Monday 21 Jan 2019 | 16:13 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Indonesia’s anti-terror law: crisis to consensus

This is the first of two articles examining the politics behind Indonesia’s revised anti-terror law in the wake of the May family suicide bombings. The second article is available here. On 25 May 2018, less than two weeks after a series of suicide bombings and armed attacks on churches and

Economic diplomacy: Japan + China, BRI push back

Bonsai diplomacy Australia’s China-befuddled political class could do worse than observe how the world’s leading centre-right politician Shinzo Abe manages a masterclass in “bifurcated hedging” when he arrives in Beijing today. The Japanese Prime Minister will be trying to rebuild old

Island diplomacy: a storm in the Maldives

The Maldives, with its sun-soaked resorts and vivid turquoise waters, epitomises luxury and Instagram perfection for a breed of cashed-up holidaymakers and honeymooners. But the reality of the island nation is vastly different: creeping Salafism and hijabs, political uncertainty, and a gradual

Pakistan: indebted to China, Saudi Arabia, and IMF

Saudi Arabia was the first country Imran Khan visited after assuming office as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister. As he made the trip last month, he asked for financial help for Pakistan’s turbulent economy. Soon after his return, it was announced that Pakistan had invited Saudi

India’s Arctic energy partnership with Russia

When people discuss Indo-Russian relations, they generally focus on Russia’s arms sales to India. However, India’s energy relations with Moscow also possess considerable and, arguably, growing significance. This was revealed at the latest bilateral summit this month during Vladimir Putin

Vietnam: why blogger Mother Mushroom went free

During US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ two-day visit to Vietnam last week, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) quietly released the high-profile dissident blogger known as ‘Mẹ Nấm,’ or Mother Mushroom, on the condition of her exile to the United States. While Mattis’ trip and the

Friends like these … allies and the Pence speech

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech was tasty red meat for anyone desiring a more confrontational US policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Pence’s speech reflects a strengthening bipartisan consensus in Washington, and suggests that a long-term policy of competition and confrontation

Vietnam’s quandary: red or green?

A hand-crafted map on the wall of the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS) neatly captures the country’s strategic vulnerabilities as it emerges as a dynamic new regional player. The map is fashioned out of grains of rice to demonstrate Vietnam’s agricultural production prowess, but it

Thawing tensions in the Himalaya

In the last few decades, state-making projects have transformed life in the Himalaya. Infrastructure development intended for troop deployment along disputed borders has, more recently, enabled large-scale transport and extraction projects and a tourist rush in this globally influential region

Killing Chimerica

Over a decade ago, the term “Chimerica” was coined to describe the symbiotic relationship between the US and Chinese economies. While offshoring manufacturing to China and opening access to US markets and universities benefited American interests, it also saw China’s share of world GDP jump

Is the second Trump-Kim summit necessary?

The third summit between the leaders of North and South Korea last month was a huge accomplishment for Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. At home, Moon’s approval rating shot up from 49% in early September to 65% a week after the summit, largely due to his successful efforts to jump start the

South Asia diplomacy hostage to a bitter legacy

The bitter legacy of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 continues to be an impediment to normal relations between Pakistan and India. Proper and meaningful diplomacy between Bangladesh and Pakistan remains elusive nearly 50 years after the war of 1971. India and Bangladesh remain

The geopolitics of China’s tax reforms

The continued legitimacy of the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping, as it was with former president Hu Jintao, depends on two main pillars: improvements in people’s material wellbeing and a strong sense of national pride. The notion that the government will improve the Chinese people’

Mahathir: Uighurs “have done nothing wrong”

Horror stories have trickled out of China’s Xinjiang province for years. Now research points to a flood of human suffering and disturbing human rights abuses. Yet with threats of China’s economic retribution, many countries have been reluctant to voice concern against Beijing. With

Daylight robbery: cyber escapades of North Korea

When a gang robs a bank, it’s a crime. When a nation launches an attack on another state’s territory, it’s an act of war. But what is it when a nation state robs another state’s banks, without ever setting foot on their soil? While political leaders and policymakers are increasingly aware

Japan’s complicated relationship with coal power

At first glance, it appears a sea change is underway in how Japanese banks and financial firms treat fossil fuels. According to a comprehensive study released by 350.org in September – Energy Finance in Japan 2018 – Japanese financial institutions underwrote over US$80 billion in loans for

China: how big tech is learning to love the party

In mid-September, rumours swirled that Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications firm, would be acquired by an unnamed Chinese state-owned enterprise (SOE), effectively nationalising the company, which operates in 170 countries. The rumours were substantial enough to warrant a

Decoding the bombshell story for China

It is near impossible to find any mention of the Chinese chip hacking story in Bloomberg Businessweek that does not use the words “bombshell” or “explosive” to describe the piece. These descriptions have become cliché. But the cliché is fitting because even if the story unravels amid

The corridor of power

In January, rumours swirled around policy and security circles that China intended to build a military base in the Little Pamirs, a remote mountainous section of the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan that forms a narrow wedge bordering China, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. A journey to the Little

Reconciling with China in the Pacific

Last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Wang Yi struck a surprisingly conciliatory tone, expressing the wish to partner with Australia in the development of the Pacific

Shifting sands in Hong Kong

October is usually one of Hong Kong’s nicest months. The notoriously hot, humid, and rainy summer is gone, and the incoming autumn brings the city a pleasant, warm temperature alongside a stunning clear blue sky. But the usual cheerful vibe has dissipated this year. Not only have&

See the difference: CGTN’s Australian gambit

Last month, billboards popped up around Australian capital cities, urging commuters and shoppers to “see the difference” as a panda and a kangaroo writhe in a harmonious embrace, while marsupials that look to have been penned by Guardian cartoonist First Dog On The Moon look on. Most commuters

Missing in action: India’s aircraft carriers

Long considered the crowning jewel of the fleet, India has continuously operated an aircraft carrier for well over half-a-century. Since 1961, when its first carrier entered service, India has gone to war with Portugal (1961), China (1962), and Pakistan (1965, 1971, and 1999). How is it then, that

Xi Jinping Thought, beaming live tonight

American broadcaster Edward Murrow, lamenting the viewing habits of the population in the 1950s, paraphrased Karl Marx: “If television and radio are to be used to entertain all of the people all of the time, then we have come perilously close to discovering the real opiate of the people.” More

Will geopolitics trump trade?

Geopolitics may be rapidly moving to the forefront in deciding how the US-China trade war will play out. If so, the odds of a rapprochement are dwindling fast. The trade conflict has always been about many things, clouding how different analysts understood it. Initially, it seemed best understood

Pence on China: reviving a neoconservative dream

Ever wondered who is now the culprit for many of the woes of the United States? Then look no further than a major speech delivered by US Vice President Mike Pence last week. Given just days after the “leaked” photos showing close encounters between US and Chinese destroyers in the South

Japan’s advice to Australia to co-exist with China

Japan’s Shinzo Abe now ranks as one of the region’s most experienced prime ministers, and will likely meet with Australia’s newest leader, Scott Morrison, in November. China’s growing influence in the region is a topic both leaders must discuss, given that the prosperity and stability in

Out of balance: Pakistan’s economic crisis

National debt in Pakistan has soared past US$92 billion and its servicing costs are projected to reach 30% of the federal budget. The current economic crisis in Pakistan poses political trade-offs between supporting economic growth, protecting domestic consumers, and meeting external obligations.

“Chinese rice bowl!” Backing state-run enterprise

In a somewhat surreal PR move countering the Trump administration’s trade war against his country, Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled over 1,000km out of the capital last week to the northeast of the country, visiting wheatfields and oil refineries. Posing with farmers and factory workers in

India’s airlines take off and hit turbulence

Some years ago, I took a domestic flight in India on one of the many new airlines that had cropped up over the preceding decade. The flight was on time and smooth, the food was good, the flight attendants friendly, attentive and courteous, their designer uniforms gleaming. All was fine with the

Fawning and flummery winning over love-sick Donald

In the last six months, US President Donald Trump has “fallen in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He has also been persuaded that Kim respects him, likely because he called him “your excellency” in his “beautiful letters”. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has claimed Trump

Hun Sen at the UN: a strategic appearance

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. His presence at this year was highly strategic following the country’s recent general election, which saw his party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secure its mandate extended for

Post-war justice in Sri Lanka inches forward

Sri Lanka’s government – a coalition based on an awkward power-sharing arrangement between political parties that have historically been rivals, the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party – has made big promises about transitional justice and healing the wounds of a civil war

Bangladesh: the latest assault on free speech

Bangladesh already suffers poor standards when respecting freedom of expression, but a new set of laws will enable the government to suppress political dissent and free speech using brutal means. A recently passed law known as the Digital Security Act 2018 has

Sulawesi tsunami: how Australia can best help

Yet another tsunami in Indonesia. The earthquake and resulting wave of destruction in Palu, Central Sulawesi, is the second major natural disaster to strike the country this year. It is not yet two months since more than 500 people died in the August earthquake in Lombok near Bali.

A bittersweet victory for Prime Minister Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was re-elected Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s President for his third and final term on 20 September, securing him the prime ministership for another three years and potentially making him the longest serving prime minister in Japan’s parliamentary history

India's game-changing health care initiative

It has been dubbed the world’s biggest experiment in universal health care. Last Sunday, India launched its A$2.2 billion universal health care plan that was promised in the budget earlier this year. It gives 100 million of its poorest people access to free health care to treat serious ailments

Death of a president: no power vacuum in Vietnam

The death of Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang was unexpected by the general public: he was due to address the UN General Assembly this week, and Vietnam’s one-party system has a long tradition of keeping a veil of secrecy around the health status of its top leaders. But Quang’s passing

Sliding rupiah causes Jakarta jitters

Capital has been flowing out of emerging economies around the world, causing currencies and financial markets to fall. While tightening global liquidity was the initial catalyst, the threat from Donald Trump’s trade war and fear that "contagion" might spread from Turkey and Argentina have added

China’s ‘divide and conquer’ charm offensive

China’s ‘charm’ offensive on Taiwan’s autonomy has gone up a level in recent months. Starting from 1 September, Beijing has allowed Taiwanese who have lived in China for more than six months and are legally working, living or studying in the country to apply for a residence card entitling

Exploring Taiwan’s aid to the Pacific

In July, the Marshall Islands signed a visa-free entry agreement with Taiwan, a clear testament to the strong diplomatic ties that Taiwan has achieved with some Pacific states in recent years. However, the competition for the Pacific Islands is far from settled. Four countries have

The Chinese box office dilemma

China’s total box office takings have reportedly hit US$6.79 billion in the first eight months of 2018, a US$1 billion increase on the same time in 2017. Hollywood films had long dominated the Chinese box office, but recent successes of domestic films have suggested a shift in preferences of

Malaysia: allowing students to find voice

In October 2016, a group of four students stood in front of a public forum at the Universiti Malaya and declared “students want answers”. They had attended an event featuring the CEO of 1MDB, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund established by former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who, along with

China’s aid: the image boost

Mounting accusations of Chinese debt traps, trade imbalances, and neocolonialism in Africa made for a heady backdrop to this month’s meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China’s Xi Jinping made clear he was having none of it. In his keynote speech to African leaders gathered in

The human side of Moon and Kim’s agreement

The past two years have been full of unexpected twists and stalled promises in the relationship between North Korea and South Korea, as well as their ties with the United States. Yet Wednesday seemed to mark a major breakthrough in inter-Korean relations, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un Kim

The other Rohingya crisis

As the world’s eyes are focused on the unfolding Rohingya refugee crisis Bangladesh, to the east in India another danger may be brewing for the Rohingya Muslim community. Over the past year since the latest wave of state-backed violence and displacement began in northern Myanmar, almost a

The fight to repeal anti-gay laws in Singapore

LGBT activists first launched a campaign to repeal an anti-gay law in Singapore in 2007. That campaign ultimately failed, but over a decade later, the LGBT community is giving it another shot. Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code criminalises sex between men, regardless of whether it’s

Korean peninsula and the Moon-shot

The 12 June Singapore Summit has aged badly, as the declaration signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un has proven as useless as most analysts imagined. Consequently, the current US-North Korea diplomatic process is disintegrating under the weight of the parties’ misaligned

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