Monday 16 Sep 2019 | 03:57 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Not such a great game

Staying true to his reputation for unpredictability, US President Donald Trump suddenly called off the Afghanistan peace negotiations with the Taliban last Saturday – a major policy decision announced, predictably, in a tweet. Trump cited continued Taliban attacks on US personnel as the reason for

Why did the NZ Opposition Leader jump the shark on China?

One day (well, on 20 May of this year, to be precise) as Opposition Leader you’re launching a discussion document on your party’s international policies. “National’s positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values,” you say. Those values are rooted in our country

Cat videos meet Big Brother

As digital technology and information become more sophisticated, so does the Chinese internet and the ways in which it influences its people’s behaviour. It has established a “closed loop” of state media, homegrown internet companies, and censorship – blocking access to foreign platforms and

The Amazing Race flies into North Korea

Even as tensions between the United States and North Korea remain high ­– North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui recently berated the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for describing Pyongyang’s behaviour as “rogue” ­– the North Korean charm offensive is still in full

Why the US and its allies should keep ASEAN at the centre

Southeast Asia is a region crucial to China, the geography creating what is known as the “Malacca Strait dilemma” – a strategic chokepoint located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, it provides China with its shortest maritime access to Europe, Africa, and the

Narendra Modi, frequent flyer

During Narendra Modi’s first five years in office, the Indian prime minister made 93 foreign visits, equalling the number of trips his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, made over an entire decade. At an average of more than 18 visits every year, Modi also travelled far more than his counterparts. In

A fugitive preacher ignites controversy in Malaysia

Zakir Naik is an Indian preacher of Islam who currently calls Malaysia home. Described by the Washington Post as a “rock star of tele-evangelism”, he is also a fugitive, having evaded law enforcement in his home country of India since July 2016, when he fled the country within hours of bombers

Pressure upon pressure builds around Kashmir

The political talk in South Asia at this moment is reminiscent of the 1990s. The Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and conflict is escalating between India and Pakistan in a seething Kashmir region. There is even debate on the potential use of nuclear weapons amid India-Pakistan crises ­–

How the people of Timor‑Leste feel about security

Last week, Dili polished itself up and played host to visiting government officials from more than 20 countries, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison from Australia, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s vote for independence on 30 August 1999. As the excitement and gravitas

Can Japan catch up in the economic scramble for Africa?

Recently, China entered the market as an exporter of used cars overseas. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce revealed the populous African nation of Nigeria as one of the destinations for 300 cars in the first batch of freight. The vehicles included brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai,

In Java, the water is running out

Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents. For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has

Timor-Leste’s future still shadowed by the past

There are 100,000 people tonight in Tasi Tolu, a wide, flat, dusty expanse on Dili’s outskirts, near the capital’s western bus terminal, with enough space to fit all those coming to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s vote for independence. Inside, grandstand seating is set up

A light amid the gloom of the US-China trade war

Despite an optimistic bounce in global financial markets Friday, the relentless trade war between the US and China resumed Sunday. Threatened 15% tariffs by the US on another $250 billion of China imports went into effect Sunday morning, as did new China tariffs on US crude oil, soybeans and

The intractable mess in Jammu and Kashmir

It is impossible to know what is actually happening in Kashmir. Since 4 August, Indian forces have effectively incarcerated the region, with people kept indoors and more than 1600 “social activists” detained. Communications to, and in, the Kashmir Valley have been severed. There have been no

The Philippine standoff over China

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to arrive in China on Wednesday for his fifth presidential visit to China in less than three years. His predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III, made only one trip to China, in 2011. China is Duterte’s most visited presidential destination.

Dengue spirals out of control in the Philippines

The recent declaration of a national dengue fever epidemic in the Philippines has sounded a public-health alarm in the Western Pacific, as cases of the tropical virus continue to rise throughout the region. The statement by the Philippines Department of Health earlier this month follows a

Deep fakes could have real consequences for Southeast Asia

In Malaysia, a sex-tape scandal engulfing the country in recent months has threatened to destabilise the governing coalition. While the tape has been determined by the police to be authentic, and not a forgery, it is still questioned in some quarters. The truth of the video itself is a point of

A middle-power moment

“Small states like Singapore can do little to influence the big powers, but we are not entirely without agency.” When Lee Hsien Loong delivered his keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue back in June, his pragmatism over great-power competition surprised many (some more pleasantly than others). But

Modi vs Wild: Political survivor

One, a rugged survivalist with a penchant for striding through dangerous terrain, accompanied only by a television crew. The other, the man who holds the hearts, minds, and fates of 1.2 billion people in his clenched fists. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not have a clearly articulated

In Malaysia, flipping over the script

When Sin Chew Daily, the largest Chinese daily in Malaysia, recently headlined a Ministry of Education proposal to introduce a few pages of calligraphy in the Malay-language textbook for Chinese and Tamil vernacular primary schools, the backlash was immediate. The reaction went all the way up to

Houses divided

Many of The Interpreter’s readers are experts on the theory and conduct of international relations. So, quite reasonably, they look at armed conflict through the lens of inter-state relations, where one state resorts to the use (or the threat of use) of armed force to prevail over another. For

Hong Kong: popular protests, live-streamed

On Sunday, more than 1.7 million Hongkongers braved torrential rain for yet another massive and peaceful rally. The astonishing size of the turnout might have caught some people off-guard, especially those who believed that the movement has already lost its public support after violent clashes among

All may not be smooth along China’s Digital Silk Road

Make no mistake about China’s vast and continuous trajectory of technological expansionism. Even as the US aims to ring-fence Huawei’s reach into the US and overseas consumer markets, a “digital silk road” paved by Chinese tech giants has long been built to span from the Asia-

Narendra Modi’s nudge diplomacy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech last week from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi to mark India’s Independence Day carefully delineated his new strategic and foreign policy in the region. We can call this “nudge diplomacy”, and it stands in stark contrast to the more assertive

Japan’s imperial ghosts lurk well beyond Korea

Friction between South Korea and Japan has intensified in recent months, with serious implications ­in the economic and security realms. Tokyo has taken steps to impose export restrictions targeting key industries in South Korea, to which Seoul has responded with a widespread boycott of Japanese

Indonesia should put more energy into renewable power

Air pollution is worsening in Jakarta and West Java, while tens of millions of people experienced a day-long blackout earlier this month after gas-powered electricity generators failed and significant proportions of eastern Indonesia have do not have reliable power supplies. So why does Indonesia

Timor-Leste, 20 years on

This month, Timor-Leste is in a festive mood, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its independence referendum. On 30 August 1999, the people of Timor-Leste cast their ballots in a United Nations–administered popular consultation to determine the fate of the country, with 78.5% voting to separate

The Vanguard Bank standoff shows China remains undeterred

Tensions have risen once again in the South China Sea. For weeks, Chinese and Vietnamese coastguard vessels have been involved in a confrontation after the Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 (HD8) entered waters near the Vietnam-controlled Vanguard Bank on 3 July. The incident has upset both Hanoi

Indonesia: the injustice system

It has been a rough few months for Indonesia’s already beleaguered legal system: two cases, alike yet different, highlighting how minority groups continue to be disenfranchised across the archipelago nation.  In May, Meliana, a Chinese-Indonesian Buddhist was released on parole, having

Does Chinese aid make Australians more generous?

China is changing the way Australia’s political elites think about aid. Chinese aid to the Pacific isn’t new, but in recent years, “China the aid donor” has become an unavoidable presence. In response, the Australian government is increasing the Pacific focus of its aid programs. It has also

Hong Kong Protest City: Podcast out now

In the latest episode of the Lowy Institute’s new half-hour podcast, Rules Based Audio, I’m talking to Lowy Institute Research Fellow Ben Bland and Hong Kong-based Financial Times journalist Primrose Riordan about the roots of the ongoing political unrest in the city, and where it

The (other) continent we can’t defend

For all the back-and-forth Hugh White has generated with his latest book, How to Defend Australia, in a national preoccupation with the China question, little serious discussion has been devoted to how to defend Australia’s southern front and cope with China’s increasing Antarctic footprint.

In Myanmar, a unity still out of reach

In January 2018, the Arakan Army, the newest ethnic-based militia in Myanmar, released a video on YouTube and elsewhere of its cadres kitted out in camouflage, armed with modern weapons, and looking extremely disciplined. “The Arakan Army are soldiers from the indigenous population of Arakan

Is North Korea still interested in working-level talks?

Barely a month after the historic handshake at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), North Korea returned to provocations by unveiling its new “strategic” ballistic missile submarine and testing short-range ballistic missiles. US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un had

The backlash to “brownface” in Singapore

Singapore is often touted as a modern marvel, an Asian Tiger with an enviable economy and a post-independence history that has been free of racial and religious tensions. It is considered a multiracial success that should be emulated by other countries with diverse populations. Underneath the

Down and out in Dhaka

Bangladesh is certainly not in a happy state these days. With more than 21,000 people falling prey to dengue fever in Dhaka, and the epidemic rippling out to wider regions of the country, authorities are simply unable to contain the problem. The city corporations in the capital – there are two

Pacific islands stand ground on West Papua push

One of the criticisms of the Pacific Islands Forum over the years relates to the regional grouping’s limited ability to advance its agenda in the face of the interests of Australia and New Zealand. The power imbalance hasn’t always made for a cohesive regionalism. Yet it’s worth noting a

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