Saturday 21 Sep 2019 | 13:16 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Indonesia: don’t over-react to Jakarta violence

Images of rioting by supporters of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta have been beamed around the world this week, tainting what was otherwise a free, fair and peaceful election in the world’s third biggest democracy. At least eight people were reported killed and

Bob Hawke’s Asia legacy

Bob Hawke’s approach to Asia when prime minister is oft overshadowed by the economic and social policy reforms of his government and the Keating years that followed. This likely reflects Australia’s economically focused political dialogue and the lack of rhetorical architecture surrounding his

Cambodia: weak words on strongman rule

Following her latest visit to Cambodia, United Nations special rapporteur Rhona Smith this month issued what is a customary statement. The wording wasn’t particularly strong – she praised certain developments in the country while condemning other setbacks – but it was in line with previous

In dull midterm elections, Manila is a thriller

In Manila’s most densely-populated and poorest district of Tondo the fight for the mayor of the city is a loud one. For 10 hours, voters line the halls of Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in the middle of the district. Hundreds of voters will have their say in the Philippines’ midterm

The Sino-Russian relationship is being misunderstood

Too often, the past is mistaken as a guide for the future, rather than as lesson from which to avoid making the same mistakes. Take the relationship between China and Russia as an example. Too often judgements about the decisions of Russian and Chinese politicians are clouded by stereotypes of the

Hun Sen’s natural bilateral “bestie”

On the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum in China last month, Cambodia’s Hun Sen was busy. He secured a further $90 million defence grant from Beijing, adding to the $100 million already pledged in June last year. The defence deal was one of at least nine agreements signed with China at

Australia struggles for clarity on the South China Sea

The Lowy Institute’s Richard McGregor has noted the absence of China discussion in Australia’s current election campaign, a state of affairs which prompted his colleague Sam Roggeveen to observe that “Bipartisanship on China is becoming a form of collusion”. Given that the

Trump’s tariff tussle

As predictable as Big Ben striking the hour, as subtle as a battering ram, the final stages of the US-China trade negotiations involve upping the ante with a further tariff increase, as seen last week. Tariffs are the negotiating instrument, not the objective. For financial journalists needing an

The growing influence of celebrity politics in India

Celebrities and politics are so closely intertwined in India that entire books have been written about “Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics”. Whether we are talking about Bollywood superstars, Olympic medallists, or cricketing heroes, there are numerous examples of celebrities using their

India’s democracy draws strength from difference

At the end of a visit to India in the middle of a long and heated election campaign, the conversation with some young thinktank staff captured the country’s appetite for its democracy. After mentioning I had been making comparisons with the parallel Indonesian election, they suddenly

Taiwan’s tense politics on the international fault line

The years 2017 and 2018 saw a period of building tension in Taiwan’s politics. Beijing applied intense diplomatic pressure to isolate Taiwan and it lost five of its diplomatic allies. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of President Tsai Ing-wen managed a reasonably well-performing

Hope, despair and the new normal in Myanmar

Human rights advocates had a rare chance to celebrate on Tuesday as two local Reuters journalists in Myanmar were released from prison. Their situation is viewed by the international community as a test case of the political reform process in the country. For the international community, the

India: encouraging the rainbow vote

As the mammoth task of elections in India continue up to a 19 May deadline, the nation’s election commission is seeking a full turnout of the population – including the often marginalised LGBTQI community. For the first time, transgender people have been anointed ambassadors 

Myanmar: pariah status no bar to defence modernisation

It has been more than two years since military “clearance operations” against Myanmar’s Rohingyas began in October 2016. Since then, the international community has relied on public criticism, unilateral sanctions and a range of measures in the United Nations and International Criminal Court

After the Australian election: the China test

Governments in Australia are judged, in part, by their handling of the relationship with China. And while foreign policy has barely featured in Australia’s election campaign, the Chinese government is watching our election with interest and intent. An early release of this year’s Lowy

Strategic trends across the Indo-Pacific region

Much has been written in recent years about the reorientation of US policy to the Indo-Pacific region in response to China’s expanding economic and strategic footprint. What is less clear, however, is how the region itself is responding to the new era of strategic competition proclaimed by

Why North Korea will not return to outright provocations

Despite the hype that surrounded the April 2018 summit of leaders from South and North Korea, the first anniversary of the meeting did not attract much attention – and was ignored by North Korea. South Korea had sought to use the anniversary as a way to resuscitate the stalled denuclearisation

Belt and Road: colonialism with Chinese characteristics

Although China’s top-ranking diplomat Yang Jiechi has repeatedly assured the world that his country’s supreme foreign policy project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), “does not play little geopolitical games”, many governments believe this is exactly what it does. The second BRI

North Korea’s uranium and prospects of a stealthier bomb

Verifying North Korea’s nuclear stockpile will be a critical part of any future disarmament negotiations. As past experience with other nations demonstrates, it is also a tricky process. North Korea will be expected to supply an inventory of their weapons stockpile, its fissile material and the

Huawei reaches into Britain

Whatever the true situation behind the sacking of Gavin Williamson as British defence secretary over claims (which he strenuously denies) that he leaked information to the Daily Telegraph from a meeting of the National Security Committee on Chinese telecom company Huawei, one thing is crystal clear

The persistent status quo with North Korea

It is a commonplace in media treatments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) to view the previous two years as remarkable. This is often premised on the notion that the heavy American and South Korean (ROK, or Republic of Korea) engagement with the North since 2017

Social media in India fans fake news

India’s election campaigning is in full swing and everything about the Indian general election is gigantic. This time, about 900 million people above the age of 18 will be eligible to cast their ballots spread over seven phases at a million polling stations, culminating on 19 May. The country’s

Japan: grasping for hope in a new imperial era

Japan has three New Year’s Days this year. 1 January, the calendar new year was the obvious beginning, then followed 1 April, the start of the financial and academic year that is famously symbolised by seasonal cherry blossoms – and now 1 May, the once-only celebration of the first day of what

Tsai wins US sympathy, but what about Taiwan’s voters?

With presidential elections set for January 2020, the race for Taiwan’s top job is getting under way, and incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen is feeling the heat. Confronted by low popularity and primary challengers from within her own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Tsai has resorted to

Culture cringe: Laughter links Australia and Asia

The Lowy Institute collects valuable data on how Australians view Asia, but equally important is how Asians see Australia, even if at times it makes for uncomfortable reading. Australia’s future depends crucially on the decisions Asians make: for example, on where to study, visit, live, buy and

Economic diplomacy: ASEAN trade, BRI deals and ageing Asia

When the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry surveyed its members last year about their use of trade agreements, the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement surprisingly emerged as the third best known and used of 14 available trade concession frameworks. So, it is appropriate

Sri Lanka attacks: Still many puzzles to solve

It is very early in the aftermath of the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks and like all such attacks, more information will emerge in the coming days and weeks.  But a few early observations: 1. This was a well planned and coordinated attack: seven suicide bombers attacking six targets on the west

Seeing what you want in Belt and Road

China’s Xi Jinping recently completed a high-profile trip to Europe. In Italy, Xi and his Italian counterpart Giuseppe Conte last month signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding linking the struggling Italian economy to Belt and Road Initiative, the sprawling infrastructure

Coal comfort: Australia-India ties after the elections

In an odd quirk of timing, this year Australia and India’s elections will run in parallel. On 11 April, Scott Morrison made the trip to Canberra’s Government House and the official campaign finally began. On the same day, Indian voters began to go to the polls in the first of seven phases of

The souring mood towards Beijing from Berlin

Until recently, Germany was one of the few major Western countries that China had consistently amicable relations with in an increasingly hostile international environment for Beijing’s export-oriented industries and foreign investments. Germany, China’s fourth-largest trade partner, did not

Myanmar’s intelligence apparatus under Aung San Suu Kyi

When Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) took office in 2016, a wave of euphoria swept over Myanmar, shared by many people in other parts of the world. At the time, there was a rather naive belief that everything would suddenly be transformed. It was widely assumed, for

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