Saturday 27 Apr 2019 | 01:42 | SYDNEY
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US bipartisanship on Asia

Two recently passed laws pertaining to US policy to Asia challenge a well-entrenched negative narrative about the Trump administration, and serve as reassuring reminders about how the US government and legislative process actually works. The Trump administration is not as isolationist and Congress

The useful myth of central bank independence

One of the sustaining myths of modern economics is that central banks are independent, able to pursue monetary policy free from the pressures of politics. This makes monetary policy more effective: it gives confidence that the economy will be kept on a steady path unaffected by the exigencies of the

The battle to resource the US National Defense Strategy

In a recent article, (What the pessimists get wrong about Trump in Asia) Natasha Kassam argued that Donald Trump’s election has not ended Barack Obama’s pivot to the Pacific or led to a significant break with traditional approaches to US foreign policy in Asia. Kassam rightly pointed to the 2017

The Mueller illusion

No collusion. Or as Donald would say, NO COLLUSION! The report is in, the argument will still go on, yet as one America-based Australian correspondent has already declared, this “has delivered the US President one of the best days of his presidency”. Mueller became some kind of mythical

What might a US-China trade deal look like?

Perhaps they will, perhaps they won’t, but if China and the US do reach a trade agreement in coming weeks it will likely be very long. Meeting to seal the deal, President Donald Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping will be able to display to the cameras a document of at least a hundred pages

What the pessimists get wrong about Trump in Asia

Having an “America First” president elected on the MAGA platform left many Australians anxious about the future of US engagement in our region. But Trump’s tweets and meetings with despots may be distracting from a coherent and almost traditional Republican foreign policy in Asia.

Kim and Trump, again: North Korea’s drives the wedge

Despite inflated pre-summit expectations that US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un would sign a deal involving at least some sanctions relief, liaison offices, an end of war declaration, and agreement for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear facilities, the fact that Hanoi

Political leadership versus diplomacy

Following the Trump-Kim summits and a gush of commentary on “presidential diplomacy”, “face-to-face diplomacy”, “summit diplomacy”, and even “Trumpian diplomacy”, we’ve somehow come to accept politicians as diplomats. It may be time to recall the difference – before it

Learning from Brexit in Donald Trump’s America

For those of us with an internationalist viewpoint, watching the Brexit process unfold in the context of the Trump Presidency has left us demoralised and despondent. In both cases, we see the rise of populism and demagoguery in great liberal democracies. We see chaos, a self-inflicted wound. And we

The Huawei indictments: allegations and politics

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is reportedly suing the Canadian government, its border agency, and the national police force for false imprisonment in relation to her arrest as she transited through the country in December. Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder and

Breaking Russia’s space stranglehold

The test launch of a SpaceX astronaut capsule to the International Space Station (without astronauts aboard) is cause for celebration. It marks the debut of the first crew-carrying orbital spacecraft from America since the development of the Space Shuttle decades ago. But it also signifies the

Four reasons why China supports North Korea

Of all the countries on the sidelines of the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, few were watching more intently than China. Chinese financial and trade support effectively facilitated North Korea’s nuclear program by keeping its economy afloat and thus fractured the chances of a

Kim-Trump 2.0: three observations

Assessing the import and impact of the Trump-Kim summits is a challenge. The visual spectacle of the two “colourful” leaders, both of whom prize the optics almost more than the substance of meetings, can prove highly distracting. Viewed from Beijing or Pyongyang’s perspective, the two

Trouble in Munich: the transatlantic breakup

Since 1963, the Munich Security Conference has been a fixture on the international scene. During the Cold War it was an important forum for debate on the West’s policy towards the Soviet Union. It was often described as a “transatlantic family meeting.” Last weekend I attended the 2019

The Vietnamese venue will shape the second Trump-Kim summit

The news is in. US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un for the second time on February 27-28. Instead of Singapore, this time Vietnam will play host. Although there are many concerns regarding the prospect of success for the second summit and North Korea’s

Getting a better outcome from the second Trump-Kim summit

If press reports are accurate, US President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un will again meet this month. They met for the first time last June in Singapore. Rumour suggests this meeting will be in Vietnam. The first summit was sharply criticised as a photo-op for Trump –

US, Taliban, Afghanistan peace talks: timing is critical

The Taliban and the US have agreed, in principle, on a peace framework that will ensure the Taliban part ways with international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda leading to a possible withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The negotiations also focused on a comprehensive ceasefire and

Pacific collateral from the INF Treaty collapse

Washington intends to begin withdrawing from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty early next month. President Trump indicated late last year that the US is pulling out because “they’ve (Russia) been violating it for many years.” The concern for Australia is that

Book Review: the Clinton fiction

Review: The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Aldred A. Knopf, 2018) Former US President Bill Clinton is a man of singular gifts – a highly intelligent policy wonk with an unmatched capacity to connect with voters through mastery of what we are obliged these days to

Philippine alliance angst

Last month, at his end-of-year press conference, the Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana called for a review of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Under the terms of this treaty, either side can unilaterally withdraw. When asked if post-review options

Book review: Grappling with the legacy of Barack Obama

Book review: The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House, by Ben Rhodes (Random House, 2018). The slew of books that find their way to the shelves once a president has departed are often cagey, self-interested and read suspiciously like job applications. Ben Rhodes tries hard to avoid

Best of The Interpreter 2018: The US-China trade war

In recent months, the US-China relationship has accelerated from rivalry toward adversarial antagonism. In the US, a policy shift on China has been propelled by a sense that China is winning and America is losing in a competition for global hegemony.  “I want tariffs,” Donald Trump&

Was Jim Mattis really the “last adult in the room”?

US Defense Secretary James Mattis has resigned. And yes, I use that term advisedly, because even though President Donald Trump is tweeting about Mattis’ “retirement”, it’s pretty clear that this is a resignation letter, not a retirement letter. And a pretty brutal one, too, by the formal and

What happens next? Trump’s sudden Syria exit

Donald Trump’s announcement that he is pulling troops out of Syria is another example of the New York property developer turned president's decision-making style. If you don’t understand or don’t like the deal, then get out of it. All that matters is the bottom line. In business this may

What I missed this year: America pushes back

A series where Lowy Institute experts look back on what surprised them in 2018. For some years now I have believed that the United States is on the losing end of a long struggle with China for strategic hegemony in Asia. My position is summarised in a long article I wrote for the Financial Review

US killing by drone: continuity and escalation

Recent revelations confirm that under President Donald Trump, the use of armed unmanned aerial systems, drones, in US combat operations has increased significantly. For example, in 2017–18, the Trump administration launched 238 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, according to data from

US-China competition is all about us

We are not entering a new Cold War, despite both Chinese President Xi and US Vice-President Pence finding the term a useful rhetorical tool. The Americans have decided to compete against China because they think the last two decades of cooperation has failed. The Trump Administration,

How the US can prevent a China-dominated Asia

The US military is dangerously under-funded and could lose the next big war it wages. That is the key message from a new report by the influential National Defense Strategy Commission. Established by Congress to provide an independent, non-partisan assessment of the 2018 US National Defense

Xi and Trump at G20: A tariff truce

This truce is by no means the end of trade tensions between China and the US. Over what was undoubtedly a delicious dinner last Saturday night on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to extend the deadline for the

George H W Bush: the internationalist president

George Herbert Walker Bush, who has died at age 94, will not reside in the top rank of American presidents, the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, the Roosevelts the Kennedys to name a few. But he will be remembered as a decent man who did his best in a long, distinguished public career. In his

North Korea’s emerging blackmail strategy

A recent New York Times article has drawn much criticism from the US intelligence community for depicting North Korea’s continued missile development as “a Great Deception.” Analysts have responded by proclaiming that North Korea has never agreed to cease its missile and nuclear

Russia-Ukraine: soggy response to Kerch aggression

With its doctrine of scrupulous media balance – “they said, he said, we don’t know” – Western reporting on the latest phase in Russia’s relentless imperialist aggression against Ukraine has been as misleading as what has gone before. Even the sight of Russian special forces swarming

Chipping away at trust in democracy

With a series of state elections due and the federal election looming, there are important lessons that Australia needs to learn from the tone of US politics. In particular, there is a responsibility for Australia’s political leaders to act in ways that ensure, and do not undermine, the integrity

More than words needed to meet the China challenge

Newly announced US ambassador-designate to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, comes to Australia at a moment of significant tension in US-China relations, with a growing consensus in the US that it is entering a period of competition with Beijing.  Policy documents such as the National Security

The prospect of a “Trumpier” foreign policy

Donald Trump came to office with a more coherent worldview than other recent American presidents. For decades, he has held four core beliefs about the world. First, Trump scoffs at the longstanding American commitment to international leadership and cooperation. Since the 1940s, American

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