Monday 26 Sep 2022 | 03:29 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Burma: After the elections, what?

Andrew Selth is a Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and author of Civil-Military Relations in Burma: Portents, Predictions and Possibilities. If all goes according to plan, on 7 November Burma's ruling council will hold nation-wide elections for what it is calling a 'genuine

Australia, Indonesia junior partner

Malcolm Cook recently took me to task for my excessively realist take on Indonesia. The essence of his argument was, 'Why should Australia be worried about an Indonesia that is democratic and prosperous, Washington-aligned, and has a powerful navy and air force'' Well, why indeed. It's a really

East Timor: Shots across the bow

There would seem to be a few pre-emptive warning shots in the speech delivered today by East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone for China's latest aid project, the Ministry of Defence Headquarters. Firstly, to Australia: '...there

Is Japan just a middle power now?

Japan spent the 19th and 20th centuries coming to terms with the West. Now Japan must spend the 21st century adapting itself to Asia. It was quintessentially Japanese that its academics in recent decades could debate the issue of whether the country was actually Asian. The discussion captured

5-minute Lowy Lunch: China limits

Professor Robert Sutter, from the Asian Studies Department at Georgetown University, is visiting Australia, and he detects a deep concern about China in our national mood. In his Wednesday lunch address to the Lowy Insitute, Professor Sutter gave his reasons for thinking that there are some&

China doesn't need Australia help

Thanks to Shen Dingli for his provocative post on the PRC's claims in the South China Sea and Taiwan, and what role Australia can play. As one would expect, it repeats the long-held PRC advice to Canberra that the best way for Australia to engage in Asia is to differentiate itself from the

South China Sea: The UN or the region?

China's declaration of its 'core interest' in the South China Sea is forcing ASEAN to re-evaluate its tactics in negotiating with Beijing. ASEAN wants to bring China back to the terms of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed in 2002. But if China continues to

China regional relations: Australia can help

Professor Shen Dingli is Executive Vice Dean of the Institute of International Affairs, Fudan University, Shanghai. He is one of China's most prominent security commentators, and has written for the Lowy Institute on nuclear arms control. Prime Minister Julia Gillard used 'Yes, we will' to

Postcard from Burma

Thom Woodroofe, 21, was the 2009 Young Victorian of the Year and founder of Left Right Think Tank. Last Friday I landed in Burma as the ruling military junta announced a national election would be held on 7 November. The following weekend, I met a senior military enlisted soldier who

Cheonan capers

With the election looming, Australia's focus is mostly inward. But developments in our region point to significant changes – changes which could reshape Australia's future security and prosperity. As Rory Medcalf has pointed out, few of these are as significant as the great power arm-wrestle

The sounds of Aceh today

Aaron Connelly is a Fulbright scholar and visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta. He visited Banda Aceh for The Interpreter; earlier posts here, here and here. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami changed the dynamics of the separatist conflict between the

Scoop: ASEAN divide on US

In the journalist universe, confidential papers used to be passed over in plain envelopes or 'fall off the back of trucks'. These days, they just drop into the digital inbox. Less colourful, but just as interesting. So it is that we can share with you in some detail the internal ASEAN debate

South China Sea: Spot the difference

In his review of yesterday's foreign policy debate, Rory Medcalf noticed something odd about Foreign Minister Smith's remarks on the South China Sea: Smith's remark that he had personally aired concerns to the PLA about China's behaviour in the South China Sea was welcome. His suggestion that

Fiji and China: Besties?

In today's Age, Dan Flitton reports statements from Fiji's dictator Frank Bainimarama that he wants to ditch ties with Australia and New Zealand in favour of China. While China tried to make a big splash in Fiji right after the coup, promising to deliver over $US160 million in grants and soft

Tension mounts in 'post-recovery' Aceh

Aaron Connelly is a Fulbright scholar and visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta. He visited Banda Aceh for The Interpreter; earlier posts here and here. No city in Indonesia looks quite so new and put-together as Banda Aceh does today. The commercial

Australia-China: Curb your enthusiasm

What to make of this story in today's Sydney Morning Herald claiming a great leap forward in Australia's defence ties with China' This could be good news, if true. As a trading power, China has a stake in the security of the global commons, such as sea lanes — a reason that

Around the Shanghai Expo: Palestinian Pavilion

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. His previous posts, by pavilion: Britain, Iran, Afghanistan, DPRK, Pakistan, Australia. I failed to ask where the money for the site came from, but it seemed clear from the life-size pictures of Yassir Arafat and

Around the Shanghai Expo: Australian Pavilion

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. His previous posts, by pavilion: Britain, Iran, Afghanistan, DPRK, Pakistan. And so onto the Australian Pavilion, which I was told the Chinese were not impressed by, as its dull brown color made it look old. (

Infrastructure: The Beijing way?

I sympathise with Mark Thirlwell's frustration. It's weird that an urgently needed debate about Australia's infrastructure woes has been diverted into a discussion about migration. But Australians shouldn't be too hard on themselves. To illustrate why, here's an exchange on last weekend's ABC

Australia-Japan: The damage done

For the last three years, I have been involved in an on-off blog debate on the health of Australia-Japan relations and the Rudd Government's decision to escalate the whaling issue. A recent Japanese opinion poll on Australian views of Japan suggests Canberra's continued focus on whaling and the

Reader riposte: What is Asia?

Richard Green responds to The Economist's Banyan columnist, whose attempt to define Asia was the subject of a recent Graeme Dobell post: Banyan's effort at finding a definition of Asia is a fair stab at defending the concept. Whilst it excludes the Middle East (The original 'Asia'), Central

Asia: the biggest trend of all

Many moons ago when I was a Southeast Asia correspondent there were two sorts of calls from Oz I dreaded. One was the early call at o-dark-hundred hours that usually started with, ‘What time is it there?’. The other which provoked less anger but more angst was the request for an Asia ‘trend

Australia: losing interest in the Pacific?

Australia’s new Prime Minister Julia Gillard has had a tough introduction to regional foreign policy. While domestic politics is clearly ruling the roost leading up to the Australian Federal election on 21 August, this doesn’t need to come at the expense of, what had been, improving relations

Reset on Seoul

On rare occasions it's necessary to hit the reset button on your most basic assumptions about a country's trajectory. The reset moment is not about the constant ups, downs and alarums of international affairs. The reset is the moment to acknowledge a change in the direction of a nation's fundamental

Aceh: Two views

Aaron L. Connelly is a Fulbright Scholar and visiting fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta. He also writes at Jakartica. He is currently in Banda Aceh reporting for The Interpreter. The local newspaper of record here, Serambi, told a story of two provinces with


Australia took some bruises and shed some skin in the argument over an Asia Pacific Community or community. So it's ironic but strangely appropriate that Australia's Foreign Minister wasn't even present in Hanoi when ASEAN and the United States unveiled the decisive deal. The winner in the

Burma: The beast in its entirety

Andrew Selth is a Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and author of Burma and the Threat of Invasion: Regime Fantasy or Strategic Reality? In considering approaches to Burma, and management of the many complex challenges it poses, senior policy-makers necessarily rely on objective

Duch sentenced

As previewed, Kaing Guek Eav (better known as Duch) the director of the Tuol Sleng extermination centre (known as S-21 during the Pol Pot regime) was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity by the judges of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge Tribunal (ECCC) on 26 July.  The key

Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Sentencing alert

Four years after its establishment in July 2006, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (officially the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia) will on 26 July finally bring to a close the trial of the first defendant to appear before it. This will involve the sentencing of Kaing Guek Euv, better

The bully of Fiji

Here are three rules that apply to Australian diplomacy in the South Pacific. The first rule states that an Australian comment on the South Pacific which expresses any form of judgement or criticism will be instantly denounced as bullying neo-colonialism. This rule often applies in relations

Correction: The roots of madness

Early this month, in one of my regular Linkage posts, I embedded a YouTube video of a documentary called 'China: The Roots of Madness', and referred to it as a '1967 film produced by the CIA'. I soon got some correspondence from The Wall Street Journal's Hugo Restall disputing this

Insights and asides about China

Head to the China Update each year for big thoughts on China and to savour the off-cuts and asides generated by Ross Garnaut. The annual ANU event disproves the canard that economists can do anything in theory, it's just reality that defeats them.  Proof one: this may be the only conference that

Signs of shifting financial power

More evidence of what happens when other countries have the money: Gillian Tett has a piece in the FT arguing that European governments have been paying increased attention to Asian investors.  Tett notes that, for much of the past year, governments in Berlin, Paris and Madrid resisted the

Religious artifact spotted in Shanghai

When I walk past the Apple store in Sydney I regularly see tourists taking photos of it, just as they would the Harbour Bridge or Opera House. It's not too surprising; the reverence and loyalty which consumers show toward the Apple brand is legendary. But when I spotted photos of Apple's store in

Rudd gets kudos from Korea

I enjoyed the story Sam linked to concerning German bemusement about Kevin Rudd's sudden downfall. Last week, I was in Seoul and ran into very similar sentiments from senior government and ruling party people I met. There was a clear sense that they firmly believed Rudd had been good for

Burma and the politics of names

Andrew Selth is Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. The use of pseudonyms in international relations, public commentary and literature has a long and sometimes distinguished history. An example of the former which springs to mind is George Kennan's influential article, 'The Sources

Reader riposte: Gusmao lever

Andrew R. responds to Sam's post of this morning: Interesting, Sam, interesting indeed, but while PM Gillard gets to neutralise (however temporarily) a ticklish election issue, what does Gusmao get? Oh...riiiiight...that thing the East Timorese want. Well hey, maybe the refugees could

Mekong: Dams damned in new report

In my 30 June post I speculated on why Vietnamese officials moved from very cautious, not to say obfuscatory, comment on the proposed construction of hydropower dams on the mainstream of the Mekong below China (in Laos, between Laos and Thailand, and in Cambodia) to a vigorous criticism of such

Around the Shanghai Expo: Iran pavilion

Raffaello Pantucci is a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, where he is working on an EU-funded project on EU-China relations. Unlike its baffling neighboring pavilion (North Korea), the Iranian pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo is actually quite effective in providing

The Taiwan trade gamble

Last week, Taiwan became the second developed economy (after plucky New Zealand) to sign a free trade agreement with the People's Republic of China, the first such agreement between two North Asian economies. Signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) is a victory for President Ma'

Mekong dams: Vietnam speaks out

A senior Vietnamese official has voiced his Government's concerns about the effect on his country of proposed Mekong River dams in Cambodia and Laos. Speaking on 29 June at a workshop the environmental and social impacts of proposed dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River below China, Le

Rudd in Asia: One last kick in the guts

Speaking in Jakarta recently, I remarked that ASEAN had kicked to death Australia's quest for an Asia Pacific Community. The senior Indonesian analyst sitting next to me immediately interjected: 'Kicked to death by Singapore.' At the time, I reflected I might be guilty of a Tony Abbott-style oral

Reader riposte: What Indonesian for tupid'?

Well, we did ask (although it wasn't really the point of Jim Molan's piece about Asian literacy in Australia — blame the editor for writing a misleading headline). Here's John Cheong-Holdaway on how Indonesians talk about stupidity: Depends what you're going for. Bodoh, tolol, goblok (

China technological nationalism

Back in October of last year I wrote about China's questionable strategy for becoming a global power in the civilian aerospace sector. Courtesy of this Aviation Week article, there's further evidence that China's strategy has less to do with commercial logic and is more about creating an

Asia literacy: Rudd false promise

People like me, who believe passionately that Australia needs to take seriously the study of Asian languages, can only see Kevin Rudd's demise as a huge lost opportunity. For the two-and-a-half years of the Rudd Government, we had a Prime Minister who had invested enormous time and effort in

Waiting for ASEAN

Having seen off Kevin's Rudd's vision for the Asia Pacific, Southeast Asia has to confront a tougher task. ASEAN must decide which of its own creations it will anoint to sit atop the Asia Pacific concert. Is it to be the ASEAN-plus-eight or is it to be the East Asia Summit? A previous column 

Beijing diary (part 3)

Part one here; part two here. Outside every official or semi-official building in Beijing, there is a security guard standing on a little pedestal. I understand the point of the pedestal, but I found it hard to be cowed by guards who were so young and fragile-looking, with waists like those of

Around the Shanghai Expo: Pakistan pavilion

The Pakistan pavilion drew something of a crowd (I waited roughly five minutes, in contrast to what I understand were hours for the British pavilion, and absolutely no wait for the DPRK one), though inside it is mostly a selection of scenic pictures from around Pakistan and some interesting

Beijing diary (part 1)

En route to Beijing earlier this month, my plane sat on the tarmac in Hong Kong for nearly six hours waiting for clearance to take off. The reason for the delay was never explained. Perhaps it was air congestion, or weather conditions, or a Chinese military operation – the pilot was never informed