Thursday 13 Dec 2018 | 01:02 | SYDNEY
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Asia

How Australia should deepen ties with India

Ties between India and Australia have always been a little constrained – and unsurprisingly so, as traditionally there has been little to connect the two countries. For its part, Australia has for decades sought to have a better relationship with India, one that extends beyond shared democracy,

Separating the Philippine state from the church

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is a very different leader than his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III. Duterte has expressed his love for Xi Jinping. Aquino took China to court. Aquino significantly enhanced Philippine-US relations during the Obama administration. Duterte called Obama a “son

Xi Jinping in 2018: Any closer to the truth?

In 2016, I published a study of Xi Jinping, CEO China: The Rise of Xi Jinping (I B Tauris). This book has subsequently been reissued in paperback, and in 2018 I did a shorter overview, The World According to Xi with the same publisher. For one reason or the other, other the last few years I have had

China takes off for the Moon, tethered by politics at home

Early on Saturday morning, China launched the Chang’e 4 robot spacecraft on course for the Moon. If all goes well, it will become the first spacecraft in history to soft-land on the far side of the Moon, probably in early January. This would be a tremendous achievement for China and for the

US-China competition is all about us

We are not entering a new Cold War, despite both Chinese President Xi and US Vice-President Pence finding the term a useful rhetorical tool. The Americans have decided to compete against China because they think the last two decades of cooperation has failed. The Trump Administration,

Steady but slow in Australia-Japan security cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Darwin was rightly billed as historic and “deeply symbolic”. It also delivered some substance, with the announcement of important deals on the financing of regional infrastructure and on deepening cooperation on maritime security. It did not

Rap song sparks a gender conversation in South Korea

Sister, why mad? Blame system, not men. I am feminist. A song released recently by Korean rapper San E has touched a nerve in South Korea. The controversial song “Feminist” critiques Korea’s dating culture, beauty standards and the gender pay gap, which he calls a “f---ing fake fact”.

How the US can prevent a China-dominated Asia

The US military is dangerously under-funded and could lose the next big war it wages. That is the key message from a new report by the influential National Defense Strategy Commission. Established by Congress to provide an independent, non-partisan assessment of the 2018 US National Defense

The India-Pakistan corridor of peace

The recent decision by the government of Pakistan and India to build a corridor from Indian Punjab to Kartarpur in Pakistan has raised hopes for the revival of a dialogue between the countries. The Kartarpur corridor will be built over a 4km stretch and will enable Sikh pilgrims from India to

Dilemmas in Afghanistan’s paradoxical peace drama

Last month, Moscow hosted a peace conference on Afghanistan and provided an opportunity for the Taliban to participate at the international level. The Afghan government did not participate in this conference officially, although the country’s High Peace Council, first established in 2010 to

Xi and Trump at G20: A tariff truce

This truce is by no means the end of trade tensions between China and the US. Over what was undoubtedly a delicious dinner last Saturday night on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to extend the deadline for the

Why denuclearisation is less important for South Korea

One of the most commented upon elements of this year’s outreach effort toward North Korea is the possible drift in the US-South Korean alliance. It has been widely noted that the US is tightly focused on nuclear weapons and missiles, seeking a narrow arms control deal. The US would clearly be

Taking the air in north India

Could there be a silver lining to India’s choking air pollution? A recent report from the World Health Organisation showed India with 9 of the 10 worst cities in the world for atmospheric pollution. Even more breathtaking was the fact that New Delhi, most often in the news for its abysmal air

North Korea’s emerging blackmail strategy

A recent New York Times article has drawn much criticism from the US intelligence community for depicting North Korea’s continued missile development as “a Great Deception.” Analysts have responded by proclaiming that North Korea has never agreed to cease its missile and nuclear

China, where not all media are created equal

Journalists in China are routinely harassed by police and even imprisoned for trying to cover stories that local officials do not want to get in the news. In 2018, the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, which ranks the performance of 180 countries according to media and

South Korea’s quandary: what to do about MIKTA?

The informal grouping of Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Australia, known as MIKTA, was once called a new dynamic in diplomacy ­– a new form of middle power activism and the newest acronym in global governance. But at five years old, it’s less dynamic and less active, and no longer

International justice: tackling impunity in Asia

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, high ranking officials of the Pol Pot regime, have been sentenced to life imprisonment twice over for their role in the genocide of the Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese minorities during the Khmer Rouge era. The landmark judgment delivered this month by the

The forces needed to protect the Belt and Road

Last week’s attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi by Baluchi separatists underlines China’s growing vulnerabilities in connection with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). These are likely to get worse and may ultimately lead to China assuming a new and quite different security

Key takeaways from the Taiwan elections

On Saturday, 24 November, the people of Taiwan went to the polls to vote for over 11,000 local-level officials and voice their opinion on 10 referendums. The results were a stark repudiation of the policies of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Tsai Ing-wen. The DPP lost

Myanmar’s skewed democracy was predictable

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) was made up of exiled pro-democracy leaders who were elected to the national parliament in 1990 (which was subsequently annulled) in one of the military junta’s very brief flirtations with democracy. I worked with them – largely

Afghanistan: the Hazaras are not safe

In late October 2018, the Taliban in Afghanistan launched a new campaign of attacks, taking them into areas which until then had been “peaceful”. The attacks started in the Khas Uruzgan district, part of the very province where Australian defence personnel served as part of their lengthy

Feminism and femininity in Xi Jinping’s “New Era”

In September, Leta Hong Fincher released her second book on gender inequality in China, Betraying Big Brother: the Feminist Awakening in China. The book depicts a Communist Party that “aggressively perpetuates gender norms and reduces women to their roles as dutiful wives, mothers and baby

From the high horse: Malaysia’s problematic track record

Speaking at the ASEAN summit in Singapore this month, Malaysia’s “new” Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi a taste of his notoriously acerbic mind. As one of three Muslim leaders present at the gathering, Mahathir made clear Suu Kyi was “defending the

Barley and bases: China stings Australian farmers

China’s Ministry of Commerce announced on Monday that it would immediately start a year-long anti-dumping probe into imported barley from Australia. China is Australia’s largest export market for barley. In 2017, two-thirds of the Australian crop – 6.48 million tonnes, worth US $1.5 billion

Try as it might, Pakistan still needs IMF help

Instantly after returning from China this month, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar declared that Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis to be over. He claimed that a financial bailout package provided by Saudi Arabia and China has helped Pakistan overcome its financial troubles. Yet in

Economic diplomacy: Indonesian trade, RCEP and PNG aid

Plan B for Indonesia An interesting division is emerging between the federal government and a potential future Labor administration over the value of free trade agreements (FTAs) with implications for future relations with Indonesia. With the new Trade Minister Simon Birmingham inheriting

Beijing’s online gaming clampdown

Last month, Tencent Chairman and Chief Executive Pony Ma (马化腾) sent out an open letter, announcing a major strategic shift in direction for one of Asia’s most valuable technology firms. “We believe that the first stage of the mobile internet, the consumer internet, is drawing to a close

The growing attention on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

You don’t hear much about India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands aside from tourism or tribes. The islands, which make up one of India’s seven union territories, are a remote archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, about halfway between Thailand and India. They have traditionally been highly protected

Myanmar’s press freedom mirage

It has been a bad year for press freedom across Southeast Asia. Myanmar has been no exception. Media freedom fell to new lows this month as a self-proclaimed anti-Rohingya supporter, American Rick Heizman, was welcomed with open arms in Myanmar. Heizman, a little-known musician and

Cambodia’s genocide verdict: better late than never

The verdict of the Khmer Rouge tribunal (The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ECCC) on 16 November that found Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of genocide was scarcely surprising. For all but the most sceptical of commentators, the evidence was clear. During the tyrannous rule

What to watch in the Taiwan elections

On Saturday, the people of Taiwan will head to the polls to cast ballots for more than 11,000 officials. Taiwan’s citizens will vote for the mayors of the “big six” special municipalities of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Also up for election are 13 county

US versus China: the economic model

With the US–China economic rivalry intensifying and “decoupling” becoming the mantra in Washington, what mindset, or economic model, is behind President Donald Trump’s response to China? Trump is a Republican, but not as we know them. Republicans favour free international trade,

Indonesia’s election: Jokowi vs Prabowo

Indonesia is moving into election mode. There will be sweeping general elections in Indonesia in April next year for the presidency, the national parliament, provincial parliaments, and at the regional level across the nation. Australians might go to the polls around the same time, but there will be

Abe’s visit to Australia: raising the stakes

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is scheduled to visit Australia this week on the heels of attending the ASEAN Summit. While there have been regular prime ministerial exchanges between Tokyo and Canberra throughout Abe’s long leadership tenure, there will be more at stake than usual on this

The challenges facing APEC leaders

The Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Summit is being held at a time of enormous global and regional geopolitical uncertainty. It is a tumultuous time for the region, and APEC 2018 provides a real opportunity for leaders to agree on the kinds of reforms that could make a positive difference

Scoring China’s happiness quest

China is fast approaching the first of its “two centenaries”: the 100th anniversary in 2021 of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2021, according to its leaders, China will move from a “moderately prosperous society” (xiaokang shehui) into the next official stage, the “happy

Signalling a whole-of-Australia approach to China

One of the most challenging aspects of Australia’s bilateral relationship with China is finding new ways to signal our interest in the big issues that are shaping the future of the region – a task almost as difficult as deciding amongst ourselves what those issues are. The signalling of

Modi and Abe: judgement waits on India-Japan ties

India and Japan have forged a special strategic and global partnership over the years, and Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe have developed a personal and special relationship, propelling the relationship between the two nations to greater heights. Last month, Abe invited Modi to his

Decoupling from China: cutting the Gordian Knot

The conviction that the interests of the US and China are fundamentally incompatible is gathering weight in Washington, as a consensus for confrontation with Beijing takes hold. Having progressively raised tariffs against Chinese-made goods, and adopted reports declaring that China’s “economic

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