Thursday 19 Sep 2019 | 20:36 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Hong Kong Protest City: Podcast out now

In the latest episode of the Lowy Institute’s new half-hour podcast, Rules Based Audio, I’m talking to Lowy Institute Research Fellow Ben Bland and Hong Kong-based Financial Times journalist Primrose Riordan about the roots of the ongoing political unrest in the city, and where it

The (other) continent we can’t defend

For all the back-and-forth Hugh White has generated with his latest book, How to Defend Australia, in a national preoccupation with the China question, little serious discussion has been devoted to how to defend Australia’s southern front and cope with China’s increasing Antarctic footprint.

In Myanmar, a unity still out of reach

In January 2018, the Arakan Army, the newest ethnic-based militia in Myanmar, released a video on YouTube and elsewhere of its cadres kitted out in camouflage, armed with modern weapons, and looking extremely disciplined. “The Arakan Army are soldiers from the indigenous population of Arakan

Is North Korea still interested in working-level talks?

Barely a month after the historic handshake at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), North Korea returned to provocations by unveiling its new “strategic” ballistic missile submarine and testing short-range ballistic missiles. US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un had

The backlash to “brownface” in Singapore

Singapore is often touted as a modern marvel, an Asian Tiger with an enviable economy and a post-independence history that has been free of racial and religious tensions. It is considered a multiracial success that should be emulated by other countries with diverse populations. Underneath the

Down and out in Dhaka

Bangladesh is certainly not in a happy state these days. With more than 21,000 people falling prey to dengue fever in Dhaka, and the epidemic rippling out to wider regions of the country, authorities are simply unable to contain the problem. The city corporations in the capital – there are two

Pacific islands stand ground on West Papua push

One of the criticisms of the Pacific Islands Forum over the years relates to the regional grouping’s limited ability to advance its agenda in the face of the interests of Australia and New Zealand. The power imbalance hasn’t always made for a cohesive regionalism. Yet it’s worth noting a

China-US currency clash: Who’s manipulating who?

The United States has labelled China a currency manipulator. The move sent shock waves through markets early this week and left many speculating what may come next. Trump has repeatedly called for lower interest rates and a cheaper currency to help him win his trade war with China (and the next US

Trump bets on Pakistan to deliver peace in Afghanistan

Last month’s Oval Office meeting with US President Donald Trump was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first US visit since taking office in August last year. During the meeting, Trump hinted at resuming aid to Pakistan, as well as making a broader and surprising offer to mediate between

Balancing act: China’s nationalist consumer boycotts

In June, a controversial statement from a UBS economist set off a firestorm in mainland China, causing serious trouble for the Swiss banking behemoth in one of its most important markets. Nationalist anger circulated on Chinese social media. The company apologised for the remarks and placed the

Malaysia’s Mahathir has no interest in building a dynasty

The name Mukhriz Mahathir – son of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad – is in the news once again, mostly by virtue of being the only child in the family to enter into politics. As a sex video scandal roils the People’s Justice Party (PKR) led by prime minister-in-waiting Anwar

Can Taiwan’s President fend off a populist wave?

Last week, as Taiwan’s presidential race gradually gathers pace before a ballot next year, opposition Kuomintang candidate Han Kuo-yu climbed a banyan tree. It was Han’s classically eccentric approach to countering an outbreak of dengue fever in the southern Taiwanese city Kaohsiung where he

The importance of trust in preserving Antarctica’s future

For international governance of the near-pristine expanse of the Antarctic, consensus decision making is powerful indeed. This model, is the modus operandi of Antarctic law, and has formed the basis for the successful operation of the Antarctic Treaty System. It can be corrosive to such a

The limits to French grandeur in the Indo-Pacific

For the first time since the Geneva Agreements of 1954, France has turned its eyes towards what is now termed the Indo-Pacific. The renewal of Paris’s interest in the region not only reflects a desire to tap on the wealth of rising Asia, but also Emmanuel Macron’s desire to restore France’s

China’s head-spinning defence white paper

Readers of the white paper China’s National Defence in the New Era can be forgiven for their headaches as they move from one conflicting statement to another in Beijing’s latest effort to help “the international community better understand China’s national defence”. This best of times/

Hong Kong’s political trouble is Singapore’s gain

China’s promise to treat Hong Kong as “one country, two systems” has been in the spotlight ever since the controversial extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in June resulted in massive protests, not only against the bill but also over Beijing’s meddling in

Trump and Xi need a trade deal and they need it soon

With resumed contact between US trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer and China’s negotiator Vice Premier Liu He, the 12th round of trade talks between the US and China may take place in Beijing before the end of July. But the clock is now ticking very loudly. Contrary to the messaging from Beijing

Mahathir holds all the cards, again

The latest news coming out of Kuala Lumpur may alter the trajectory of Malaysian politics. On Wednesday night, 23 members of the Parti Keadilan Rakyet (PKR) central committee (half the members of this party leadership group) signed a statement rebuking party president Anwar

After the voting, personality beats policy in Southeast Asia

It has been an unusually intense time for elections across Southeast Asia in the past year with both a stunning upset and more predictable returns of incumbents. But the striking thing from a quick tour of some of the main battlefields is how the general absence of clear policy reform debate in

The guessing game for Singapore’s elections

With a vote due to be called before 2021, the guessing game for when Singapore’s next general election will take place has begun. Everyone is squinting at the tea leaves, and many things can be taken as a sign. Is a recent tax rebate exercise a “red packet” designed to sweeten the ground?

Xi Jinping: much more than just one man

Book Review: Xi Jinping: The Backlash by Richard McGregor (Penguin, Lowy Institute, 2019) Richard McGregor has written a dazzling account of the first six years of the Xi Jinping era and what he sees as the “backlash” to Xi’s increasing authoritarianism domestically and assertive foreign and

Pakistan on the brink of civil dictatorship

As Imran Khan’s government in Pakistan approaches the end of its first year, the country is rapidly drifting towards civil dictatorship. The arrest of opposition politicians, a crackdown on the media, and the imposition of a draconian economic policy has been the hallmark of the Pakistan

The heights of China’s ambition in Antarctica

China has become more and more active in Antarctica in recent years – both in research and in the international framework of agreements known as the Antarctic Treaty System that has successfully seen the frozen continent devoted to peace and science for decades. China is

The pitfalls of North Korea’s summitry spectacle

The third meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un has come and gone, again without much substantial progress, but its symbolism has continued to dominate Korea watchers’ assessments of the event. Trump last month became the first sitting US president to set

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: status report

China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) continues to attract much comment. To some, it is a threat – proof that China’s aim is to extend Chinese global influence. To others, it is a useful contribution to global capital flows. Where does the balance lie between these two views? Just

Cambodia: the regime’s base survival instinct on display

Rumours of a Chinese military presence in Cambodia have again resurfaced following claims from a senior Pentagon official that Cambodia intends to host Chinese military assets. This week it was reported that Cambodia’s Defence Ministry declined a US offer to refurbish a training facility and

Japan is again hunting whales. What can be done?

This week Japan has formally recommenced commercial whaling for the first time in over 30 years. A small Japanese whaling fleet left port on 1 July after the Japanese government announced that it had set a quota of 227 whales for the remainder of 2019. The quota is made up of 150 Bryde’s whales

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