Saturday 04 Dec 2021 | 18:13 | SYDNEY
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Regulate against the machine

Book review: We, the Robots? Regulating Artificial Intelligence and the Limits of the Law, by Simon Chesterman (Cambridge University Press, 2021) From Tesla’s self-driving cars that can comfort your dog, to OpenAI’s large language model that writes decent essays and code, more and more

9/11: A President reacts on a day of fear and anger

Twenty years on, there are many different ways to remember 9/11. Many rightly focus on the families of the victims, as Jennifer Senior does in her remarkable article in The Atlantic describing the way grief echoed through the lives of a single family. The Lowy Institute has released a new

Debating the alliance

Book review: Emma Shortis, Our Exceptional Friend: Australia’s Fatal Alliance with the United States (Hardie Grant, 2021) Depending on your perspective, Australia’s China debate might be relatively sophisticated, or resemble shell-churned ground in a war zone. Either way, it’s noisy and

Why politics and pandemics don’t mix

Book review: Michael Lewis The Premonition: A Pandemic Story (W. W. Norton & Company, 2021) Way back in October 2019, before most anyone had heard of Covid-19, a group of experts from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and The Economist Intelligence

China debate not just a matter of hawks and doves

Book Reviews  Peter Hartcher Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future (Black Inc., 2021)David Brophy China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering (La Trobe University Press, 2021) If you wanted to give a political outsider a sense of

Defending the liberal international order

Book review: G. John Ikenberry A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (Yale University Press, 2020) Big ideas about how the world works, and how it should work, are getting more attention as old assumptions are jolted by the pandemic, the Trump

An unwelcome wake up call

Australia’s chief spy-catcher revealed in March that a “nest” of foreign agents had infiltrated the community – chasing secrets, cultivating local politicians, and monitoring “their country’s diaspora”. But before anyone could cry “China”, the ASIO boss was quick to add that this

Putting the pandemic in perspective

Book Review: Fareed Zakaria, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World (Penguin, 2021) Perhaps the most original contribution of Fareed Zakaria’s new book Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World is his “general theory” of Covid-19. Zakaria looks back 20 years to the political

America and China: Imagining the worst

Book Review: Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (Penguin 2021) The book begins with a clash in the South China Sea – an imagined conflict, this being a work of fiction, but the authors explain having felt compelled to write because, in the tradition of

Ordinary Nazis

Book review: Robert Gellately, Hitler’s True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2020) In the end, it was all about The Idea. Thus, the historian Robert Gellately explains why so many Germans passionately attached themselves to National Socialism. In

The greening of Bill Gates

Book review: Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Penguin 2021) One of the more significant aspects of Bill Gates’ How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the simple fact that he wrote it. After all, amid all of the significant work done by the Gates Foundation, it is hard not to

The Belt and Road, and the pandemic detour

Book review: Daniel Drache, A.T. Kingsmith and Duan Qi, One Road, Many Dreams: China’s Bold Plan to Remake the Global Economy (London, Bloomsbury, 2019). The economic fallout of the pandemic has been global, but not equal. If the often-necessary lockdowns have uniformly resulted in economic

Her brilliant career

Book review: Sue Boyd, Not Always Diplomatic: An Australian Woman’s Journey Through International Affairs (University of Western Australia Press, 2020) I first met Sue Boyd in Hanoi, where she was Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam. She was an intriguing figure, combining a razor-sharp

Book review: The Ministry for the Future

Book review: Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future (Hachette, 2020) The Ministry for the Future is a novel set in the near future which describes the disastrous consequences of a warming planet and the steps humanity takes to mitigate them. It is ultimately an optimistic story about

Favourites of 2020: Women make excellent spies

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on more recommendations and reflections. Okay, so 2020 wasn’t exactly a favourite year. I did learn how to bake a nice sourdough during

Favourites of 2020: Love on the Spectrum

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Love on the Spectrum is a documentary series

Favourites of 2020: Evil Geniuses

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Long before a certain New York real estate developer

Favourites of 2020: The moral ambiguity of spying

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Like the best spy novels, Lauren Wilkinson’s

Favourites of 2020: Homeland Elegies

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. The world has observed the United States under the

The wrong side won: Remembering John le Carré

The verdict of John le Carré (real name David Cornwall) on the outcome of the Cold War was: “The right side lost, but the wrong side won”. This ambiguous conclusion is attributed to le Carré’s favourite character, George Smiley, in his novel The Secret Pilgrim, but it is an unmistakable

Favourites of 2020: Capturing a precarious moment

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. A few years ago on a flight from New Delhi to Rome, I

Favourites of 2020: A lockdown loaf

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. A year like no other. From global pandemics to climate

Where America finds itself

“Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,” said the 17th-century French aphorist François de La Rochefoucauld. He might have added, had it existed at the time, the United States of America. No country, with the possible exception of China, has played as large a role as a symbol

Favourites of 2020: Minister of Finance Incorporated

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. There are few occasions in life when my “2020 books read” spreadsheet

Favourites of 2020: The politics of Tiger King

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. It seems like an eternity ago now, but it was only eight months ago that Tiger

Favourites of 2020: Memes

We debated whether “favourites” was really the right word for 2020. But given it’s been a tumultuous year, we figured a little consistency wouldn’t hurt for our end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors again offer their favourite books, articles, films

The safeguards in Australia’s intelligence ecosystem

Book Review: Peter Edwards, Law, Politics and Intelligence: A Life of Robert Hope (UNSW Press, 2020) It is the frustrating lot of members of the intelligence community in a liberal democracy to suffer the alarums raised by habitual conspiracy theorists, the slings and arrows of outrageous

Book review: The China bubble that never pops

Book review: Thomas Orlik China: The Bubble that Never Pops (Oxford University Press, 2020) Way back in 2001, Gordon Chang wrote a book entitled The Coming Collapse of China. Western analysts of China have been predicting a crisis ever since. Among the many concerns have been China’s massive

The false promise of regime change

Book review: Philip H. Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press 2020) Philip H. Gordon, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East during the Barack Obama administration, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

Book Review: Where borders aren’t always badlands

Book review: Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb (eds) Too Close to Ignore (Melbourne University Press, 2020) Borders have been in the news in Australia, with the novel if frustrating experience of interstate pandemic restrictions leaving residents unable to cross previously free borders to access

Book Review: The seeds of authoritarianism

Book review: Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (Doubleday 2020) If democracy is the guiding light of a civilised world, wherefore that world if the light is flickering? This is the premise of Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy. And as the title

Book review: “The false promise of liberal order”

Book review: Patrick Porter, The False Promise of Liberal Order: Nostalgia, Delusion and the Rise of Trump (Polity Press, 2020) A familiar response to the growing global disorder has been to lament the demise of the liberal or “rules–based” international order and to call for its restoration

Book review: Superpower showdown

Book Review: Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War (HarperCollins, 2020). Global relations are undergoing a dramatic shift. China is increasingly assertive internationally and repressive domestically. Examples of its brashness

Book review: The memory of a massacre in Thailand

Book review: Thongchai Winichakul, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (University of Hawaii Press, 2020) In the early hours of 6 October 1976, Thai police and right-wing thugs laid siege to Thammasat University in Bangkok, where thousands of

Book review: The making of Putin’s Russia

Book Review: Catherine Belton, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (HarperCollins, 2020) Last week, the Russian people voted to approve a constitutional amendment that resets the count on presidential term limits. President Vladimir Putin served his first

Book review: What’s holding China’s economy back?

Book Review: Dexter Roberts The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World (St Martin’s Press, 2020) With the US, Brazil and many European countries struggling to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, China seems to be emerging as an even greater economic and

Book review: The Indo-Pacific contest

Napoleon was prescient in that he said when China “wakes she will shake the world”. In the space of four decades, China has built up the world’s largest economy in purchasing power parity terms. It is the largest trading partner of virtually all of its neighbours. It has become a

Books for self-isolation: Revisiting Why Nations Fail

Ed’s note: In response to a call on The Interpreter for reading suggestions in the event of a stint in Covid-19 related quarantine, Scott Robinson wrote that he’d recently revisited Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. “I feel that we often forget the lessons of this

Book review: Contest for the Indo-Pacific

Book Review: Rory Medcalf Contest for the Indo-Pacific: Why China Won't Map the Future (La Trobe University Press, 2020) The first point that emerges from Rory Medcalf’s Contest for the Indo-Pacific is that in its origins, the Indo-Pacific concept was essentially a descriptive device – a “

Book review: Where Power Stops

Book review: David Runciman Where Power Stops, The Making and Unmaking of Presidents and Prime Ministers (Allen and Unwin, 2019) It’s an odd feeling to enjoy a book and the questions it asks, but to then be hesitant to recommend it. Where Power Stops, The Making and Unmaking of Presidents and

Book review: A very private enterprise

Book Review: Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America, by Christopher Leonard (Simon & Schuster, 2019) Kochland tells the astonishing story of Charles and David Koch, known simply as the Koch brothers. Charles, who might be described as a modern-day

Book review: Betraying Big Brother

Book review: Leta Hong Fincher, Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China (Verso, 2018) In China, a country of contradictions, a feminist movement emerged when women connected with each other using technology and social media. Through interviews with young women, and in

Favourites of 2019: Babylon Berlin

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. There are perks to being unfashionably behind the cultural curve. By letting new shows, books and tech percolate in the court of public opinion for a few

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