Friday 23 Aug 2019 | 10:27 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Modi vs Wild: Political survivor

One, a rugged survivalist with a penchant for striding through dangerous terrain, accompanied only by a television crew. The other, the man who holds the hearts, minds, and fates of 1.2 billion people in his clenched fists. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not have a clearly articulated

In Malaysia, flipping over the script

When Sin Chew Daily, the largest Chinese daily in Malaysia, recently headlined a Ministry of Education proposal to introduce a few pages of calligraphy in the Malay-language textbook for Chinese and Tamil vernacular primary schools, the backlash was immediate. The reaction went all the way up to

Houses divided

Many of The Interpreter’s readers are experts on the theory and conduct of international relations. So, quite reasonably, they look at armed conflict through the lens of inter-state relations, where one state resorts to the use (or the threat of use) of armed force to prevail over another. For

Hong Kong: popular protests, live-streamed

On Sunday, more than 1.7 million Hongkongers braved torrential rain for yet another massive and peaceful rally. The astonishing size of the turnout might have caught some people off-guard, especially those who believed that the movement has already lost its public support after violent clashes among

All may not be smooth along China’s Digital Silk Road

Make no mistake about China’s vast and continuous trajectory of technological expansionism. Even as the US aims to ring-fence Huawei’s reach into the US and overseas consumer markets, a “digital silk road” paved by Chinese tech giants has long been built to span from the Asia-

Narendra Modi’s nudge diplomacy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech last week from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi to mark India’s Independence Day carefully delineated his new strategic and foreign policy in the region. We can call this “nudge diplomacy”, and it stands in stark contrast to the more assertive

Japan’s imperial ghosts lurk well beyond Korea

Friction between South Korea and Japan has intensified in recent months, with serious implications ­in the economic and security realms. Tokyo has taken steps to impose export restrictions targeting key industries in South Korea, to which Seoul has responded with a widespread boycott of Japanese

Indonesia should put more energy into renewable power

Air pollution is worsening in Jakarta and West Java, while tens of millions of people experienced a day-long blackout earlier this month after gas-powered electricity generators failed and significant proportions of eastern Indonesia have do not have reliable power supplies. So why does Indonesia

Timor-Leste, 20 years on

This month, Timor-Leste is in a festive mood, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence referendum. On 30 August 1999, the people of Timor-Leste cast their ballots in a United Nations–administered popular consultation to determine the fate of the country, with 78.5% voting to separate

The Vanguard Bank standoff shows China remains undeterred

Tensions have risen once again in the South China Sea. For weeks, Chinese and Vietnamese coastguard vessels have been involved in a confrontation after the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 (HD8) entered waters near the Vietnam-controlled Vanguard Bank on 3 July. The incident has upset both Hanoi

Indonesia: the injustice system

It has been a rough few months for Indonesia’s already beleaguered legal system: two cases, alike yet different, highlighting how minority groups continue to be disenfranchised across the archipelago nation.  In May, Meliana, a Chinese-Indonesian Buddhist was released on parole, having

Does Chinese aid make Australians more generous?

China is changing the way Australia’s political elites think about aid. Chinese aid to the Pacific isn’t new, but in recent years, “China the aid donor” has become an unavoidable presence. In response, the Australian government is increasing the Pacific focus of its aid programs. It has also

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

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