Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 21:27 | SYDNEY
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Asia

China-US geopolitics in the age of corona

The coronavirus pandemic is a “black swan” moment: a rare and unpredictable event that could have momentous, system-wide, and unforeseen consequences. China deserves credit for having mobilised quickly, efficiently, and effectively after initial missteps to defeat the Covid-19 disease.

A political impasse in Timor-Leste as coronavirus looms

In late January, Timor-Leste’s governing alliance collapsed after the largest coalition party, Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT, abstained on the government budget, leading to the resignation of the Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak. By late February Gusmão revealed a new 34-seat majority coalition, which

Coronavirus and the threat to South Asian democracy

Like the rest of the world, much of South Asia’s 1.89 billion population is now under lockdown to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. While Western citizens can, for the most part, temporarily afford to follow preventive measures such as mandatory lockdown, social distancing, and self-

Philippines: Covid-19 will devastate the poor

Flaviano Villanueva was in tears last Thursday. It was day five of the “enhanced community quarantine” in Metro Manila, where the priest runs a homeless centre. The sprawling Philippine capital of 13 million people had been sealed off, and police and army troopers were guarding municipal

In India, praying the Covid away

Crises have a way of shining a penetrating light and exposing the fissures in a society – or conversely, the exact nature of what holds it together. It is something we are seeing right now, the world over. While India seems to have sidestepped the worst of the pandemic for now, what the crisis

Coronavirus and the Hong Kong protest movement

For authorities in both Hong Kong and in Beijing, there must be, in some circles, something of a sense of relief. The pro-democracy protests that defined 2019 had become a deadly hydra that was exhausting the resources and credibility of both governments. The enforced shutdown as a result of the

Is Singapore feeling safe enough to go to the polls?

As news of a global pandemic dominated headlines and pushed most other news off the agenda, another breaking news bomb was casually dropped in Singapore on 13 March: the release of new electoral boundaries for the upcoming election. Based on past experience, the release of the Electoral Boundaries

The future ain’t what it used to be

What do the East Timorese defence force, “clean coal”, women’s empowerment, and Kevin Rudd’s first-term government have in common? The answer is the year 2020. Back when 2020 felt like a halcyon time far-far away, this was the year that, respectively, the Government of Timor-Leste, the

Australia-Philippines: Prolonged partners

The announcement by the Duterte administration last month that it will terminate the 1998 Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement will likely also raise questions about the future of the Australia-Philippines political and security relationship. Australia and the US are the only two countries that

The Belt and Rebranding Initiative

China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI) continues to defy simple explanations. Initially used as a means to promote and frame the country’s key foreign policy initiatives, it has now morphed into somewhat of an umbrella term for all sorts of Chinese overseas activities. Is this development

Covid-19 will kill Moon Jae-in’s Korea détente

South Korea has become the country worst hit by the novel coronavirus outside of China, with numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases now more than 7500 and deaths more than 50. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has faced severe criticism in recent weeks for his handling of the virus ­– an online

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 “

On the Mekong, Khon Pi rapids saved – for now

Just over a year ago, I reported on the uncertain future of the Khon Pi rapids, located near the Thai town of Chiang Khong and lying in the riverbed between Thailand and Laos. At issue was the desire of a Chinese company to blast the rapids and thus open the course of the Mekong for commercial

The curious case of the US Sri Lanka sanctions

In February, the United States imposed individual sanctions against Sri Lankan military chief Shavendra Silva, who is presently both the Acting Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army. The move essentially means that Silva and his family cannot enter the United States “due to

Who will be the 21st century’s rule maker?

Mike Mazarr and I are debating the way Asia will be “governed” in future. That term needs to be placed in quote marks because international affairs aren’t analogous to domestic politics – there is no supreme sovereign authority with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, so states

Philippines: When democracies hit midlife crisis

Democracy in the Philippines turned 34 last week. The nation commemorated the peaceful mass demonstration that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power. A group of protesters wore facemasks to protect themselves from the “Duterte virus” infecting the majority of Filipinos who

Malaysia is now in uncharted waters

As Malaysians reeled from the sudden downfall of Mahathir Mohamad, the appointment of Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister, and the return of the former ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, of equal significance is the entry of the Islamist Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) into the government. PAS

Stirring hatreds ahead of Myanmar elections

Ethnic and religious nationalism has increasingly gripped Myanmar since intercommunal violence broke out between Burmese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in 2012. Viral disinformation, including videos of alleged terrorist attacks and anti-Rohingya propaganda linked to military accounts, has spread on

India’s reckless rush to ruin

On a cold winter’s morning in November 1984, after travelling nearly 48 hours from the south of India, I stepped off a train in New Delhi. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, and the capital had become the epicentre of one of the most violent pogroms in

In Afghanistan, peace or fragmentation?

A sense of déjà vu prevails in Afghanistan – it’s 2014 again. Only this time, a possible lasting peace is at stake. Hot on the heels of a US-Taliban agreement to trial a seven-day “reduction in violence”, Afghanistan’s political order faces its worst political and constitutional crisis

South Korea’s struggle with coronavirus

South Korea now has the second worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, surpassed only by China. More than 1100 people are infected, and seven have died. Unsurprisingly the political fallout is widening. The media coverage is getting sensational. Everyone has watched too many movies, and even South

Singapore: Hedging with hope

Geography has been kind to Singapore. The city state is perched on the edge of Eurasia’s vast landmass, with a commanding view over the opening to the Strait of Malacca, one of the global economy’s pulsing arteries. Today visitors to its shoreline will see a flotilla of container ships and oil

Maluku: Obscure and notorious

We were 45 metres up, precariously perched on a platform in the rainforest canopy, looking north towards West Papua as the early morning mist cleared to reveal the shimmering coastline. “They arrested him near the waterfall, just on the other side of the valley over there,” said Pak Johan. He

Japan: Article 9 conundrum rears its head again

The last day in September in 2021 will mark the end of the current term for Abe Shinzo as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and Prime Minister of Japan. Due to LDP policy that a president cannot serve more than three consecutive terms, the next 18 months will most likely be Abe’s

A US-Taliban deal: What price for peace?

Albert Einstein warned humanity to beware of rotten compromises. Philosopher Avishai Margalit sought to explain this warning in an entire book. With the US and the Taliban poised to sign a peace agreement, now more than ever is the time to be wary of a “rotten compromise” on Afghanistan.

China’s counteroffensive in the war of ideas

From Beijing's perspective, political influence operations are at least as important as military operations, if not more so. Although the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) military modernisation programs have been at the centre of attention for decades, China's influence operations have only

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