China debate in the Australian public consciousness. The debate has become increasingly polarised, with a shortage of goodwill. Some have had their integrity and

Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy reorientation

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is changing South Korean foreign policy. He has allowed Seoul’s relationship with the United States and Japan to deteriorate while betting heavily that North Korea would embrace his détente effort. This risks isolating South Korea, and the conservative pushback

Time with Trump: Australia and Southeast Asia compared

Over the last two years, US President Donald Trump has made two trips to Southeast Asia and none to Australia. Despite this, according to White House media notifications, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, each engaged more with Trump than the ten leaders of

China-US trade war: For all the bark, not much bite

It is now nearly 17 months since the Trump administration began collecting 25% tariffs on the first tranche of Chinese imports to the US – time enough to evaluate the economic impact the trade war so far. That impact? Surprisingly little. It is certainly true that comparing the first nine

Hong Kong: The people’s voice

On Monday evening in Hong Kong, just hours after the pro-democracy camp made global headlines with a landslide victory in the District Council election, thousands gathered in the shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui East calling for the unconditional release of protesters remaining at the nearby

In Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksas will rule ruthlessly

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in as president of Sri Lanka on 18 November. He served as secretary to the ministry of defense when his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, ruled the country, from 2005 to 2015. The Rajapaksas are inveterate authoritarians, and the country is about to take a troubling,

Cambodia: Playing the long game against Hun Sen

To the casual observer, it may appear that Cambodian strongman Hun Sen is letting up, undoing some recent repression. This month, Hun Sen released Kem Sokha, the founder and co-leader of the main opposition party, after more than two years of house arrest, days later also ordering the release of

A verdict on justice in a land of impunity

I still remember the last time I saw Marlene Esperat. How could I not? She was wearing a red dress and matching high-heeled shoes. Her eyes sparkled with glittery makeup. Marlene was a journalist in the province of Sultan Kudarat, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, where she exposed

Ultimate Game of Thrones in Malaysia

The past 48 hours have been remarkable, even by the standards of Malaysian politics. There now seem to be plans afoot to create a new ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, split and weaken Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and stop Anwar Ibrahim from succeeding Mahathir Mohammad as Prime Minister. The

Afghan elections bring no peace

Afghans went to the polls on 28 September, but preliminary results from the presidential elections, originally due for 19 October, were pushed back to 14 November, only to be postponed again. Officials from the Independent Election Commission (IEC) cited technical issues as the reason for the delay

Book review: China, the US, and the big break

Book review: Paul Blustein: Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System (CIGI Press, 2019) Paul Blustein has produced an enviable bookshelf of behind-the-scenes reportage on international economic institutions, both as a journalist (for The Washington Post and The

Jokowi’s curious plan for Indonesia’s capital

After winning a second and final term, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced, “I have no burden now. I’m not thinking about next elections… so I will do whatever it takes for the country’s sake.” Just a month later, Jokowi, as Widodo is known, declared that Indonesia’s capital city

How China is winning the Hong Kong propaganda war

I have been in touch with “Lee” for a few months now. She is a 20-something Hongkonger heavily involved in the long-running protest movement there, and she has always sounded pretty level-headed and clear in our communications, replying to my queries with long, considered, and helpful answers.

Shifting alliances in the Gulf a boon to China

In the wake of escalating US-Iran tensions in the Persian Gulf, the geopolitical realities of the Asian region are rapidly changing. New strategic alliances are being formed as old partnerships give way. A good example is the trouble surrounding a three-way transit agreement between Iran, India,

Trade war: From a phase one deal to perpetual peace

After a roller-coaster ride spanning 18 months, the trade war between the United States and China is finally showing signs of abatement, with the two sides confirming that they are close to the conclusion of a phase-one deal. While the signing of the deal, which was originally scheduled to take

Ayodhya verdict and unruly consequences

Last week, India’s Supreme Court decided in favour of Hindus in a decades-long dispute over a holy site in the country’s north. By doing so, the court also did a number of other things: it planted a flag in the judiciary’s siding with the Hindu right, and with it, the government, and it

Book Review: The original corporate raiders

Review: William Dalrymple, The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire (Bloomsbury, 2019) In his new book, The Anarchy, renowned historian William Dalrymple tells the remarkable story of how the East India Company (EIC) managed to replace the mighty Mughal

SCO-style economic cooperation: Treading slowly

Over its 18-year existence, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has mostly been in the spotlight as a forum for security cooperation, starting with the 2001 Convention that branded crimes of extremism, separatism, and terrorism as extraditable offences. The region is still facing significant security

A motion towards justice in Myanmar

International law proceedings targeting the alleged genocide of members of the Rohingya group in Myanmar are gathering force. The Republic of The Gambia has submitted an application to institute proceedings against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, with the support of

Connecting the dots on the Blue Dot Network

The US, Australia, and Japan have joined together to establish a trilateral “Blue Dot Network” to help develop infrastructure “in the Indo-Pacific and around the world”. The plan was announced on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN summit in Thailand last week. This sounds impressive. The Indo

North Korea’s deadline logic

Ever since Chairman Kim Jong-un issued the end-of-year deadline in April for nuclear negotiations, North Korea has displayed a stubborn attitude. From launching a series of new short and medium-range missiles, dragging its feet at the working-level talks, to showing no signs of compromise at

Signs of a deal between US and China, and a rethink

It is not yet agreed, may yet fail, and is anyway unlikely to settle matters, but the impending “phase one” trade deal could be a useful ceasefire in the US economic war with China. Two years on from the US initiation of penalty tariffs on China, it is also a convenient moment to point to a few

India draws the line on Kashmir

On 2 November, the Government of India’s Press Information Bureau released two maps that show all of the former (but contested) princely state of Jammu and Kashmir as now comprising two entities: the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Ladakh. Both belong to India. All

Beijing’s cryptic blockchain gambit

China is going berserk for blockchain these days, and doing so with oh-so-very Chinese characteristics. The recent hype is certainly not without cause. After years of cautious support for the game-changing digital ledger technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Beijing has been

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