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Double trouble: China's bid to increase birth rate is no sure thing

By Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus, an intern with the Lowy Institute's East Asia Program China's historic policy change to allow all couples to have two children was presented as an economic imperative, but some believe individual choice, increasingly encouraged to drive consumption, will decide family

Obama's Syria critics ignore inconvenient facts

It is fashionable to criticise Washington's approach to the Syrian civil war. In his memoir, former US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta described President Obama's approach to Syria and Iraq as flawed. Obama has been roundly criticised for his 'tentative' approach to Syria. A piece on this site

Economic crisis in China? We're not there yet

I started my job at the Federal Reserve three weeks before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. I wish I had kept a diary of my initial months at the Fed, so I could recall clearly what we thought was happening each day. I do remember there was a discrete point where suddenly everything felt like

Abe's mandate: The economic imperative

As predicted, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored an easy victory in Japan's Lower House election on Sunday. For Abe it was a vital win on a shrewd, strategic gamble. The LDP under Abe's leadership was judged the only viable option by an

Putin flexes muscle ahead of G20

What to do if you are the leader of a former superpower about to travel to a small-ish country whose leader has promised to shirtfront you? The answer seems to be to flex a little muscle. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is in Beijing today for the APEC meeting ahead of this week's G20 Summit in

Australia's Iraq deployment: Pragmatism over principle

The Prime Minister's unsurprising announcement of an Australian military commitment to the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) coalition answered a few questions and raised others. I think the justification for military intervention in Iraq is relatively straightforward, but the environment within which

Obama's strategy: First thoughts

It's fair to say that President Obama is a reluctant commander-in-chief and sees the Middle East as a place where the limitations of US military force are most apparent. So his speech  tonight on America's strategy against Islamic State (IS) was from someone who wishes he didn't have to deal with

Is the Fed acting as the world's central bank?

'The Federal Reserve enters its second century as the closest the world has to a global central bank.' So says Ted Truman, who speaks with some authority as he played a key advisory role for many years with the Fed (the US central bank) and the US Treasury.  However, Truman's detailed account of

Five fallacies in Australian thinking on Iraq

An RAAF C-130H Hercules deploys aid to civilians in northern Iraq. (Image courtesy of the Department of Defence.) There's a lot to be concerned about in the way Australia is approaching the decision to intervene militarily in the civil war engulfing northern Iraq and Syria. There has been scant

Syria and Iraq: Why did Obama bring religion into it?

In this fast-paced world of media grabs, it is easy for selective quoting to misrepresent what leaders say. In his 28 August press conference for instance, when President Obama was asked whether he needed Congressional approval to go into Syria and attack Islamic State, he said 'I don't want to

Sea-basing threatens India's minimalist nuclear strategy

Both the draft nuclear doctrine released in 1999 and the official nuclear doctrine released later in 2003 state India's commitment to a minimalist nuclear posture. This nuclear minimalism was best advocated in the policy of credible minimum deterrence (CMD). Two assumptions inform the concept of

Japan's continuing confidence in the alliance

The views expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent those of National Institute for Defense Studies or the Japanese Ministry of Defense. I am inspired by the recent debate on The Interpreter about the trajectory of Japan's security strategy. Brad Glosserman's

Pacific island leadership: PNG steps up

Jenny Hayward-Jones is Director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program and Tess Newton Cain is a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute. One of the key announcements at the conclusion of the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Koror, Palau was the appointment of Dame Meg Taylor as the

Air power to the fore in the Middle East

As a former Army officer, my service bias has always made me a believer that only events on the ground matter. The air force is a great enabler but rarely the decisive factor. But my experience of the Middle East has also taught me the value that many governments place in air power. In the Gulf

The Islamic State's media logic

The horrific images surrounding the gruesome execution of the US journalist Jim Foley are dominating the headlines. The Islamist group had several reasons for doing what they did, and when they did it. It reinforces the Islamic State's reputation as the baddest Islamists of them all, a useful tool

Should the US retrench from South Korea? Part 2: No

A couple of days ago I laid out the arguments for a US withdrawal from South Korea. Today, I lay out the arguments for staying. This topic is rarely discussed. In the US, the foreign policy consensus for hegemony, forged between liberal internationalists on the left and interventionist

China-Japan competition: Hugh White responds

The four excellent responses to my post on China-Japan relations all present important points about Japan's situation and its options in the face of China's growing power. Just to recap, my piece questioned whether Chinese political and military pressure on Japan in the East China Sea is as

Should the US retrench from South Korea? Yes

Over at War on the Rocks, Christopher Lee (a former officer in the US Forces Korea [USFK]) and Tom Nichols (of the US Naval War College) have gotten into a useful debate on whether US forces should remain in Korea. This issue is not widely discussed, which is surprising given the end of the Cold

A breakthrough in Chinese climate policy? Not likely

I argued back in April that China's 'synthetic natural gas' (syngas or SNG, which is gas made from coal) is 'bad economics, bad science and an environmental catastrophe'. I also said that 'what is striking is the ambition of Chinese plans versus the widespread scepticism of SNG worldwide and

Are we measuring international trade correctly?

Perhaps the most fundamental change in international trade in recent decades has been the development of multinational 'supply chains'. The production process has been 'unbundled', with different stages of production taking place in different countries. An iPad is assembled in China, but only $10 of

What Beijing fears most: Intra-Asian balancing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a rising China, in possession of a modernising military, must be in want of a non-militarised Japan. So is Beijing being foolish by acting assertively in the East China Sea, thereby helping to fuel Japan's evolution into a full-fledged military rival

China's strategy to sow distrust of Japan

Promoting mutual distrust in the Asia Pacific now appears central to Chinese strategy. As Hugh White has argued persuasively, China seeks greater influence in Asia through weakening the faith of America's regional allies and partners in US resolve to remain engaged in the region. This will be

Pacific island links: Fiji special

I spent some of this week in Fiji so it is the focus of this week's links: Australia will co-lead a 14-country international observer mission to Fiji for the elections on 17 September. The Australian delegation will be led by Peter Reith. Grant Bayldon of Amnesty International (NZ) looks at what

China: Economic war and the humbling of multinationals

'I really worry about China. I am not sure that in the end they want any of us to win', confided GE boss Jeff Immelt to a group of fellow multinational business-people dining in Shanghai in 2010. So far, GE has mostly stayed out of trouble in China. But many other Fortune 500 companies have been

What next for multilateral trade negotiations?

The Director-General of the World Trade Organization is sounding despondent after the latest setback to the December 2013 Bali Agreement. Meanwhile, a survey of exporters has given some endorsement for the alternative path of free trade agreements (FTAs). Is there any hope for furthering the

G20 must save the WTO, among other things...

As John Lennon wrote, 'life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.' How true for Australia's plans for the G20. Life is not being kind in the lead-up to the Brisbane G20 Summit. The head winds for the summit so far include: International organisations (the IMF and World Bank)

At AUSMIN 2014, let's talk about naval force posture

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel arrives in Sydney, 11 August 2014. (Department of Defence.) US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel touched down in Sydney today for the annual AUSMIN meetings between Australian and US foreign policy and defence leaders, which start tomorrow. There will be no

The dangers of SSBN proliferation in Indo-Pacific Asia

  It has become commonplace to lament the arms races underway in Indo-Pacific Asia. China's military modernisation over the last two decades has helped provoke heightened political tensions and growing concern in capitals from Tokyo to New Delhi to Washington and Moscow. North Korea's continued

Obama's intervention: Iraq is not Syria

The limited use of military force announced by President Obama earlier today was likely prompted by concern at the success of ISIS's latest offensives across Syria and Iraq. The jihadist group has recently redoubled its efforts in Raqqa, Syria, in an effort to take the remaining pockets of Syrian

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