The Interpreter published a few pieces this week on the intersection of digital connectivity and international relations. First, a piece from Cheng Lim and Jack Maher, who specialise in China's digital security laws. They wrote on what China's new draft cyber security law means for global internet companies and the future of the internet in China:
The draft cyber security law signals that Beijing is preparing to tighten its control over the construction, operation, maintenance and use of information networks in China. Among other things, the law would require network operators in China to have cyber security protocols in place to protect against attacks, ensure the IT products and services they use meet relevant national standards, and take immediate action to respond to identified security flaws. The law would also require that information collected or generated by key information infrastructure facilities that is deemed 'important' or 'critical' by the Chinese Government be stored exclusively within mainland China.
Next is the first piece in a series of posts on different aspects of the internet and power from Fergus Hanson:
There are two major issues here that Australia needs to address. The first is domestic. There is an urgent need to increase the cost and difficulty of stealing Australian IP, theft that erodes our economic competitiveness and ultimately our national security. There are many options available to government. A low risk option is to work with the private sector to ensure organisations are aware of the threat, and enforce cyber security standards. As the US Director of National Intelligence observed: 'China is an advanced cyber actor; however, Chinese hackers often use less sophisticated cyber tools to access targets. Improved cyber defences would require hackers to use more sophisticated skills and make China's economic espionage more costly and difficult to conduct'.
Rodger Shanahan with a continuation of a piece he wrote in August. Is there even an operational imperative for Australia's contribution to the conflict in Syria?:
When, after a month of an air campaign extending into eastern Syria, the only targets engaged are an APC and a two-man checkpoint, the Government's argument that it has a legal mandate to attack ISIS in Syria because of the effect on the fighting in Iraq is somewhat diluted. It would be interesting to see how targeting a two-man ISIS checkpoint in Syria added to the collective self-defence of Iraq.
Stephen Grenville reviewed Ben Bernanke's new memoir:
Does his dovish bias explain what many would see as the Federal Reserve's initial mistake – keeping interest rates too low in 2001-2006, encouraging the housing bubble that initiated the crisis? Not really. While 'Maestro' Alan Greenspan chaired the Fed, his views dominated. He had faith that the market would sort things out. In any case the Federal Reserve could not identify bubbles beforehand and could clean up after the bubble burst. Bernanke did not differ.
In the second part (part 1 here) of Alexandra Grey's series on the Guangxi bombings in Beijing she looked at the ethnic dimension of the province:
Within Guangxi, Zhuang concentration in the area of the bombings (around Liuzhou) is relatively high, and the bombing suspect named in Chinese media had a common Zhuang surname (韦). That does not mean the blasts related to putative Zhuang causes (or, for that matter, were undertaken in sympathy with other minorities). The timing and the identity of the suspect merely suggest an ethnic element was possible. But it is significant the Chinese authorities avoided any mention of ethnicity in commentary on the bombings. That this angle was downplayed in Chinese media reveals something of how ethnic politics is being managed: governments and the media perceive that ethnic tensions have become increasingly flammable, even in Guangxi.
Jonathan Pryke had two posts on the economy of Papua New Guinea this week. Part 2 is on the desperate need for budget repair. Part 1 was on the exchange rate and PNG's declining foreign reserves:
Whatever the exact figure, management of the foreign exchange system in PNG doesn't look to be getting any easier in the short term. The central bank needs to act by allowing the exchange rate to depreciate at a more accelerated pace towards a market clearing rate. While this may further reduce the central bank's reserves in the short term as back orders for foreign exchange are cleared, it will give business a much needed boost in confidence as additional controls over their operations are lifted. It is also entirely possible the depreciation will have little impact on reserves as imports (now at their lowest levels since 2005) become more expensive. This, however, will hurt the middle class (the government’s primary support base) as staple goods such as rice become more expensive making the exchange rate saga one of politics versus business for the O’Neill government. In the land of the unpredictable, it’s unclear which side will win.
Tristram Sainsbury reported some good news on the global tax front, but warned that we could still see significant fragmentation:
The risk remains that countries will go their own way to escape multilateral tax avoidance efforts, like the UK which introduced a diverted profits tax earlier this year — a development that caused embarrassment at the OECD. Global fragmentation in tax arrangements that undermines the hard-won multilateral agreements of the past two years will continue to be a threat.
With a different take on Putin's motivations in Syria, and what the possible end-game might be, Matthew Dal Santo:
As with so much else in today's Russia, deep continuities with Russia's pre-revolutionary history are to be found in the Kremlin's approach to Syria: an overriding (if inconsistently applied) preoccupation with the principle of legitimate government and abhorrence of revolutionary disorder; preserving Russia's credibility in defence of a beleaguered ally (which in this case provides a useful foothold on the Mediterranean); a self-appointed but intensely perceived role as patron of Middle Eastern Christians; and quashing an Islamist movement that has allegedly recruited hundreds of Russian-speaking Muslims to its cause, with dangerous implications for Russia when they return home, especially in the ever-restive Caucasus.
What did we learn from the first Democratic primary debate in the US? James Bowen:
Clinton and her staff have obviously been working to develop a new, warmer style of public presentation, which has of course been somewhat unfairly demanded based solely on her gender, given the praise Sanders receives for essentially being the Larry David-sounding cranky old man of politics.
The former Secretary of State wielded a near perma-smile while delivering some of the night's most memorable and forceful lines. This included one of the field's rarer forays into taking down Republicans, rather than her contemporaries on stage. Pressed on whether her support for state-funded paid parental leave would be another extension of the big government derided by the right, she countered, 'They don't mind having big government to interfere with a woman's right to choose', thereby drawing in the current debate on defunding Planned Parenthood.
A very good post from Alex Oliver responding the a piece in Crikey that questioned the need for DFAT:
In a tone laden with sarcasm, Murphy would consider sparing DFAT's consular role from the axe, saying 'If you are 18 and lose your passport while drinking in Mexico City, the Australian Embassy at Ruben Dario 55 is there for you'.
This belittles the gut-wrenching work DFAT does to assist the victims of disasters, crises, serious crime and misfortune abroad. Last year alone, it provided assistance and advocacy for journalist Peter Greste imprisoned in Egypt, and support for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran executed in Indonesia, as well as their families. If you are the family of one of 38 Australians killed on MH17 last year you would have benefited from the dedication of DFAT staff, as would those caught up in Cyclone Pam, or the earthquakes in Nepal.
Finally, Robert Kelly broke down how communist the DPRK really is:
North Korea, much like East Germany, was built around the notion that it was a socialist alternative to a decadent capitalist failure. When I teach North Korea to South Korean students, I usually start here, because such language formally defined North Korea for so long. South Korean college students, by national security design (unfortunately), are not actually taught that much about North Korea, and almost none of them know the teleological 'stages of history' which Marxist states avowed for decades. By that standard, North Korea is in the post-revolutionary, dictatorship of the proletariat stage, the revolution having been Kim Il Sung's take over. The purpose now — again, by strict Marxist-Leninist ideology — is to guard against counter-revolutionary revanchists at home (hardly a threat anymore at this point), as well as external bourgeois foes (the Americans, South Korean 'puppets,' and the Japanese) who would undermine the new order. When this project is secured, the state can 'wither away'.
Photo by Getty/KTDESIGN.