Tuesday 21 May 2019 | 09:32 | SYDNEY
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Asia

A travel notebook to Marawi City

My visit to Marawi city in June has left me with a profound sense of sadness. The enormous task of reconstructing a once-bustling Philippine city hangs heavily over the Task Force Bangon Marawi interagency committee. Apart from rehabilitation and compensation for damage lost

Russia’s disinformation game in Southeast Asia

In December, two Russian strategic bombers made an unusual flight to the Indonesian airbase on Biak in the province of Papua, where they conducted an air alert drill. Across the Arafura Sea in Darwin, Royal Australian Air Force squadrons went into a state of heightened alert. To the extent there

Xi Jinping, Senegal, and China’s West Africa drive

Xi Jinping’s choice of Senegal for a state visit on 20–21 July, his first visit to West Africa, en route to the BRICS summit in South Africa, suggests that China seeks to deepen cooperation in a region that has seen comparatively less Chinese engagements than elsewhere in Africa. In using

A blueprint for India–Australia economic relations

Few people are as qualified as Peter Varghese to draw up a timely, sound, and realistic blueprint to build a dynamic yet sustainable economic partnership between India and Australia. Unlike the case with China, an expanded trade and investment relationship with India will enhance Australia’s

The many voices of Hong Kong

Speaking English might be a waste of time for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, but that definitely isn’t the case for Hong Kong actress Stephy Tang who was recently awarded the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award at the New York Asia Film Festival. Hong Kong people worry

Myanmar’s fourth estate

The arrest in Myanmar of two Reuters journalists, accused of possessing secret government papers, has put the spotlight on the freedom of the press and the country’s weak justice system. A court last week upheld the charges and the case will shortly go to trial.  The case looks set to only

Economic diplomacy brief: India ties, Labor on BRI

Passage to India Two statistics in the new report to the Australian Government on the future economic relationship with India underline how this is going to be a battle of perceptions even before anyone gets to the policy ideas. The first is a crony capitalism index, which estimates

“Poor old” China meets “poor young” Africa

The success of China’s reform and opening program across 40 years has shifted the nation from backwater to the centre of global growth, lifting 800 million people from poverty in the process. A largely complementary economic relationship has meant Australia has enjoyed a record-breaking prosperity

North Korea also an intelligence test for Trump

It is not only Donald Trump’s wavering, on-and-off attacks on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election that betrays his distrust of intelligence agencies. News that US spies believe North Korea has been increasing uranium production at multiple sites runs

What has gone wrong in Cambodia?

Concerns ahead of Cambodia’s elections on 29 July centre on the judgement that under Prime Minister Hun Sen the country has become increasingly authoritarian in political character while the government – through a range of parliamentary and judicial actions, and backed by absolute control of the

India’s demographic timebomb

In India, it’s all about the age of 25: that’s the median age of the entire country, and there are 600 million Indians, more than half the population, who are aged 25 or younger. Young people are everywhere you look: on the streets, in offices, in shops, on campuses, and bring with

The Grey List: more trouble for Pakistan’s economy

On 28 June, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Pakistan on its “Grey List”. The country now has up to 15 months to improve its control of terror financing and money laundering, otherwise it will be placed on the FATF “Black List”. FATF is a global body established in 1989 to

Australia and India: different worlds

Peter Varghese’s independent report on Australia’s economic strategy for India, released by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week, sounds a confident note for the future of the relationship. Although the focus of the report is trade, geopolitical alignments are one of three

Thai cave rescue: no country for Wild Boars

The rescue last week of the Wild Boars boys soccer team trapped by floodwaters in a cave in Thailand’s north captured the world’s attention. Beyond the drama and difficulties of the rescue, the spotlight has also turned to Thailand’s “statelessness” problem. Without citizenship,

Indonesian tourism booms, Australia misses out

It didn’t even make the news in Australia, but two weeks ago India announced it will now allow Indonesian tourists to visit without having to apply or pay for a visa. This development allows Indonesian nationals to choose India, in addition to all the ASEAN nations, as a holiday destination

Why Japan is supporting Cambodia’s election

Japan has remained steadfast in its support of the upcoming Cambodian general election on 29 July amid growing pressure by its citizens, civil society organisations, and supporters of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – Cambodia’s former main opposition party. 

Tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat

The US is moving quickly to follow through on Trump’s threats to further escalate his trade war with China (now is as good a time as any to say that the trade war has officially started). Last week the US imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with another US$16 billion to be

Cambodia: dispelling the Malaysia illusion

Cambodia is headed for national elections on 29 July in which, although there are 20 parties contending, there is only one possible victor: the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Despite the lack of suspense, everyone involved (apart from, perhaps, the electorate) seem to care a lot about

China’s expanding navy

Recent reports of problems with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) carrier-borne J-15 jet fighters have opened a small window on challenges facing China’s expanding navy, presenting a narrative counter to the recent wave of triumphalist advertisements of new capabilities. Stresses on

Assessing Duterte’s China investment drive

When President Rodrigo Duterte visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 2016, he came home with an agreement that earmarked US$24 billion worth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development aid for the Philippines. Many of the deals were eventually

US Navy sails into Taiwan sunset

It’s inevitable that, when the US sails warships through the Taiwan Strait, it will be interpreted as a broader diplomatic statement or even a protest – in this case, perhaps about North Korea, or the US–China trade spat. But these transits are more common than you might think. According to

China business and China threats

China has loomed large in the Australian economy for two decades. Be it the demand for iron ore or coal, or the education, property, and tourism markets, the Australian economy has boomed with China’s wind in its sails. As China is now the world’s second largest economy, its global

Indonesia’s elections and the local result

Regional elections took place across Indonesia on 27 June, when local voters went to the polls to elect governors, regents, and mayors. The results offer a fascinating insight into the current political landscape, albeit one that analysts need to approach with caution.  It is always

International rescue: the Thai cave response

As prime minister, Tony Abbott once called disaster response “an antidote to pessimism”. No less than eight countries – including China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand – had gathered in the desperate search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 across the vast reaches of the

Détente divergence: the US-South Korean split

Reactions in the US and South Korea have differed sharply since US President Donald Trump met North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un last month in Singapore. (The president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call Kim “chairman”, because he governs as the chairman of the State Affairs

Hambantota: “the Chinese port”

In early 2011, I was in Hambantota, southern Sri Lanka, looking for the new port. After hours of driving, from the southern beaches through kilometres of wetlands featuring water buffalo, ibises, and the odd elephant, through vivid green jungle as far you could see, the wilderness eventually

Pyongyang’s promises

Immediately after the Singapore summit on 12 June, US President Donald Trump proclaimed that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, and that the denuclearisation process would follow in accordance with the two leaders’ joint statement. However, three weeks later, Kim Jong-un does

Sources of Shinzo Abe’s resilience

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now the third longest serving prime minister of Japan since the Second World War. Thanks to amendments by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to regulations, it is possible he will become the longest serving prime minister of post-war Japan on 24 August 2019. Why

Hun Sen and his personality cult

A fiercely loyal armed force is essential to cementing a dictatorship, and the sheer military might of Cambodia’s Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 33 years, should come as a surprise to no one. Yet many of Cambodia’s top military men are

The Huawei way

Recent months have seen controversy swirling around Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, the national security risk it may or may not pose to Australia, and its involvement with the nation’s legislators. Amid these concerns, it is important to consider the company in its

Duterte’s China policy: beyond law

Many local and international observers have denounced Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s conduct towards China as “appeasement” after he took the view there was nothing the Philippines could do to stop China’s militarisation in the South China Sea. Duterte’s defeatist attitude,

Vietnam: a month of mass protests

June 2018 may go down as a new record for mass protests in Vietnam. Thousands of people across the three main regions of the country took to the streets, mostly in a peaceful manner, to protest against two controversial bills tabled at the National Assembly: the now-delayed special

The “unsinkable” island is no substitute

In a recent Interpreter article (Glug, glug, glug: India’s interest in unsinkable aircraft carriers), David Brewster poses an interesting question: is there a cheaper and less risky way for India to project power in the neighborhood than by continuing to rely on its aircraft carriers? By

Exit strategy: will US troops leave South Korea?

The massive Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul has seen a near-continuous presence of foreign military since the Korean Peninsula was annexed by the Japanese in 1910. Prior to that, it housed troops from the Qing Dynasty who had been sent to help the last rulers of Joseon put down peasant rebellions

Reunification out of reach

The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore was the first step towards persuading North Korea to join the few countries that have relinquished nuclear weapons. It also presents the best chance since the Clinton administration’s breakthroughs in 2000 to normalise relations.  But

The big clean-up in Malaysia

While the world is watching Malaysia, trying to explain the unexpected victory of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in last month’s elections, what is actually more important is the massive clean-up currently underway in the country. By clean-up, I mean a near-total replacement of all key

US-China trade: joke’s over

Once entertaining, the Trump administration is becoming unfunny. In less than a week the trade dispute between China and the US has escalated to cover what will quite likely be the entirety of US goods exports to China, and the greater part, if not the whole, of Chinese goods exports to the US

Australia and Germany should work together on China

Efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence Australian politics have made headlines since 2017. In recent months, similar attempts have been at the centre of German debates. While geographically distant, Australia and Germany are well suited to address this challenge jointly,

The China puzzle in Asia

China is rising! This remarkable event, which is hardly surprising because the process has been underway for at least forty years, is causing great excitement in Australia and elsewhere. In some circles, China’s strong economic growth and international activities have 

When Indonesia sits on the Security Council

Indonesia has successfully won its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council 2019–20, but what is the country likely to achieve? There are, of course, significant constraints to what a non-permanent member of the Security Council can do within the UN

Time to denounce China’s Muslim gulag

One of the worst human rights abuses in recent times is occurring in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party has rounded up possibly one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in purpose-built concentration camps where they are subjected to

It’s all up to Moon now

The Trump–Kim summit last week in Singapore was a nothingburger – not good or bad, just nothing new really at all. After months of hype, including grossly inflated talk of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament) and a Nobel prize, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North

Ceasefire in Afghanistan: the first win for peace   

For the first time, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed on a ceasefire in the 17 years–long conflict that has made Afghanistan one of the most violent places on the planet. Both parties unilaterally announced the temporary armistice. The halt to hostilities has provided a glimmer

Should Shinzo Abe happen to meet Kim Jong-un

In recent weeks, Northeast Asia has enjoyed an unprecedented season of summitry. Spurred by a common desire to curb the North Korean nuclear threat, key leaders from the region have held historic bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un in close succession. Despite the fact that a concrete denuclearisation

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