Thursday 15 Apr 2021 | 02:31 | SYDNEY
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The Quad’s uneasy place in Southeast Asia

Last month, the leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – the United States, Japan, India and Australia – met for the first time. Promising to strive for a region that is “free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion”, the Quad

With Olympic snub, North Korea returns to isolation

North Korean sports officials announced last week that the country would not be sending athletes to the Tokyo Olympics due to Covid-19 concerns. The brief statement, buried at the bottom of a post on North Korea’s quaint Sports Ministry website, instantly flashed across news bulletins around the

The Quad (finally) delivers: Can it be sustained?

On 19 March, the leaders of four important democracies of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – held (virtually) their first-ever “Quad Summit.” This meeting at the leaders’ level of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was significant on two counts. It

Obstacles and opportunities in Vietnam-Australia ties

Australia and Vietnam officially became strategic partners in 2018, promising to expand cooperation across multiple domains. Yet economic ties have grown slowly from a relatively low starting point, while defence relations are mostly restricted to training and high-level dialogues. Education and

Legalising same-sex marriage in Japan

Last month, a Japanese district court for the first time ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is unconstitutional. The verdict by the Sapporo District Court was a result of simultaneous lawsuits against the nation demanding marriage equality as well as compensation for psychological

The big bark but small bite of China’s trade coercion

Beginning last May, China has hit Australia with a barrage of trade sanctions in a fairly overt attempt at economic coercion. It’s still early days, but it’s worth taking stock of what the economic impact has been so far. The fact that China’s trade sanctions have taken place

In Singapore, Covid vs privacy is no contest

Life in Singapore during the pandemic has become about tracking, tracking, tracking. Wherever one goes, one has to scan QR codes that log entry into malls, restaurants, shops and office buildings. For those who have just arrived on the island, it might seem like an uncomfortable intrusion into

Washington risks an unsustainable climate policy

A couple of months after the inauguration of the new Biden administration, the 18 March Alaska summit provided the first big test of US-China relations. While most of the talks between senior officials were in private, tense exchanges during opening remarks suggest bilateral ties won’t fast

An interim government would bring ruin to Afghanistan

The Afghan government is fighting for survival as external and internal actors exploit its weaknesses in preparation for a US exit. The latest US initiatives to bring “a responsible end” to the Afghan war will likely have the opposite effect, pushing the Afghan government closer to a knife’s

Unresolved questions in US-India relations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent visit to New Delhi was a chance for the United States and India to discuss the nature and depth of their strategic partnership – particularly against the backdrop of tensions with an aggressive China. Austin visited New Delhi soon after leaders

In India, a taste of political variety

With five state elections to be contested in coming weeks, India is heading back into election mode: alcohol shops are being shuttered, petrol prices have been cut to appease voters, and top leaders of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition party Congress have been

The upward spiral of violence in Myanmar

The clashes in Myanmar’s streets between largely peaceful protesters and armed members of the security forces over recent weeks evoke memories of similar confrontations in 1974, 1988 and 2007. The result in each of those cases was the brutal suppression of the popular will and a crackdown on

When a middle power is not caught in the middle

South Korea is set on a policy course that seeks to balance its economic relations with China and its security relations with the United States. Aiming for such a balance is understandable. China accounts for around one quarter of South Korea’s merchandise exports, and a fifth of its commercial

Lockdown déjà vu in the Philippines

It’s hard to tell whether the Philippine government intentionally sought to mark exactly one year since 15 March 2020 Metro Manila Covid lockdown by tightening quarantine restrictions once again, first on 15 March and then further on 22 March. New Covid cases have been piling up at

North Korea and Malaysia’s predictable diplomatic divorce

Last Friday, North Korea severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia. In turn Malaysia gave the North Koreans 48 hours to leave the country. By Sunday, the North Korean embassy was empty. The Malaysians did not have to worry about their embassy in Pyongyang, as it was already informally shut down in

The Quad gives a boost to India’s vaccine diplomacy

The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced

Troubles ahead for the US–South Korea alliance

The new Biden administration in Washington is reviewing its North Korea policy, a process that is expected to be completed next month. Pressure from experts is mounting for the administration to restart diplomacy with North Korea with more pragmatic goals, such as a shift away from complete

A new “concert” to govern the Indo-Pacific

The joint statement issued following the weekend meeting of the four “Quad” leaders was titled “The Spirit of the Quad”. This title could be read as either self-affirmation or self-praise. The Quad’s first summit of leaders was a somewhat informal affair, held virtually amid a global

The Belt and Road, and the pandemic detour

Book review: Daniel Drache, A.T. Kingsmith and Duan Qi, One Road, Many Dreams: China’s Bold Plan to Remake the Global Economy (London, Bloomsbury, 2019). The economic fallout of the pandemic has been global, but not equal. If the often-necessary lockdowns have uniformly resulted in economic

Myanmar’s personalised politics

Anyone looking at photographs and film footage of events in Myanmar could be forgiven for thinking that the violent confrontation between demonstrators and security forces represents a proxy battle between the ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander in Chief (C-in-C) of Defence

The politics of being Chinese in Australia

The release of the Lowy Institute’s Being Chinese in Australia: Public Opinion in Chinese Communities, based on one of the largest surveys of the Chinese-Australian community ever undertaken, shows that the events of the past year, notably Covid-19 and the deteriorating state of Australia-China

Cracks beginning to appear in the Russia-India relationship

India’s annual summit with Russia was cancelled last year for the first time since its inception – the official reason, as was commonly blamed for many abandoned events, Covid-19. The summit’s cancellation was a rare hiccup in what has otherwise been a traditionally close partnership. Moscow

Erasing memory in China’s Tibet

This article draws from the “Tibet: Colonialism with Chinese characteristics?” episode of The Little Red Podcast, which features interviews and chat celebrating China beyond the Beijing beltway. Evolving from an organisation that almost no one had heard about five years ago, the United Front

A Duterte dynasty?

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term is drawing to a close in 2022, and under the current constitution, he isn’t eligible for re-election. Incumbent leaders have been known to endorse a successor leading up to the voting, but only one president* has ever been succeeded by

India must be realistic about Russia relations

The visit to Moscow by India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla on 17–18 February was his first overseas trip outside South Asia during the corona crisis, underscoring the importance India attaches to its strategic partnership with Russia. But it is a relationship where New Delhi must also be

Why Aussie exporters won’t be toasting China or the US

Lock the doors When the China trade numbers were released on Tuesday, you could hardly blame Australia’s 2500 winemakers if they locked themselves in the cellar with a nice bottle of red. They certainly have plenty to drink. Only three months ago, Chinese customers drank 50% of Australian red

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