Tuesday 24 Nov 2020 | 18:24 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Ministering to the South Pacific

Previous posts in this series were on Australia's Pacific drift, the Pacific Islands Forum, the chance for big bang changes in Pacific policy and the need for an Aid Minister. Australia has talked some wonderful talk about what needs to be done in the South Pacific. Rudd came to

Piracy in Southeast Asia

International attention on piracy and its impacts on global shipping has shifted in the last couple of years from Southeast Asia to the Gulf of Aden and below. This shift seems justified both by the growth in the number of successful piracy attacks in and around the Gulf of Aden and the sharp

Avoiding the trade spiral

The powerful voice of Fred Bergsten, head of the influential Peterson Institute in Washington, has joined the chorus demanding revaluation of the RMB: by 25-40 per cent.  Appearing before Congress, Bergsten hit all the hot-issue buttons. He accused China of 'blatant protectionism' and of being a

China stays quiet on Mekong

With China set to attend (as an observer) a Mekong River Commission meeting in Thailand in the first week of April to discuss the drought affecting the Mekong's water levels, New Mandala is carrying an analysis by Alan Potkin, of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois

Three scenarios for the RMB

The debate over the future of China's currency regime continues to rumble on ahead of the US Treasury's pending decision on whether to declare China a currency manipulator. There are three basic scenarios: 1. Currency Kabuki Washington and Beijing continue their now almost-ritualised

Australia-Indonesia: Underdone

During the recent visit of the Indonesian President to Australia there was much official rhetoric about the strong links between the two countries, though I noted at the time that Australia's investment in Indonesia accounted for just 0.38% of Australia's total stock of investment abroad. This was

Reader riposte: The Freeport attacks

Joe Collins from the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) responds to Jim Della-Giacoma's post: A number of media articles have mistakenly  implied  that the International Crisis Group (ICG) report 'Radicalisation and Dialogue in Papua' blames so called 'separatists' for the attacks

Australia-Japan relations are not 'fine'

My thanks to Joel Rathus for his concern about the state of my nervous system, especially as we have never met. I can assure him that he is wrong and that my nerves are fine. As for Joel's substantive points: On the polling numbers, I did note in my original post the unfortunate change in the

Obama Indonesian TV interview

Presumably this interview was arranged prior to the delay of his visit, and Obama basically uses the occasion to announce that he will be coming in June instead. Still, tell me Indonesians wouldn't be eating this up with a spoon: The more substantive parts of the interview are here and here

APc morphing into the EAS?

As discussed at length on The Interpreter, Prime Minister Rudd's Asia-Pacific community idea has not found a very welcoming audience in Southeast Asia, with Singaporean voices being the most negative. In the last week, though, both Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Singapore's

Japan-Australia relations are just fine

Joel Rathus is a Phd candidate at Adelaide University and a Monbusho Scholar at Meiji University. Much ink is being spilled in Australia about the state of the Japan-Australia relationship, including by the Lowy Institute's Malcolm Cook. While concerns were raised almost as soon as the Rudd

Mekong: China damned if it doesn't

As the drought I previously reported on in The Interpreter tightens its grip on mainland Southeast Asia and in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in southwestern China, the level of water in the Mekong River continues to fall. It is now below the previous all-time low reached in 1993 after the worst

Stability is key to understanding China

Clinton Dines is an Australian businessman who has lived and worked in China for 31 years, until recently for 21 years as BHP Billiton’s senior in-country executive. It is probably not unreasonable to suggest that the Chinese Government, for all that it may not quite measure up to the high

Burma new election laws

Andrew Selth is a Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and author of the forthcoming 'Civil-Military Relations in Burma: Portents, Predictions and Possibilities'. The international outcry over Burma's new election laws was inevitable, and justified. More surprising was the apparent

More on China exchange rate

If Clinton Dines is right that a revaluation of the RMB will only benefit China, why is Beijing maintaining its undervalued exchange rate?  After all, as Clinton rightly points out, one obvious consequence of the current policy is that China has to effectively overpay both for imports and

Indonesia-Australia: Who courting?

I liked this extract from Rowan Callick's piece in Monday's Australian: Because of past prejudices, Australians have become used to viewing ourselves as the courted party in this relationship. But we must begin getting used to the reality that as the smaller nation, we have to make the running

RMB revaluation: Careful what you wish for

Clinton Dines is an Australian businessman who has lived and worked in China for 31 years, until recently for 21 years as BHP Billiton’s senior in-country executive. I'm hearing some alarming noises coming out of the US on the topic of the RMB. This goes to some of the themes I alluded to in my

Japan-Australia: Signs of damage

Since the beginning of the 2007 election campaign in Australia, I have been worried about Japan-Australia relations. I thought long-standing differences between Tokyo and Canberra over Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean could come to dominate the public face of the relationship. I also

SBY in PNG: Making up for lost time

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was busy improving bilateral relations with more than one neighbour last week. Incredibly, for two countries that share an island and a difficult border, President Yudhoyono was the first Indonesian President to visit PNG since President Soeharto in

China currency: The limits of patience

As predicted, the argument over the future of China's exchange rate policy is heating up. The US Congress has told the Obama Administration that it wants the US Treasury to designate China a 'currency manipulator'. Leading voices in the US are calling for a turn to 'policy hardball' and for

US must make equal time for Asia

Geoff Miller is the former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments. Hugh White's thoughtful response to my questions about US policies in Asia raises many intriguing issues. He sees the choice, or dichotomy, as between US primacy and a new regional order, saying that the US

SBY speech to parliament

President Yudhoyono's speech to Parliament (p.29) last week is a remarkable document that makes uneasy reading.  Rudd welcomed SBY with a routine speech of mutual self-congratulation for having such a splendid relationship (p.27 of the above document). SBY responded with a sophisticated,

Reader riposte: Travel advisory pitfalls

Here are two reader replies to my post on travel advisories to Indonesia. First Trevor Harrison from Asian Strategies writes: The largest impact of the travel advisory is in the corporate area, on those companies and organisations that require their executives be insured for travel. Some

The US needs to change its Asia policy

Thanks to Geoff Miller for asking how exactly I think America should change its policies in Asia to adapt to China’s growing power. Best to start by explaining why I think it has to change. Here is the short version.  I expect that as its power grows China will not continue to accept US

5-minute Lowy Lunch: Malcolm Fraser

Yesterday we hosted former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser for a public conversation with our Executive Director, Michael Wesley. You can listen here to the discussion, which focused on the foreign policy elements of Mr Fraser's new book. It includes Q&A with the audience. But I recommend you

Reader riposte: Where are the experts?

Steve Smith writes: Really enjoy reading the blog. Just wondering if you caught this SMH article on Monday. A couple of quotes: 'There is not a single Australia-based scholar with up-to-the minute knowledge on either Chinese elite politics or macro-economics. Last year Stephen Joske,

Indonesia and travel advisories

Australia's travel advisories always raise a few questions. They have been a particular irritant in the relationship with Indonesia, but the impact they have is curious. The first line of the current travel advice to Indonesia reads: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to

US-China: Questions for Hugh White

Geoff Miller is the former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments. In recent comments on Obama's coming visit and on the great powers' interests in Afghanistan, Hugh White has repeated one of his most constant themes, the need for the US to adapt to China's rise. But in terms

Indonesia: Let not count our chickens

Peter Hartcher is exactly right about the almost miraculous advances made by Indonesia since the end of the Suharto era. And yet, it must be said that it is very easy to sing these praises when there is a friendly and largely amenable President holding office. But as long as SBY is in control

Reader riposte: Fixing Futenma

Michael Cucek of Shisaku blog responds to Malcolm Cook. A brief comment from me follows: Nearly every point made in today's post by Mr. Malcolm Cook regarding the Futenma move is either misleading or incorrect. 1. 'The DPJ may no longer need to rely on the Social Democratic Party of Japan in

Fixing Futenma

  It's well known that the proposed Futenma Marine Air Station relocation is causing problems in the US-Japan alliance. The photo above, courtesy of Wikipedia, shows just why it needs to be moved. Recently, six developments in Japan's newly dynamic politics suggest this hot button issue has

Indonesia: Media should lift its game

Fergus notes the luke-warm feelings Australians have for Indonesia (reciprocated by Indonesians). One of the explanations of this attitude is the carping, condescending and critical tone of Australian journalistic commentary on Indonesia. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's problems with

Relax, our air defences are fine

Robert Gottliebsen of Business Spectator (which occasionally carries Interpreter posts) recently wrote a column about what he called 'the largest and most dangerous cover-up in the nation's history'. That's quite a claim, and it deserves some scrutiny. 'Largest' might be literally true, in

Australia-Indonesia ties need a jolt

Whatever diplomatic niceties accompany the visit to Australia this week of Indonesia's president, both sides will be keenly aware the bilateral relationship is not as strong as it should be. Lowy Polling shows Australians don't have particularly warm feelings towards Indonesia, and Indonesians feel

Breaking ice: Asia drifts north

Successive Australian governments have taken comfort that global economic and strategic power is shifting to Asia and hence closer to Australia. (At times, they have also feared this shift – ie. the 2009 Defence White Paper.) Over the past few months, though, I have been troubled by the idea

Tokyo upset with our N policy too?

East Asia Forum today carries a piece by Japanese academic Takashi Terada about Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada's recent visit to Australia. It ends like this: Okada's visit to Australia last month might have been the first step towards this new-type of partnership between the two

Tokyo ponders southern righteous wail

In raising anew the threat to take Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Rudd has certainly grabbed Tokyo's attention. Japan's diplomatic chattering class is, however, just a bit bemused about what it all means. I've had an email conversation with a senior Japanese journalist who

China in perspective

James Fallows recommends this Washington Post piece telling Americans to calm down when it comes to China: This new Red Scare says a lot about America's collective psyche at this moment. A nation with a per capita income of $6,546 -- ensconced above Ukraine and below Namibia, according to

China: Basket case to leading light

Clinton Dines has lived most of his adult life in China and is one of Australia's most knowledgeable and respected business leaders there. Last Thursday he addressed the Lowy Institute on China's era of reform. You can listen to his address or read a transcript via our homepage. I had a chance to

Thais flog China with wet commission

You wouldn't know it from the Australian press, but there is a major drought in southeastern China producing devastating effects in three provinces: Yunnan, Guangxi and Guzhou. Described as the worst drought in 60 years, its effects are most serious in Yunnan, where there has been no worthwhile

Diplomacy: Exploiting loss aversion

It's Friday afternoon, a good time to float wacky ideas. If I had to nominate two intellectual trends that have influenced me over the last few years, I would pick (a) resilience theory, which I touched on this morning, and (b) behavioural economics. The first of these is of ready application

Tokyo-Canberra: Low-level hedging

Australia's hedging against China has a dimension beyond the US alliance. Name it gently: J-A-P-A-N. How to describe Australia's hedging? It is not grand enough to be called a strategy. It does not yet have the status or coherence of a policy. Yet it is much more than an inclination or intention.

Shock! China pursues national interest!

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson has made a claim about US-China relations very similar to one made by my colleague Raoul Heinrichs some weeks ago, to which I took exception (the entire debate thread is here). Samuelson says: The prevailing American assumption was that as China became

New Zealand and Australia grow closer

The Asia New Zealand Foundation has just released its annual Perceptions of Asia survey. One of the questions in the poll — on feelings towards people from other countries —  was very close to one included in the Lowy Institute Poll (which asks about feelings towards countries rather than

5-minute Lowy lunch: Dr M legacy

Yesterday the Lowy Institute hosted Barry Wain, whose new book on former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad you have been reading about recently in Graeme Dobell's columns. I spoke to Barry about Dr Mahatir's legacy to Malaysia, and where the country goes to from here. You can listen

Do Australians like Chinese brands?

 This post on the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog caught my attention: China may be the world’s third largest economy, but Chinese brands still remain less well known than foreign counterparts and product safety problems continue to plague “made-in-China” goods. Lately I'

Mahathir foreign policy surprises

My previous column looked at the Mahathir effect on Malaysia using the map offered by Barry Wain's new book on Malaysia's longest-serving leader. The foreign policy elements in the book point to outcomes at odds with the positions offered by Mahathir's posturing and rhetoric. Consider three

Coral reefs critical to maritime security

I have always thought that marine biology sounded like a pretty good career choice.  Though fate took me elsewhere, this might explain why, while the RAN Sea Power Conference debated some big military-strategic questions, I skipped out for a period to attend a Maritime Advancement Award 

Unsustainable China

Just about everyone agrees that China has played a hugely positive role in keeping the world going through the GFC. In the process it has produced some extraordinary (and abnormal) economic statistics. Credit has been growing at 30 per cent while the rest of the world was deleveraging.

What Mahathir has done to Malaysia

The new Anwar Ibrahim trial — Sodomy II — is yet another demonstration of how the Mahathir effect permeates Malaysia's polity. In his two decades in power, Dr Mahathir changed every important institution. Not the least of his negative achievements was to subdue Malaysia's judiciary. To

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