Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 16:52 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Indonesian corruption

Ross McLeod is surely right to say that the Indonesian anti-corruption push is home-grown, and has popular support. So much so that, if SBY showed decisive follow-though on current high-profile cases, he would probably bolster his chances considerably for victory in next year’s presidential

Reader riposte: South China Sea

Carl Thayer responds to Malcolm Cook's post about the Spratly Islands: The real issue of concern over the South China Sea is China’s construction of the Sanya naval base on Hainan island and the linkage between the airfield on Woody Island in the Paracels, plus facilities on Fiery

Reader riposte: Indonesia homegrown corruption

Ross McLeod responds to Graeme Dobell's column describing a speech by Gerry van Klinken on corruption in Indonesia:  Following the Indonesia Update conference it was pointed out that van Klinken was surely wrong to argue that ‘anti-corruption was sponsored by foreigners’. One

Vietnam property market: Shades of '98?

Guest blogger: James Symons is a Lowy Institute intern. I recently returned from a stint as an AusAID volunteer in Hanoi, Vietnam, and I can tell you, there is nothing like being on the ground for a year and listening to expatriate street buzz to put a few dings in my perceptions.

NZ election: Winston Peters a big factor

Guest blogger: Stuart McMillan (pictured) is an experienced New Zealand political analyst and academic. We're inviting various NZ commentators to give us their thoughts about the upcoming election. Foreign policy is unlikely to be a significant issue in the New Zealand election, called

Revisiting the Spratlys

The discussion on this blog about defending sea lanes of communication coincides with a worry that has been growing larger and darker in my mind over the last couple of months. The worry is that disputes over conflicting sovereignty claims to the Spratlys may again come to the fore of regional

The Indonesia Lobby meets

The influence or even existence of the Indonesia Lobby is one of the conspiracy theories that tweaks Canberra’s curiosity. The Lobby – and its real or imaginary work on behalf of Indonesia – is just one element of the East Timor argument that caused so much passion for decades. Over the

Reader ripostes: The last word on Australia sea lanes

Rejoinders from two previous correspondents on this topic. Below is Andrew Davies' reply to Mark O'Neill, but first, Robyn Lim: This debate is getting really weird. It's obviously absurd to say that Australia can defend 'its' sea lanes, when 'its' sea lanes

China: Buying Costa Rican bonds with alacrity

In 2007, Costa Rica switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China,  but only last week did Costa Rica's constitutional court force the Government to release details of the deal with China. It shows that, in return for switching diplomatic recognition, China agreed to buy US$300

The candidates discuss China

Guest blogger: Fergus Green recently returned from Washington, where he worked on East Asian security issues at CSIS. He is now a Lowy Institute intern. Earlier this year, an op-ed by Hugh White provoked a discussion thread on The Interpreter that considered the question of which US

Did the new media fail in Beijing?

That's not precisely the conclusion of this report from  the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change (thanks to Passport for the link), but it does seem to suggest that the Chinese authorities pulled the wool over the media's eyes to a large extent. Based on a survey of 68 major

Reader riposte: Our vulnerable sea lanes

Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute writes: Hugh is right to observe that the PM’s speech and subsequent press conference was heavy on ‘protecting sea lanes of communication (SLOCs)’ and light on denial operations. And the problem with that focus is made

If the aim is sea denial, only subs can carry that weight

Mark is, of course, quite correct: it is very unclear that twelve submarines could defend Australia’s sea lines of communication (SLOCs). But he is not right to think that defending SLOCs is what I think we need submarines for. In fact I think the PM’s focus – in his press conference last

Sky of blue, sea of green: Are subs all we need?

The Prime Minister’s speech to the RSL in Townsville last week led to an outbreak of opinion pieces and commentary from defence commentators. Much of the discussion has centred on the interpretation of many commentators that the PM has flagged a significant expansion of the Royal Australian

Why we avoid the P word

Guest blogger: Peter McCawley (pictured) is a Visiting Fellowin the Indonesia Project, ANU, and former Dean of the ADB Institute, Tokyo. For economists such as myself, one striking thing about the discussion on changes in international relations across Asia (including the handy survey by

Reader riposte: Sussex St, Tokyo

Richard responds to Graeme Dobell's post on the striking similarities between Japanese and New South Wales politics: The explanatory virtues of this go two ways. To explain Australian federal politics to the Japanese whom I later married, I first described the parties in NSW, since

Rudd Asia: Truth and politics

Let’s play truth and politics with Kevin Rudd’s recent foreign policy/security forays. In this game, one arm of the graph rates the factual strength of the Prime Minister’s words, with the parameters running from true to false. The other arm of the graph plots the political dimension

China-Costa Rica: Still more chequebook diplomacy

Over the past few months, The Interpreter and the Institute as a whole has debated Chinese state-controlled investments overseas and the competition between China and Taiwan for diplomatic recognition (see also Fergus' latest, below). A recent Financial Times article about the

China-Fiji: Smoke and mirrors

It seems like something's up in Fiji. When I published figures on China's pledged aid program to Fiji a few months ago, the interim regime erupted in indignation, particularly in relation to a huge $US150 million soft loan (around $F240 million). The permanent secretary of the Fiji

Machine men: From Tokyo to Sydney

I’ve never found a way to make the machinations of Japanese politics interesting to an Australian audience. Other journalistic failures of the same order: how to convey the underlying importance of the slow motion complexity that is the Doha Round, or the paint-drying progress of the ASEAN

What REALLY happened to Kim Jong Il

Arms Control Wonk has noted the speculation about North Korea leader Kim Jong Il's apparent ill health — there was talk that he had suffered a stroke, though North Korean officials deny it. There were also reports that Kim had in fact died several years ago, and been replaced with a body

Rudd maritime motives unclear

The more I think about the Prime Minister's recent speech and press conference about defence and regional maritime security, the more baffled I am. What has he achieved? What political interest or policy agenda has he advanced? If Rudd felt he had to make alarmist claims about an ‘

The PM defence speech

Being a broadsheet, The Australian never carries headlines that 'scream', exactly, but today's 'PM flags major naval build-up', splashed across the breadth of the front page, is more than just a polite 'ahem, pardon me'. Trouble is, there is little in the speech

Good news for the Pacific

There have been a few interesting things happening in the Pacific world in the last few days. Firstly, China is hosting a follow-up meeting to the first China-Pacific Islands Economic Development and Cooperation Forum in Xiamen, China. Called the Investment, Trade and Tourism Ministerial

Nuclear dangers in Asia: What Australia can do

Australia needs to go beyond setting up a new disarmament commission if it wants to reduce nuclear dangers in the Asian century, I argue in two new Lowy Institute publications – a policy brief and a more detailed analysis. These draw upon ideas presented on The Interpreter earlier this year

Reader riposte: Tests and rumours of tests

Put down your umbrellas. It seems we're not going to be showered with space debris from another Chinese anti-satellite test just yet. I reported the Steve Clemons-inspired (and now retracted) rumour yesterday, and today Jeffrey Lewis (Arms Control Wonk) responds to my post: False

Regulating Chinese investment

Graeme Dobell’s post drew my attention to a new paper by Peter Drysdale and Christopher Findlay on Chinese foreign direct investment into the Australian resource sector. The authors seem to come to pretty much the same conclusion I reached in a piece I wrote for the Australian in July. I

How bad was last week, really?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group decision to allow civilian nuclear trade with India is a chance to test some of the judgments I offered last week about rocky relations among major powers. I anticipated bad times ahead for US-India and China-India relations. On the first count, things turned

What is 'The Asian Century'?

This weekend op-ed in the Washington Post is not controversial in content — it makes the familiar argument that Asia is too divided by nationalism to make political integration likely. But the way the argument is framed struck me as a little off: So much for the Asian century. The

China to conduct another ASAT test?

OK, we are deep into rumour territory here, but Steve Clemons of The Washington Note is pretty reliable, and he's hinting that another trusted blogger, Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk, will soon report that 'China may be getting ready to mimic something that the US stupidly did recently

Chinese investment: Confusion and uncertainty

In talking with China about investment, Australia wants to reverse the punch line of the giant gorilla joke: Q: Where does a 500lb gorilla sit? A: Anywhere it damn well wants! With its administration of foreign investment guidelines, Australia is trying to tell

Thai FM resignation: Has the king had enough?

Yesterday's announcement that Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag has resigned is an important development in the confrontation between Thailand's elected government and a disparate group of opponents united under the title of the People's Alliance for Democracy. Historian,

Thailand: From the ballot box to the barricade

It is never good news when the political centre of power of a democratically elected government is taken over by weapon-wielding protestors, yet that is exactly what we see in Thailand today. For a nice succinct analysis of the power struggle taking place on the streets of Bangkok (and the country

A new one-party democracy for Japan

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Japan may be the most successful election winning machine in the democratic world. It has been in control of the powerful Lower House in the Japanese parliament — as a single party or the predominant party in a ruling coalition — for about 99% of Japan

Taro Aso: Koizumi plus

After getting over the surprise of Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda’s sudden resignation so soon after a Cabinet reshuffle (come to think of it, Abe’s resignation was also sudden and came soon after a Cabinet reshuffle), I thought immediately of what an Aso prime ministership might mean for

Some success for ASEAN

I've been remiss in not noting earlier the successful conclusion of talks last Friday on the Australia-ASEAN free trade agreement, our first 'plurilateral' FTA. On the same day, ASEAN also concluded an FTA with India. It's surely premature to talk of ASEAN as 'the next EU'

Olympics over, but China still wants to impress

Shanghai's World Financial Center (right of picture), 492m high and with the world's highest observation deck, will open to the public tomorrow. As has been said of Beijing's Olympic buildings, the West can take some geopolitical comfort from such structures, in that they indicate that

Six-Party Talks: The latest setback

Australian hopes that the 6-Party Talks on North Korea will be 'successfully' concluded and then be transformed into a permanent regional security organization that is expanded to include Australia (ahead of Mongolia?) have been dealt yet another blow by Pyongyang. The North Korean

Burma and the Bush White House

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth, Research Fellow, Griffith Asia Institute, and author of  Burma and the Threat of Invasion: Regime Fantasy or Strategic Reality? When George W Bush and his wife Laura visited Thailand earlier this month, they took pains to draw attention to their continuing

More on China carrier killers

Tobias at Observing Japan has some questions about my recent post on China's anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs). He notes that, although it is still hard for China to find American ships at sea, anyone with an internet connection can find US carriers when they are in port, for instance at

Justice and corruption in Indonesia

Key aspects of the Indonesian legal process are being tested in ways that could have important implications for the operation of justice, for parliamentary process and for corruption. Will members of the Indonesian Parliament (including two of SBY’s Ministers) be brought to account for receiving

Inside the Hermit Kingdom

Three stories about North Korea have come across my desk this week that raised my eyebrows and reminded me how odd a country it is and how many are keen to bring it in from its self-imposed isolation. First, North Korea reiterated its claim that neutral Sweden is an enemy. Sweden an enemy, hmmm

ANZAC aid: Joining our aid agencies

The Australian Senate has launched an inquiry into the economic and security challenges facing the Pacific, in which it has called for submissions. One of the areas the committee will be looking at will be how the Australian government can assist Pacific states meet the challenges they face. An

Reader ripostes: Niue and labour mobility

John has this question for Jenny in response to her post on Niue: 'Why Niue?' Given the statistics and relationship with NZ (only 7 per cent of Niueans live in Niue, heavy dependence on aid, they are also citizens of NZ), has there ever been any discussion of incorporation or

Keeping Beijing protest parks empty

Yesterday, I was reading Nicholas Kristof's humorous account of his attempt to apply for a protest permit in Beijing. He writes: Following government instructions, I showed up at an office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, found Window 12 and declared to the officer, “I’m

Monitoring Malaysia

Next Tuesday, Anwar Ibrahim’s political exile will likely be over as he is expected to sweep to victory in the by-election in his home district of Permatang Pauh, Penang, despite a second round of sodomy charges against him. Anwar, as leader of the opposition, has adopted a multicultural message

Bankrolling an island forever?

In the lead up to the 39th Pacific Islands Forum which kicks off tomorrow in Niue, I wanted to go back to a recent aid announcement by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith that, naturally enough, didn't attract much attention: $29 million for Nauru in 2008-09. Now $29 million doesn't sound like

What I saw at Kakadu IX

It’s not every day you see warships from as far away as Japan and Pakistan in Australian waters. So I was surprised that the Australian and international media did not take more notice of Kakadu IX, Australia’s largest multinational maritime exercise, which concluded in the waters off Darwin

US reacts to China carrier killer

Two recent bits of data indicate that the Pentagon is taking China's emerging anti-ship capability very seriously. China is building numerous capabilities to ensure that, if the US decided to intervene in a Taiwan Strait conflict, its most powerful (non-nuclear) military assets, it's

Singapore and Bangkok compared

Malcolm's post is a useful corrective to my pessimism about Singaporean culture. I can grasp a little of the cultural richness Malcolm describes through my experience of other Southeast Asian cities. For instance, I remember visiting Bangkok for the first time about five years ago and being

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