Sunday 21 Apr 2019 | 00:39 | SYDNEY
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Asia

China’s loans and the debt dilemma

It’s no fun being in debt. Creditors want to chase you, the debts increase as you procrastinate about paying them, and you literally feel “indebted” and guilty, especially if those creditors are friends or family. There are studies about the effects of debt on personal well-being. Micro

Quality over quantity: Indonesia’s education challenge

Two enduring ideological themes have informed Indonesian education policy almost since the Repulic was founded. The first has been an “education for all” approach, and the second has been to use the education system to promote a sense of an “Indonesian identity”. Largely absent from

The danger of might without power

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Pentagon is “considering plans to send heavily armed, versatile Marine Corps Expeditionary Units to East Asia … as it repositions forces in response to growing Chinese influence”. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Shrugging Indonesia’s inferiority complex

Under President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo, Indonesia has been accused of lacking a coherent foreign policy, particularly when compared to the overtly internationalist outlook of previous president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Despite bold early claims to set up Indonesia as a “global maritime fulcrum”,

Philippine troops to China?

Imagine this. China builds a military base on the Australian continental shelf off, say, Cairns. Then, according to the Australian prime minister, China threatens a military response should Australia attempt to exercise its maritime rights in accordance with a unanimous international

Echoes of Mao as Xi Jinping ends term limits

Has Xi Jinping just made himself president for life? The announcement on Sunday that China will amend its state constitution to remove the two-term limit for the presidency has seemingly cleared the way for just that. Under the old constitutional provisions, Xi would have been required to step

Moon versus Abe and the contest for America’s ear

A battle is underway between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in over their differing approaches to North Korea. They are competing to shape the attitudes of US President Donald Trump, and this contest has been a compelling sideshow at the PyeongChang Winter

“Global Britain” on the line in the South China Sea

During a trip to Australia this month, UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that HMS Sutherland, a British frigate currently deployed to Australia and the Western Pacific, would return from its tour via the South China Sea, “making it clear our navy has a right to do that”. Williamson

China and the military balance

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has launched the 2018 edition of The Military Balance, which tracks the development of military forces around the world. It contains a striking stat about China’s naval development: OK, this is an isolated factoid, but it illustrates a

How Australia crossed a line in the Timor Sea

The UN Compulsory Conciliation between Australia and Timor-Leste, which aims to set a boundary in the Timor Sea, appears to be inching towards resolution, with details emerging in the Portuguese media last week of a deal involving a median line boundary and a revenue-sharing arrangement

Indian Ocean base race: India responds

It seems that we are in the middle of a base race across the Indian Ocean. The latest move, reported on Tuesday, involves an agreement to give India access to naval facilities in Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz. This may be the first step towards a greater Indian naval presence in the

Jonghyun and depression in South Korea

It was a difficult Christmas for the community dedicated to K-pop, the South Korean music genre that in recent years has become an international phenomenon. On 18 December 2017 the lead singer of influential K-pop band SHINee was found unconscious in a hotel, and was later declared dead in

The Monroe Doctrine revival

No other great powers will be allowed in Latin America, and liberal democracy is the only political system allowed in the region (or, in practice, no socialist or Marxist rule will be tolerated in the region). These are the two tenets of the Monroe Doctrine established by the US in 1823, a

Malaysia’s election – electric and exhausting

In media studios, food courts, street stalls, and offices, I watch Malaysian political observers and insiders perform the same routine. First, they sigh and look bored with the coming general election, due sometime before August. They talk of the lack of debate and point&

Olympic détente just another North Korean deceit

It is tempting to view North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics as an olive branch, a step back from the edge of nuclear brinkmanship. That’s certainly how much of the media is choosing to see it. Of course, it helps that the North Korean “unification” team is accompanied by

Sanction busting, North Korea–style

A recent report from the UN sanctions committee suggests that North Korea has been able to generate an estimated US$200 million from illicit dealings in the past year. Coal is being exported to China, Malaysia, Russia, and Vietnam in violation of current sanctions, and weapons (and materials

China’s cobalt conundrum in Congo

More than half of the cobalt that goes into phone batteries and electric vehicles worldwide – 66,000 of 123,000 tons produced in 2016 – is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Global demand is expanding rapidly. But lawmakers in Kinshasa have decided to cash in, targeting Western

Review: Asia on a knife-edge

John West. Asian Century … on a Knife-edge: A 360 Degree Analysis of Asia’s Recent Development. Palgrave Macmillan. 2018. 335 pages. Kishore Mahbubani, the Singaporean diplomat and academic, is perhaps the most outspoken proponent of the notion that this is Asia’s century. In 2015 

Hong Kong: race-baiting the judiciary

The Hong Kong Government has long  “sold” the city’s common law system and rule of law as a way to attract foreign investment and connect mainland China to the rest of the world. These attributes are now seen, at least by some, as a liability. In January, retired policeman Frankly Chu

China: the web closes in

The era of easily exploitable internet loopholes in China appears to be ending. Starting on 31 March, Beijing will ban non-licensed Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) via which Chinese residents privately access blocked websites, such as Google, Facebook, and The New York Times. Chief Engineer of

ASEAN matters and deserves credit

Euan Graham has given a glass half-empty explanation of the significance of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in an attempt to explain Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiasm for the forthcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in March. In fact, there is good cause for the

Is ASEAN still central to Australia?

In March, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will welcome the ten leaders of ASEAN to Sydney for a special summit focusing on business and security ties. This is the first time Australia has hosted ASEAN. By any definition, it is a significant event in Canberra's diplomatic calendar, with the

India’s intolerance is hurting the country

In January the ugly face of an intolerant India was again on display with protests and violence in several parts of the country against Indian film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s extravagant medieval epic Padmaavat. Caste groups, especially the Rajputs, predominantly from the northern

China’s economic gloom merchants

Markedly slower growth and imminent financial crisis have been the common dual predictions for China over the past decade. China’s growth has indeed slowed from its unsustainable breakneck pace in the two decades before the 2007–08 global crisis, but since then has settled down to a steady 6–7

The courage of youth on display in Hong Kong

Young people are the hope of a society’s future, but Hong Kong’s ruling class does not seem to agree. They don’t want young people to be smart, ask difficult questions, or challenge the status quo. Rather, they want young people to play by the rules, to do as they are told. In other words

The awkward case of the Australian “spy” in Phnom Penh

Cambodia’s Supreme Court has denied bail to Australian film-maker James Ricketson in an espionage case that is fast becoming an embarrassing headache for both countries involved. In laying espionage charges against Mr Ricketson – a messianic crusader of the poor – Cambodia has inadvertently

Off beat: China’s hip-hop ban

A crackdown on hip-hop culture has swept across China. It is an act of censorship for domestic ends, and an effort to define Chinese culture and project a controlled version of soft power on an international stage. Hip-hop’s explosion into mainstream Chinese culture came in the summer

China’s new network of Indian Ocean bases

According to recent reports, China may be about to construct a naval and air base near Gwadar, in west Pakistan. This would be China’s second base in the Indian Ocean and indicates that it may be moving fast to establish a network of military bases across the region. China’s first

Indonesia–US relations: sweating the small stuff

The US and Indonesia have declared an overarching “strategic partnership” to meet broader challenges, from regional architecture building to global governance. At least, this was the case under the Barack Obama (2008–16) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–14) presidencies. But under

Asia’s escalating missile race

If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a

The Vietnamese Communist Party’s corruption hunt

On Monday, Vietnam’s former transport minister Dinh La Thang was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Another prominent figure, Trinh Xuan Thanh, received a life sentence for “deliberate violation of state regulations on economic management”. It is first time in Vietnam’s recent political

Joining the dots to Vancouver

Represented by Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson, Australia was one of 20 countries that participated in a conference last week on coordinating international approaches to North Korea. Co-hosted by Canada and the US, and held in Vancouver, the conference had

What a US–China trade war would look like

Sometime soon, US President Donald Trump will announce his plan to respond to what the administration calls China’s “economic aggression”. When he does, it is not only China that needs to be prepared to respond. Together accounting for well over a third of global output, the collateral damage

The China factor in India’s commitment to ASEAN

India will host ASEAN leaders as its chief guests during the commemoration of the country's 69th Republic Day on 26 January, reflecting the importance New Delhi places on relations with South East Asia. India's much-vaunted Look East policy, launched in the early 1990s as part of a concerted

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