Wednesday 17 Jul 2019 | 17:47 | SYDNEY
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Asia

The threat within: Pakistan’s ties to China

Last month, a suicide bomber in Pakistan’s Balochistan province attacked a passenger bus transporting 18 Chinese engineers from Saindak town in the southwest to Dalbandin Airport. The engineers were on their way home for a holiday after working on the Saindak Copper-Gold project.

Lies, damn lies, and Chinese statistics

Lies, damn lies, and statistics, and of course to that list should be added Chinese statistics. After reporting three quarters of 6.8% GDP growth – even though the economy and corporate sector has been shaken by deleveraging, trade wars, and an ever more volatile exchange rate – the official

The Rohingya are stuck

This is the second of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, featuring Morten Pederson on the domestic drivers of conflict, and Andrew Selth on the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  Most of the Rohingya who were forced from their homes in

Will Solomon Islands abandon Taiwan?

Over the last couple of years Taiwan has been steadily haemorrhaging diplomatic allies. Countries from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean have switched allegiance to Beijing, leaving just 17 countries maintaining formal relations with Taipei. The largest bloc of such countries is in the

No safe return for Rohingya refugees

This is the first of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, with subsequent articles by Nicholas Farrelly and Andrew Selth to discuss the situation in Bangladesh and the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  The Report of the Independent International Fact-

Beleaguered Bangladesh and big neighbour trouble

A new threat from beyond its borders looms over Bangladesh. With as many as nearly a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar having already taken shelter in the south-eastern part of the country, there is now bad news filtering in from the neighbouring Indian state of Assam. The state, recently

Lessons of yet another Indonesian blasphemy case

When an ethnic Chinese woman in Medan named Meliana was sentenced on 21 August* to 18 months on blasphemy charges for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer (azan) in the mosque next door, outrage erupted across Indonesia. More than 50,000 people joined an online petition to free

Asia’s order beyond the great powers

The US and China have imposed tariffs on more than US$100 billion worth of goods in an escalation of their ongoing trade dispute. There is a real risk that the ongoing Sino-American economic tension will exacerbate their growing geopolitical rivalry. The sheer scale of the US and China and the

South Korea’s demographic deficit

South Korea’s transformation from a war ravaged, poor and undeveloped country to be now ranked by the World Bank as the 12th largest economy globally has been accompanied by extraordinary social change at home. The greatest challenge is the decline of the national

Chinese “birth tourism” shows citizenship evolves

Several years ago, while living in Southern California and pregnant with my twin sons, I began hearing news reports about maternity hotels. Baffled neighbours were asking why so many pregnant Chinese women were coming and going into homes east of Los Angeles, why the garbage cans were piled high

The chance to urge religious freedom in Indonesia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is visiting Indonesia this week on his first international trip as Australia’s leader. The two governments will announce a new trade deal and Australia is keen to show this as a deepening of ties between the two nations. But in his meetings with Indonesian President

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, trade deals and TPP

Development lesson Australia can probably thank China’s amorphous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for helping push over the line the bilateral trade agreement that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will claim as his first diplomatic triumph on Friday. The key breakthrough in the agreement is set to

Belt and Road: China’s biggest brand

Most public discussion of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) tends to paint it as a coherent strategy of the Chinese Communist Party. One school argues that this strategy is largely economic in focus, the other major approach focuses on the political drivers. What both need to consider is

Indonesia: running mates spark controversy

The confirmation by President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo’s of conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as running mate for the April 2019 presidential contest evoked disappointment among constituencies in Indonesia committed to democracy and pluralism. Interpreted as a forced compromise, a Jokowi-Ma

India: the north-south disparity

In India, a recently-released report ranking the states by their governance levels has once again highlighted the great disparities between north and south. The Public Affairs Index 2018, released last month by the Bengaluru-based think tank Public Affairs Centre, ranked states by how well

Huawei in Australia: the 5G fear

The Australian government has officially blocked Chinese telecommunications firms, most notably Huawei, from providing equipment to Australia’s new 5G mobile phone networks, citing concerns over national security. While the issue in question regards some of the world’s most sophisticated

The dark side of the Asian Games

While some may argue that sport and politics should never mix, many governments have perfected the art of the sport–politics cocktail. It has a name: sports diplomacy.  Countries such as Australia even have a “Sports Diplomacy Strategy” that explains how this heady concoction is meant

Air traffic control for North Korea’s missiles

Verification is a cornerstone of disarmament. For the ongoing peace initiatives with North Korea, verification is even more critical. Access to the country is notoriously restricted, and visitors to key military locations are kept on a tight leash. The recent decommissioning of North Korea’s

Decoding the Mahathir Doctrine

Since returning to power after his stunning election victory in May 2018, the 93–year–old Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made a series of comments reflective of weaker states’ views of the evolving Asian order in the Trump–Xi era. These include a firmer stance on the South

Moon deepens civilian control in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has initiated a major overhaul of the Defense Security Command, a military intelligence unit, in the wake of revelations about its politicisation during the impeachment process last year of former president Park Geun-Hye. This scandal has roiled

Two cheers for the new Caspian convention

Demarcation of the Caspian Sea has been one of the longest lasting casualties of the disintegration of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Soviet collapse invalidated the 1940 Irano-Soviet treaty that had demarcated the rights of both countries regarding the Caspian Sea. Thus, after 1991

The struggle to conclude peace in Korea

The border separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily armed in the world. Surrounded by thickets of barbed wire, Korea’s misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches about 250 kilometres across the peninsula. It is monitored ceaselessly, a stark reminder of the

China takes on Hong Kong’s press club 

On Tuesday, the usually crowded Central district of Hong Kong, the very heart of the financial hub, experienced an unusual flare of tension. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club hosted an event featuring Andy Chan, the 27-year-old leader of a fringe party promoting Hong Kong independence from

The discord in the Korean peace process

Last week, the South Korean Blue House announced preparations for another  summit – what will be the third – between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un in the northern autumn. Both Seoul and Pyongyang have sent ministers to discuss topics

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

What next for China–Pakistan relations?

With Imran Khan poised to form a government in Pakistan, the policy his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will adopt towards China, especially the US$62 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is a focus of intense discussion.     China’s interests have special

CAC-handed: tensions in Chinese internet control

Facebook’s farcical entry into, and withdrawal from, the Chinese market in July appears to confirm a widely held view of the Chinese state’s power to police its online spaces. We like to think of China’s internet as not only bordered but also tightly controlled, subject to the

Taiwan’s small-power diplomacy

Since 1971, when the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2758 and recognised the People’s Republic of China as “the only legitimate representatives of China”, Taiwan has faced increasing challenges from Beijing that impact Taipei’s ability to maintain formal

Disappearing Deng

It started as soon as Xi Jinping had secured power over the party-state of China. First he was selected to head the Communist Party in November 2012, and then, in what was a mere formality, he was endorsed the following March as President of China. Along the way, he also became Chairman of the

Diplomacy in the post-broadcasting era

The Department of Communications is now reviewing submissions on the issue of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia-Pacific region. This is timely. As always, communicating Australia’s views and voices to the Asia-Pacific region is important. And, more than ever before, finding effective

The women taking on spycams in South Korea

One recent Saturday in August, in the middle of a heatwave with the temperature hitting 35 degrees, 70,000 women gathered in the streets of Seoul. The numbers were unprecedented, but the action wasn’t. They have been staging regular rallies since May, in what has been called the biggest recorded

The Belt and Road’s difficult embrace

This article is based on episode 26 of the Little Red Podcast, featuring Peter Cai of the Lowy Institute, Dirk van der Kley of the Australian National University, and Louisa Lim from the Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University. Last year my most decorated PhD student Colonel

Shinzo Abe’s road to be Japan’s longest serving PM

China’s Xi Jinping this year crafted a constitutional amendment removing the two five-year term limit on the presidency of China, essentially making himself China’s President for life. Around that time in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) carried out

Made in China 2025 and US–China power competition

While US President Donald Trump seems to be cosying up with the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin lately, his administration has wasted no time in upping the ante in its escalating trade war with China. At the moment, no one knows how this showdown might

The many ways to be Chinese Singaporean

About 76% of Singapore’s population are ethnically Chinese, making it the only majority-Chinese country outside of China, Taiwan, and the cities of Hong Kong and Macau. But as Amy Qin’s New York Times article on Chinese influence creeping into Singapore began circulating on social media,

Indonesia: speaking for rights

Last month, Amnesty International held a major press conference for the release of its first research report on Indonesia since opening a dedicated office in Jakarta. Representatives of all major local and international media outlets, including newswires, Al Jazeera, the ABC, and The Australian,

Malaysia: Mahathir navigates the region

Malaysia is not usually a country that comes to mind when one thinks of where the geopolitical initiative lies in the Asia-Pacific. That accolade goes first to China, of course, the rising power in the region, and second to Japan, the state most capable of leading any regional counter-initiative

What Kim Jong-un really wants hasn’t changed

The news that US and North Korean generals met for talks for the first time in nine years to discuss the possible repatriation of 200 American soldiers lost during the Korean War was a step in the right direction. While it’s true it has the appearance of giving North Korea added leverage

Timor and Australia: a new chapter or a stalemate?

Last week, an Australian leader visited Dili for the first time in five years. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spent 36 hours in Timor-Leste as part of a four-country diplomatic trip around Southeast Asia. The dispute over whether a pipeline should be built to transfer Greater Sunrise gas to the

Pakistan: the tough road ahead for Imran Khan

The first major challenge Imran Khan will face as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan is from the opposition parties. In the general elections, his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party managed to win 115 of 272 general seats in the National Assembly. This is short of the 137 seats needed

Wanted: Yingluck

Last month, Thailand’s military government sought the extradition of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from the UK. A year ago, Yingluck had been due in court to face charges of dereliction of duty while in office. She failed to show. She was found guilty in absentia and handed a five

Idols in South Korea and Japan

The music industries in Japan and South Korea are entwining. K-pop idols can successfully sell albums in Japan, and Japanese singers can join K-pop groups. However, in a reflection of national rivalries, there will always be friction between the two competing industries. K-pop has enjoyed a boom

An emerging Indo-Pacific infrastructure strategy

The reaction to this week’s announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of a US$113 million infrastructure fund is that it was more than a tad underwhelming. When set against potentially upwards of US$1 trillion in financing for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI

Beijing’s maritime gifts

China’s growing naval and paramilitary might receives daily attention. But what of China’s emerging role as a provider of capacity to coastal states in the Indo-Pacific? Improving their maritime domain awareness has traditionally been the preserve of the “Quad” countries: the US, Japan,

South Korea’s first “human rights president”

Moon Jae-In has been president of South Korea for fifteen months so far. On the whole, he is a marked improvement on his predecessor, Park Geun-Hye. President Park was, of course, impeached and removed. For that alone she will go down in the history books as a poor president. Bizarrely, Park

Economic diplomacy brief: infrastructure and trade

Three amigos If infrastructure building is the new Great Game in the Indo-Pacific, the question is whether this week’s developments represent a warm-up for the main match or the creation of a junior league. Some sort of cooperation between the US, Japan, and Australia to provide an

India: don’t blame WhatsApp for the lynch mobs

On 17 July, the Supreme Court of India was moved to condemn the recent spate of lynchings across the country as “horrendous acts of mobocracy … which cannot be allowed to become ‘the new normal’”. The justices had gone straight to the heart of the matter. The loss of so many innocent lives

ASEAN might not be the way

Former senior Australian diplomat Geoff Raby’s substantial article written for the Asia Society and reproduced in the Australian Financial Review this week continues his “realist” approach to discussion of Australia’s foreign policy choices. It’s another piece

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