Wednesday 13 Oct 2021 | 20:10 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

The Pacific from inside China

I just got back from a conference hosted by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies on East Asia and the South Pacific. There are a few posts I'd like to publish from the trip over the next few days, but here are a few impressions from the conference and meetings with various academics

Looking the gift horse in the mouth

A policy brief I released in July on China's aid program pointed to the worrying trend of loading tiny Pacific states with large loans that they would struggle to repay. One example singled out was the US$9.6 million soft loan China made to the Cook Islands (population 21,000) to fund facilities

Some perspective on Balibo

One view is that morality demands that the Australian Government do everything possible to seek justice for the journalists killed in Timor in 1975. To give the other side of the argument puts one in the position of the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men: defending the indefensible. But,

Justice hostage to 'relations'

The AFP is to conduct a war crimes investigation into the 1975 killing of the Balibo Five. This follows the NSW Coroner's finding late last year that the five were 'tracked and targeted by the Indonesian military before being killed by the invading force in Balibo'. According to the Coroner, the

China and financial crises: Déjà vu

In 1997-1998, East Asia was hit by its most severe financial crisis in decades. It caused significant short-term collateral damage to the Chinese economy but not enough to knock it off its high-growth trajectory. In 1997-1998, Beijing's decision to keep its exchange rate pegged to the US dollar,

Tank by PLA, uniform by Gucci

Lots more photos here from the recent rehearsal for the 1 October military parade through Beijing. The parade will probably not contain any surprises. Although some military systems will be officially unveiled at the ceremony, these will likely be well known to the community of analysts,

US-China-Australia: Cool change

The story about a possible US-China-Australia defence exercise is picking up momentum, with press coverage in Asia, the US and Europe, as well as at least one Chinese-language television channel, albeit based in Hong Kong. The Australian Government has not denied that the idea was discussed

Asia tyranny of distance?

In a short article in The American Prospect about the regional security implications of Japan's change of government, Matthew Yglesias says 'Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell slapped down Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's regional integration ideas', citing The

Australia all at sea with US and China

Today's Sydney Morning Herald has this intriguing story suggesting US and Australian military leaders want a new shape for trilateral security engagement – this time involving China. The source appears to be an interview with the Commander of Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating, who was in

Hatoyama: Enigma

The Interpreter has carried a few pieces about the incoming DPJ Government in Japan. A theme running through the commentary has been caution about the implications of the election: the DPJ might not be able to implement its radical agenda, or its policies might not be so radical anyway. To

Japan: DPJ ambiguity on nukes

The election of a DPJ government in Japan brings to power a party supposedly supportive of new thinking on nuclear disarmament, in sync with President Obama's Nuclear Weapon Free World speech and the purposes of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.  Or so it

Japan: The day after

The DPJ, with its slogan 'Japan will change!', has won a landslide victory in an election that saw over 70% of the electorate come out despite an approaching typhoon. The Japanese clearly want change and the DPJ now has to deliver. When it comes to thinking about Australia-Japan-US triangular

China: Getting from row to kow-tow

China's leaders launched a campaign of diplomatic punishment against Australia and it will need a nod from the top to get a ceasefire. The problem that will obsess Canberra in the next two months is twofold: how many more hits will Beijing deliver, and what should be the tone and colour of the

DPJ wins in Japan. Now what?

Peter McCawley is a Visiting Fellow at the Indonesia Project, ANU, and former Dean of the ADB Institute, Tokyo. So the unimaginable has happened – the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been swept from office and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has won. What does it all mean? It isn

China: The Howard formula

Beijing has decided to punish the Rudd Government for economic and strategic slights: Defence White Paper retribution has mixed with anger at the workings of the Australian market and is further inflamed by anything Canberra says about separatist tensions within China. Beijing has quickly delivered

Who gets to be Suharto this time?

Asia's great economic crisis a decade ago also remade politics across much of the region. As Asia contemplates the economic rebound, thoughts are turning to the magnitude of possible political effects this time. The 1997-98 financial tsunami swept Suharto from power and changed Indonesia

DPRK softening? Hold your applause

What to make of North Korea’s conciliatory gestures in recent weeks? Releasing American journalists and a South Korean worker; talks between Kim Jong-Il and the head of Hyundai; talks between the North’s delegation to Kim Dae-Jung’s funeral and ROK President Lee; the possible revival of

Santos deal puts Gorgon in the shade

What's the biggest LNG export deal Australia has signed with an Asian state-owned oil and gas company? If you have been following the Australian and global news lately you would probably plump for the recent Gorgon deal signed between Exxon Mobil and PetroChina. If one is a keen follower of press

China and The Cavs

Christopher Croke is an intern in the Global Issues program at the Lowy Institute. Often lost amid the public hand-wringing of foreign policy heavyweights brooding over the intentions of a rising China are the smaller stories of China's relentless enthusiasm and appetite for Western (and more

Pyne out on a limb

Ummm, I don't think Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne has really thought this through. He says Chinese attempts to interfere in the Melbourne Film Festival and the proceedings of the National Press Club are a result of: ...the familiarity that this Government believed that it had with

Australia-China: December challenge

Australia-China political relations at the moment are not a 'win-win situation' underpinned by China’s 'charm offensive' and 'skillful' diplomacy. Not much charm or statesman-like skill is observable in China’s diplomatic response to Australia’s reaction to the arrest of Stern Hu or Beijing's

Timor sends a message

Timorese Defence Minister Julio Tomas Pinto has written a long article about the failings of the Timorese security sector. A friend who knows Timor-Leste very well emails to underline the importance of the piece: Pinto's column is quite significant and while the translation is a little stiff it

An Asian canary sings

Just as miners used a canary to detect bad air, Singapore has always been one of Asia's economic canaries. And as Asia starts to think the worst of the economic crisis is passing, Singapore is a singing canary. (Consider yourself spared, dear reader: I originally put together a far more intricate

Japan election: Revival of the Tanaka faction?

Amy King is a doctoral student at Oxford University working on Sino-Japanese relations. The official campaign for Japan’s general election began on Tuesday. One issue to have raised some eyebrows in Japan is the move by ex-Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Foreign Minister, Makiko Tanaka, to join

Singapore on the couch

This column comes to you from Asia’s mighty micro state, where the Prime Minister marked the 50th anniversary of self-government by pointing to racial and religious divides as Singapore’s 'most visceral and dangerous fault line.' For Singapore’s leaders, race and religion seem to be a

Does helping China always help us?

From Hugh White's contribution to the 2009 ANU China Update: China does not need to equal the US in military capability, but simply limit US options...The shift is already underway. American capacity to project power in Asia is slipping away as China develops the capacity to deny important

Another Red Dawn

One of my favourite foreign policy bloggers, Dan Drezner, has a post about the remake of the 80s action movie Red Dawn, in which America was invaded by the Soviets and their allies, and some high school kids take to the mountains to start a guerilla war. Drezner's actually a little late to this

5-Minute Lowy Lunch: China rise

The Australian's Asia Pacific Editor, Rowan Callick, gave an impressive talk on China's rise at yesterday's Wednesday Lowy Lunch. He challenged several commonly held views about China's rise, most strikingly the notion that it's on a gradual trajectory towards democracy. In his interview 

China nuclear diversion

In a fairly pedestrian speech* last night on Australia's role in non-proliferation and disarmament, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith referred to China's attitude to global nuclear disarmament, saying 'China’s Foreign Minister Yang will address the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on these issues

Gauging the 'new Japan'

If opinion polls and expert opinion are correct, the upcoming election in Japan should see the evergreen ruling party, the LDP, lose control of the powerful Lower House. It would be the first time the LDP does not control at least one house. In July 2007, the LDP lost heavily in the Upper House

Ski jump reveals China naval plans

If there was any doubt left at all that China is pursuing an aircraft carrier capability, these new images from a Chinese military airfield put the issue to rest:  Note the barbed wire in the foreground, indicating the photo was taken by a Chinese military or aviation enthusiast. My thoughts

Playing with propaganda

For fans of authoritarian propaganda there have been some good examples over the last few days. The Iranian Government has traditionally been my favourite regime for general absurdness, but China has recently shown some impressive form. News that 'political counsellor at the (Chinese)

WMD proliferation: A tighter net

Today is Hiroshima Day, and a strengthened regime to stop nuclear proliferation-related shipments is an essential part of wider efforts to ensure nuclear weapons are never used again. A policy brief published today by the Lowy Institute calls on Australia and other countries to redouble their

Burma nukes: State Dept noncommittal

From Monday's press briefing by US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley: QUESTION: On North Korea and Burma issue, according to a couple of the news reports in Australia over the weekend, Burma has underground nuclear complex built with the help from North Korea. Is this part of what

The APC and the world of regions

The latest East Asia Forum blogpost about Prime Minister Rudd’s Asia Pacific Community (oops, community) idea by Peking University’s Jia Qingguo underlines two of the challenges facing Australia from China’s ongoing rise to East Asian and wider Asian regional leadership. All countries

Chinese public diplomacy: Taking it to Britain

Amy King is a doctoral student at Oxford University working on Sino-Japanese relations. As Fergus Hanson noted last week, China’s Ambassador to the UK (and former Ambassador to Australia), Fu Ying, believes China needs to do more on the public diplomacy front. She argues that China needs to do

Japan and the GFC

For those Interpreter readers like myself with an intellectual interest in Japan and in international political economy, here is a chance to test your wits and maybe earn some money out of the GFC. The Japan Foreign Trade Council recently released information on its 2009 essay contest. The

Reader riposte: Hindsight on Korea

Reader Robyn Lim responds to this post by Nick Floyd. This post is a nice example of 20:20 hindsight. The US, contemplating where the Soviets might attack along their vast bloc periphery, was focused on Western Europe and the Middle East. No one in Washington expected that Stalin, checkmated

Lessons from North Korea

Today is the anniversary of the Korean War ceasefire agreement, signed at Panmunjom, Korea in 1953. What is perhaps most instructive about the Korean conflict and its relevance to military force modernisation and development, is its degree of discontinuity with what could have been expected. An

Bainimarama: Talking the talk?

In his Dateline interview with Mark Davis last night, Fiji's 'Frank' Bainimarama was certainly trying his best — given the circumstances under which he came to power and actions since — to speak the language of rights. We had plenty of verbal white phosphorus with talk of 'one man, one

US jumps aboard the TAC

Last week there was a bit of a hoo-ha as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton declared America was back in Asia and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. But there is a certain irony to America signing up to the TAC. Agreed in 1976 it contains some beautiful NAM-style language and even 

Asia-Pacific Community: Policy as poetry

Many wise heads agree on the need to streamline the diplomatic architecture of the Asia-Pacific, which already has too many institutions doing too little. For its part, The Interpreter has already aired some solutions, including the truly minimalist. This week’s events in Phuket, with

Urumqi: A photo essay

Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst. Two weeks on from the violence that left more than 190 dead, the far-west Chinese province of Xinjiang remains under tight security. In Urumqi, the provincial capital and scene of the greatest unrest, army patrols regularly march the streets

China: Stumbling through the Pacific

A Policy Brief I launched today provides the latest estimate of China’s aid program to the Pacific. It confirms China’s status as a new major donor to the region, but raises questions about whether it has a long-term strategy guiding its approach to aid, beyond the diplomatic tussle with

The tale of two coups

The coup in Honduras has put Taiwan in a bit of a tight spot. So far not a single country has recognised the new rulers of Honduras, but for Taiwan, Honduras is one of its handful of 23 remaining diplomatic allies. The US, UN and the Organisation of America States are insisting that the former

US-Japan: Demystifying nukes

Sensible stuff: the US and Japan have agreed to in-depth discussions about the US commitment to extended nuclear deterrence in the defence of Japan.  Why is this such a good idea? How is it consistent with President Obama’s push for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament? As I argued last

Reader riposte: The illegitimate CCP

Last week I highlighted Paul Monk's comments on Lateline about the Stern Hu case. Harry Gelber had thoughts on that interview on Friday, to which Paul Monk offers this response: Harry Gelber's observations about the CCP being the only glue holding the empire of China together merit comment.

Reader riposte: Stern Hu

Harry Gelber from the University of Tasmania writes about the Lateline interview I highlighted with Paul Monk and Hugh White: Re. your post on the Stern Hu affair. A few additional points: Monk — surprisingly for such a well-informed commentator — does less than justice to the

Can Beijing replace the greenback?

My recent research trip concluded with a conference in Beijing, where I spoke at a sub-fora on the changing global environment for foreign investment. But my key take-away from the conference, based as much on the discussion as the formal speeches, was China’s growing focus on the need to

Stern Hu: The big picture

In a very unbloggerly display of reticence, I've resisted commenting on the Stern Hu affair to now, largely because I couldn't make up my mind about what I thought. But one thing that has helped crystalise my thinking a lot was this Lateline interview with Paul Monk and the Lowy Institute's own