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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

Working one for the planet

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and impotent in the face of the manifold problems that currently confront the world. Pandemics, persistent poverty, great power rivalry, not to mention the spectre of runaway climate change (which will undoubtedly make all of the above worse and possibly trigger the

What is Turkey’s endgame in Libya?

Turkey’s reimagining of the Pax Ottomana has not made many friends in the region, and it currently finds itself at odds with Egypt, UAE and Greece to name a few. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made very clear his ambition that Turkey will be a leader in the Mediterranean and in

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

Diego Garcia: The US has a clear choice

Mauritius is the legitimate sovereign over the Chagos Archipelago, including the island of Diego Garcia, which hosts an important US military base in the Indo-Pacific region. The government of Mauritius has publicly announced its willingness to enter into an agreement that would preserve the base,

World order in the time of coronavirus

The liberal order faces its greatest crisis since the end of the Cold War. Liberalism is in retreat around the world. The United States is led by a president whose America-first realpolitik contradicts the very idea of rules-based governance. Europe has seen the rise of “illiberal democracies”.

Chinese dams and the Mekong drought

The latest reports from the Lower Mekong Basin are cause for growing concern that another period of drought will succeed that of 2019, affecting Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Expected rainfall from late May through June and July has not arrived, and the level of water flowing in the river is

The most important American election ever?

When Donald Trump and Joe Biden compete for the American presidency in November, it may prove to be the most consequential election the world has ever seen. Yes – that is a bit hyperbolic, but let’s consider what’s at stake. First, it’s not entirely certain that Trump will lose, despite

A force to combat climate change?

The Defence Strategic Update 2020 has provoked a significant amount of debate in Australia. The reaction across the Tasman in New Zealand has been much more subdued, but Defence Minister Ron Mark reportedly suggested that increases in Australian capability would increase the ability to respond to

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

COVIDcast: The future of globalisation

In this episode of COVIDcast, Roland Rajah, Lowy Institute lead economist, sat down with Pascal Lamy to discuss the future of globalisation. Lamy has served at the peak of global trade and economic governance. He was the Director-General of the World Trade Organization for 8 years, from 2005 to 2013

Finding compromise in the Chagos Islands saga

The Chagos Archipelago of 54 islands, formerly administered as a dependency of the British Colony of Mauritius, was excised from Mauritius by the UK in 1965, three years before independence. It was renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and its inhabitants (about 1500 people) were

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

Australia’s shifting mood on climate change

At the beginning of 2020, Australia’s national conversation was dominated by the catastrophic bushfires raging throughout the country. The fires killed at least 34 people, burned through more than 11 million hectares and destroyed nearly 6000 buildings. In March, the first scientific assessment of

Australia-UK trade agreement: Good, boring policy

Australia and the UK kicked off free trade agreement negotiations on 17 June to speeches and video presentations so triumphant as to border on self-parody. Yet for all the pageantry and scorn, a trade deal between Australia and the UK is fundamentally a commonsense policy that warrants neither

Closing the book on Asia

This is not a propitious time to proclaim to the world that Australians are not interested in India, Japan, Korea and all the nations of mainland Southeast Asia. That, however, is what the National Library of Australia has done by announcing it will stop its systematic collecting of materials about

Climate change makes Covid-19 politics look easy

Covid-19 has been an extremely difficult challenge for national policymakers. If policy and politics are about managing competing interests and prioritising different constituencies, the varied national Covid-19 responses point to the acute challenges of getting this balance right. How do we

In India and Africa, women farmers lack land rights

In October 2016, women from across the African continent met at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with a charter of demands pushing for women’s right to use, control, own, inherit and dispose land. The Women2Kilimanjaro hike’s demand for more inclusive land rights proved not to be in

Mauritius, Diego Garcia and the small matter of nukes

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is a key part of the US global military network. The dispute over sovereignty of Diego Garcia is heating up, with the UK coming under increasing pressure to cede it to Mauritius. Mauritius has indicated that if it regained control over Diego Garcia, it would allow

Bob May – Professor of Everything

I have known two “professors of everything”: George Seddon and Robert May. Seddon, who ended his days in Fremantle, Western Australia, had chairs in geology, English, environment, and philosophy. The connection, he told me, was language. May’s fields were chemical engineering, physics, maths,

As Africa prepares to fight Covid-19, China steps up

As China slowly begins to recover from Covid-19 and re-start its economy, it is seeking to position itself at the head of the global virus response and fill the void in humanitarian assistance created by Western paralysis. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where China has a long history

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

Lockdown: A dilemma for the economic optimists

Everyone – including economists themselves – jokes about economic forecasting failures. But the intrinsic difficulties are compounded for the international economic agencies, especially the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Their

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

Limiting the global economic fallout from Covid-19

Panic has now set in over the Covid-19 global pandemic. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly, especially in Europe and the US, and severe public-health measures are being put in place and are set to intensify. At the same time, economic policymakers are deploying their own emergency policy responses

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 “

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