Tuesday 07 Apr 2020 | 09:22 | SYDNEY
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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.

Joe Biden and the ghosts of elections past

Back in 2008, the Democrats were excited about Senator Barack Obama’s run for US President, but he was also perceived as a newcomer and a change agent. When Senator Joe Biden – who first ran for President in 1988 – agreed to sign on as Obama’s nominee for Vice President, he provided a

Iran: Sanctions vs sympathy

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up some serious moral questions for society, including ones to do with decisions on treatment priorities for health workers under severe pressure. But another moral issue has arisen in the international relations field – in the midst of a pandemic, how appropriate

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

Elizabeth Warren is far from finished

On Thursday afternoon in Boston this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren stood in front of her home with her husband Bruce Mann and dog Bailey to announce that she would be dropping out of the 2020 US presidential race. This outcome hardly seemed likely just five months ago, when Warren was leading the

Power and legitimacy go hand in hand

I was delighted to read Sam Roggeveen’s thoughtful reply to The Interpreter article by Ali Wyne and myself about the relative qualities of US and Chinese power. Roggeveen makes good points; I agree, for example, that US military power has been critical to the post-war order. But I remain convinced

Pushing the Philippines‑US alliance over the cliff

The termination of the 1998 Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) initiated by the Duterte administration will mark a historic disruption of American power projection in the Asia-Pacific, and deal a serious blow to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea–based maritime order

In Africa, the US plays catch-up with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced his first trip to Africa, 15–19 February, with stops in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Angola. The choice of these three countries demonstrates that the US remains focused on security and economic investment issues in Africa, and, in the case of Angola, is

Trump impeachment: The aftermath

Last week late on Wednesday afternoon, the 134-day impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump ended with a near party-line vote in the Senate in favor of acquittal. While few ever doubted this outcome, there were times when it seemed possible that three or four Republican Senators

Trump’s White House: State of chaos

The State of the Union, the US president’s annual speech before a joint session of congress, is invariably a theatrical affair, replete with praise for a string of everyday heroes and inspiring figures. Superlatives being the order of the day, the State of the Union is a perfect vehicle for

A new ambassador in Washington

Joe Hockey, former Treasurer, has stepped down as Australia’s ambassador to the United States and will soon be replaced by another former cabinet minister, Arthur Sinodinos. In bureaucracies, changes in personnel should not matter, but in this instance the change will be palpable. The new

Trump’s State of the Union: A preview

Next Tuesday night, US President Donald Trump will deliver America’s annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives combined. The address descends from a requirement in Article II, section 3 of the US Constitution. Until Woodrow

Russia makes its presence known in Iran crisis

Recent revelations make it clear that Iran’s willingness to confront the US following the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was not driven just by a mix of domestic considerations and a compelling desire to retaliate. Iran’s bluntly open challenge to the US may have been

Trump walks away clean from Soleimani fallout

The US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani dominated the political discussion in Washington last week. President Trump’s decision to target Soleimani – an escalatory move in the ongoing confrontation with Iran – was an unexpected development. The conventional wisdom was

Ending Iran’s regional ransom

Criticism of Donald Trump’s brazen assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani has rightly focussed on the unprecedented nature of the killing and the escalation in the conflict between the two countries it presents.  Imaginations have run wild with the scale and horrors

North Korea’s ambiguous New Year message

Christmas and New Year came and went without a bang on the Korean peninsula, even though North Korea had warned of a “Christmas gift” for the United States and the horrendous consequences of missing its arbitrarily set “end-of-year” deadline in the months before. Despite its series of

“Maximum pressure” demands diplomatic off-ramps

With Donald Trump facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and a tough re-election battle, some US rivals see the president as politically weakened, risk-averse in exerting military pressure, and incapable of delivering on diplomatic commitments. The American drone strike killing General Qassim

Will Trump win big from killing Soleimani?

In assessing the consequences of President Donald Trump’s assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, the key is the Iraqi government’s reaction. The Iraqi parliament’s resolution overnight demanding expulsion of the US military

Best of The Interpreter 2019: The Trump Circus

The Trump administration rolled into 2019 poised to continue its high-wire act balancing the US president’s penchant for “alternative facts” and rapid-fire contradiction against the actual fact of America’s diminishing influence around the world. After mid-term elections in

US-China trade deal, phase one done: Now what?

It may go awry between now and the promised finalisation in January, but both the US and China now agree that phase one of the most difficult bilateral economic negotiation in recent decades is over. Unusually for this negotiation, the two sides also seem to agree on what they have agreed – at

A good week in Washington

We have become conditioned during the Trump era to view most of what happens in Washington – positive or negative – as cause for despair. Each time the ball is moved forward on some issue, we remind ourselves that we live in a post-truth world that is filling up with dictators, and Americans are

Favourites of 2019: When They See Us

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. I moved into an apartment near New York’s Central Park in 1989 at the height of the hysteria over what became known as the Central Park jogger case, or more

Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy reorientation

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is changing South Korean foreign policy. He has allowed Seoul’s relationship with the United States and Japan to deteriorate while betting heavily that North Korea would embrace his détente effort. This risks isolating South Korea, and the conservative pushback

Time with Trump: Australia and Southeast Asia compared

Over the last two years, US President Donald Trump has made two trips to Southeast Asia and none to Australia. Despite this, according to White House media notifications, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, each engaged more with Trump than the ten leaders of

China-US trade war: For all the bark, not much bite

It is now nearly 17 months since the Trump administration began collecting 25% tariffs on the first tranche of Chinese imports to the US – time enough to evaluate the economic impact the trade war so far. That impact? Surprisingly little. It is certainly true that comparing the first nine

Book review: China, the US, and the big break

Book review: Paul Blustein: Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System (CIGI Press, 2019) Paul Blustein has produced an enviable bookshelf of behind-the-scenes reportage on international economic institutions, both as a journalist (for The Washington Post and The

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