Bringing together the best longer Interpreter articles you were too busy to read this week.
China's President Xi Jinping delivered a foreign policy speech last weekend ion which he made the case for a policy based on 'big country diplomacy'. Rory Medcalf turned around a quick analysis on the speech's significance:
The good news is that Xi's speech is much more about diplomacy than raw power. It follows a season of statesmanship in hosting APEC and President Obama, advancing Chinese interests in a non-confrontational manner at the East Asia Summit and the G20, and successful visits to reassure Australia and New Zealand about China's intentions...
...China experts often point out how little outsiders really know of the hows or whys of Chinese foreign policy. But foreign governments and the analysts that advise them have no choice but to make judgments to guide their own policy responses. So my working assumption is this: Xi's speech is informed, above all, by a tension between two things. One is an awareness (however overstated) of the long-term trends conducive to China's relative influence and prosperity. The other is an appreciation of the short-term risks, miscalculations and missteps that could yet prevent the China Dream from coming true.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched a new consular strategy this week and wrote in The Interpreter about the limits of consular assistance:
Nobody should argue against helping those in genuine trouble, but far too often our valuable consular assets are being diverted to help those who are more than capable of taking personal responsibility to solve their problems.The Embassy showed the high, and in some cases unreasonable, expectations that a small minority of the traveling public have of our consular staff. It also demonstrated that there is a limit to what our consular officers can do — and that Australian laws and practices simply don't apply in other countries.
The Lowy Institute's International Economy Program Director, Leon Berkelmans, argued that it is worth considering negative interest rates:
Miles Kimball of the University of Michigan has another idea: have paper money (or in Australia's case, polymer money) trade at a discount to electronic money. In other words, one dollar in your pocket would no longer be worth one dollar in the bank, so there will be an exchange rate between paper money and electronic money. Then when interest rates are negative, the exchange rate could be set so that physical currency will depreciate in value over time, and there will no longer be an incentive to stuff money into a safe.
Some excellent analysis by Shashank Joshi on the significance for India if Ashton Carter is nominated as the next US secretary of defence:
Carter has a longstanding interest in India. In 2006 he wrote a long and nuanced essay in Foreign Affairs on the much-maligned US-India civil nuclear deal, arguing that, though it was unbalanced and problematic, it was worth pursuing for the sake of a 'strategic realignment'. Then in 2011 Carter was appointed deputy secretary of defence. Ajai Shukla argued that, in this role, Carter was responsible for 'bulldozing the Washington bureaucracy into moderating its hands-off attitude to India', pushing forward the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTI, a body designed to help smooth the flow of advanced American technology to India), and proposing the unprecedented co-manufacture and even co-development of key weapons systems. Even though India has been steadily buying US arms, there seemed to be something sluggish about US-India ties. Carter looked like a bright spot in those lean years.
Catriona Croft-Cusworth on Jakarta's new Governor:
Ahok is counted among Jakarta's new breed of politicians, with a reputation for transparency and clean governance. Having taken the governorship by circumstance, he will have his work cut out for him in proving his capability to a population that wanted the mild-mannered Jokowi as its leader. Added to the challenges of managing a megacity plagued by extreme disparities in wealth, strained infrastructure, environmental stress, and a population (in its greater area) the size of Australia's, Ahok has an enormous task ahead to show Indonesia what he stands for if he does want to run for president in 2019.
Nonresident Fellow Stephen Grenville pointed out that the G20 made progress on measures designed to strengthen global financial stability:
Others see additional capital as a misdirected answer to the problem. What went wrong in the period before the crisis reflected managerial failure in the troubled banks. They were run by people who had the wrong mindset and the wrong incentives. They were not conservative risk-averse bankers but risk-takers, egged on by boards and shareholders demanding that they shift along the risk/return trade-off to pump up profits and share prices.
Danielle Cave wrote on the results of Taiwan's 'nine-in-one' elections, explaining why China was a major factor:
But while local issues dominated election discourse, you certainly can't discount international influences. In both Hong Kong and Taiwan, these influences run parallel, and often weave into, domestic discourse. Before voting in the 'nine-in-one' election on 29 November, each voter (other than hardline pan-blue or pan-Green supporters) would have contemplated and prioritised their own patchwork of issues. Once sewn together, Taiwanese voters chose the political party or independent that best represented their views. In Australia we are used to hearing 'there are no votes in foreign policy', but in Taiwan, there are plenty of votes in foreign policy. And by foreign policy, we mean China.
Julian Snelder wrote an interesting piece on the status of China's state-owned enterprises:
But Beijing continues to dominate what it sees as 'strategic' sectors, and the private sector remains in a precarious position, depending on the support and protection of a party-state which is a potential competitor. Yet the success of Chinese private companies in technology is remarkable. It's unlikely Beijing voluntarily ceded this strategic sector; more likely it just couldn't keep up with developments. Now China has a private internet oligopoly, something Beijing can't be thrilled about.
Nonresident Fellow Dr Khalid Koser spoke at the Lowy Institute last week on the 1951 Refuge Convention. Peter Hughes reviewed the speech and talked about the issues facing the Convention:
Koser is absolutely right that governments should steer clear of trying to revise the Refugee Convention as the basis for dealing with asylum problems. Anyone who has worked with the Convention knows that it is a short and succinct document which contains a few core requirements. It has stood the test of time. From my own experience, the problems that concern governments have less to do with the text of the Convention than its interpretation and implementation, including the development of an extensive body of hard and soft law around it.
Andrew Selth penned an update on Myanmar's police force:
After decades of authoritarian rule, in which the armed forces dominated all aspects of internal security, including law and order, it is unrealistic to expect the MPF to become a modern, capable and internationally respected police force overnight. Mindsets are hard to change. Also, given the pressures on government resources, the force cannot implement many reforms without external help. Yet, such support has been slow in coming.
A graduate student at the ANU's National Security College, Sophie Wolfer, wrote on the ongoing peace process in the Philippines region of Bangsamoro:
Regional terrorism represents a real national security threat to Australia, particularly in light of recent threats from the Islamic State and the potential for Muslim Filipinos frustrated and disenfranchised by lengthy peace negotiations to find common cause with such extremist groups. This has been highlighted in recent days by the activities of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group that has publicly declared its allegiance and support to the Islamic State and has been disowned by the MILF. It is is suspected of being responsible for the homemade bomb that killed three and injured 22 in North Catabato province on 23 November, an attack seen as a protest against the pending peace deal between the MILF and Philippines Government.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sascha Müsse.