Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:22 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

The cultural openness of Singapore

I was one of the Lowy colleagues that (as Sam noted) queried the tone of his 'Singapore-Donald Duck axis' post. When I lived in Japan, South Korea and Singapore, I frequently came across similar arguments by Western visitors or ex-pats using the same very analogies – Disney, cartoons,

The Singapore-Donald Duck axis

This is an interesting post from a newish blog called Undiplomatic. It recalls a memorable phrase used to describe Singapore — 'Disneyland with the death penalty' — and asks whether that description can now be applied to China as well. 'Disneyland with the death penalty

The PM Singapore lecture

Two interesting points from a quick reading of the PM's major speech in Singapore: Rudd has embraced the 'soft' definition of national security, which includes food, water, energy and health security. Rumour has it that the draft National Security Strategy, which will

Selling privatisation in Indonesia

Ross McLeod at East Asia Forum makes a solid case for why Indonesia should privatise its state-owned industries. This point caught my eye: ...there tends to be a much higher degree of political interference in the operations of state enterprises, always with deleterious effects. Selling

The 5-minute Lowy Lunch: Richard Rigby

Yesterday the Lowy Institute hosted Dr Richard Rigby, Head of the Australian National University's China Institute. You can listen to Richard's presentation about 'China on the eve of the Olympics', which he gave to a packed Wednesday Lowy Lunch audience, by clicking here

Reader riposte: Security in Beijing

John Lee is a former intern with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. John is now studying in Beijing, and here he adds some sobering detail to the picture of modern Beijing painted by Alistair Thornton yesterday:  One contradiction in China's treatment of the Olympics as

Hedging vs containment

Hedging is really just a euphemism for containment? I don’t think so. In the debate about how to deal with a rising China, ‘containment’ has become a much misused word. Containment in its true Cold War sense was about thwarting a militarily and ideologically expansionist Soviet Union

The Interpreter guide to Beijing

Guest blogger: Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst. He's earned the right to be called our Beijing correspondent. There's a dreadful tune floating around Beijing at the moment. The catch line, 'Beijing Huanying Ni' (Beijing welcomes you), drones over and over to a mind-numbing

On China: Zakaria, Kagan, Fukuyama and Brooks

The fault lines in one of the most important foreign policy debates of our time — how to deal with a rising China — are readily apparent in recent contributions from four big guns of the American political and foreign policy commentariat. We've conducted this debate pretty

Should we want the Beijing Games to fail?

George Packer says 'yes': I know we’re supposed to say nice things about China as a rising power and welcome it to the world stage because anything else inflames Chinese nationalism. But the Chinese leadership wants to have it both ways: quick to criticize President Bush for

Reader riposte: The Chinese 'alphabet'

Guest blogger: David Howell is a Lowy Institute intern and a student in the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney. John Hannoush writes: On ABC TV news the other night, the presenter made a gross error, saying something to the effect that the Australian

China censors up against it

Andrew Bolt deserves congratulations for reaching a blogging milestone, which he celebrates in his newspaper column today. It's encouraging for Australian political bloggers generally that he has built such a big audience, because it suggests there is potential for growth out there. (Though

More on Asia 'other' disputes

Following up Malcolm's post from yesterday on various territorial disputes in North Asia, it's worth noting that South Korea is conducting more of its regular military exercises near islands that are disputed with Japan. South Korea calls them the Dokdo islands, and in fact the South

Northeast Asia 'other' disputes

Northeast Asia has two levels of territorial disputes that together make ASEAN concerns about incipient Northeast Asian cooperation undercutting ASEAN’s relevance rather fanciful. The first level is the Cold War ideological disputes on the Korean peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait.

Smoggy days in Beijing

Guest blogger: Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst. After a couple of days last week where clouds and pollution dissipated, leaving Beijing basking in 35ºC sunshine, the smog is back. Today it hangs thick in the air, as obvious to the eye as to the lungs. Pollution levels are

Reader riposte: What Indonesia means to Australia

Peter McCawley writes: Stephen Grenville, drawing on the OECD report on Indonesia released last week, notes that Indonesia has been making steady progress in recent years but that the progress has 'gone largely unreported in the world press'.  Both of these things are

Don't look now, but Indonesia making progress

Indonesia’s quiet progress over the past five years has gone largely unnoticed. The economy is back on an even keel, security problems in Aceh have been largely resolved, and there has been an amazing transition to democracy. There has even been progress in tackling corruption, even if this has

It not the Asian century in Washington

Michael Fullilove sent me a note last week saying he was sceptical about my argument that Obama's solo No.10 press conference was evidence of the Senator's arrogance. Today Michael directs me to this NY Times blog post that suggests Obama (and UK Prime Minister Brown) were following

Reader riposte: The Vatican rag

John Hannoush goes where I feared to tread, commenting on the Government's appointment of a permanent ambassador to the Holy See, and in particular two articles on the subject by The Australian's foreign editor, Greg Sheridan. In one article, Sheridan suggested the Government could use the

Reader Riposte: Japan must adapt

Crispin responds to Hugh White's latest post on the nuclear issue of Japanese nukes.   Hugh White makes a strong case for reviewing changing circumstances, and I thank him for inspiring this debate. Yet Hugh seems bent on the idea that Japan and China will have a relationship of

Poll: China loves Australia

Pew has just released an interesting poll on China. It shows some striking results: 86 per cent of Chinese people are satisfied with their country's direction and 82 per cent think the current economic situation is good. The poll also reveals the Chinese have a fairly good opinion of

Japan nukes: A response to Green

Michael Green’s characteristically gracious and erudite post on my musings about Japan’s nuclear future brings onto the table two very important underlying questions about whether and in what circumstances Japan could acquire nuclear weapons. Why would Japan abandon an alliance with the US

No surprises in Cambodia election

Cambodia goes to the polls this coming Sunday, 27 July, in what will be the fourth general election since the country returned to something approaching normality in 1993. There is no uncertainty about the result. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will be returned

Japan has little appetite for nukes, and that good

Guest blogger: Michael Green (pictured) is Senior Advisor and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC and Associate Professor at Georgetown University. He served on the NSC staff from 2001 throught 2005. My friend Hugh White has enjoyed opening

Friday funny: For our Kiwi readers

Last week we posted a couple of cruel videos at New Zealand's expense, so this week, I'm giving them their own back at Australia. Here are Bret and Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords with a case of mistaken identity in New York

Stephen Smith speech

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has just finished a speech to the Lowy Institute on Asian regional institutions. We'll have a recording of the event on our homepage tomorrow, but a few quick first impressions from me: Maybe Barry Desker was right, and Prime Minister Rudd's

No regional security without a secure Japan

Sam raises two related points in his responses to my posts on the pressures that might see Japan build nuclear weapons.  He asks what Japan would need nuclear weapons for, and why a Japan that was less dependent on the US for its security couldn’t do without nukes, as other non-nuclear

A new Japan: Like France or like Sweden?

A coda to my earlier response to Hugh White: it might clarify things a little to offer some analogies. If I've read Hugh's posts correctly, he would see a nuclear-armed Japan as somewhat equivalent to France. That is, certainly in the Western strategic orbit and with close military links

Nuclear Japan: A solution in search of a problem

I can go along with Hugh White's argument as far as to agree that, in order to create a sustainable regional order, Japan may have to ease its dependence on US extended nuclear deterrence. But I'm blowed if I can understand why that means Japan must itself acquire nuclear weapons.

A nuclear Japan: The least bad option?

I'm very sympathetic to many of  the points Crispin makes in his response to my musings on Japan and nuclear weapons. Clearly there would be real costs and risks in Japan acquiring nuclear weapons. And just to be absolutely clear, I am not advocating that they should, and certainly not now

Reader riposte: No to a nuclear Japan

Crispin responds to Hugh White's post about why Japan might need nuclear weapons: First off, a nuclear Japan would kill the non-proliferation effort globally. Countries around the world would procure nuclear arsenal, possibly even Australia.  It would spur an arms race in the

Measuring China economic weight

Malcolm's post on measuring Chinese power noted that it was difficult to get a grip on how powerful China is relative to, say, Japan or the US. The good news is that I think we can actually do a fairly good job when it comes to gauging China’s growing relative economic weight. An

China cruise missiles

Both Rory and myself have noted on this blog our admiration for Arms Control Wonk. ACW a great example of something Steve Clemons, of The Washington Note, argues here, which is that because bloggers are able to stick closely to a set of issues, they can 'own' them, becoming an

Why Japan might have to go nuclear

I should have known Sam would not let me get away with the rather provocative comment in my post last week about Japan and nuclear weapons without a more detailed explanation. So here it is. The idea I touched on is that the establishment of a stable new order in Asia that accommodates China

Even Pyongyang wants amity and cooperation, sort of

ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) is playing an increasingly important diplomatic signaling role that is helping ASEAN in its quest to be the 'driving force' of East Asian regionalism. China and India, Asia’s and the world’s re-emerging great powers, were the first

Measuring Chinese power

Trying to get a grip on how powerful China is — especially when the nebulous, unquantifiable concept of 'soft power' is brought into the discussion — is quite difficult. Is it replacing Japan as the economic centre of Asia? Probably not, in my view. Will it soon challenge the US for

Hugh White wants Japan to have WHAT?

Just in case you missed this nugget buried in Hugh White's last post on regional security, here it is again: ...a stable concert in Asia is only possible if Japan is no longer a strategic client of the US, and that means it needs to have its own nuclear weapons. It is a measure of

Kuala Lumpur preoccupied

Prime Minister Rudd is not having much luck in his personal diplomacy in Asia. His trip to China was undercut by the Olympic torch relay and Tibet, bad vibes from Tokyo and price disputes over iron ore. His trip to Japan was undercut by a mass murder in central Tokyo and a historic censure

The attendant benefits of the Six-Party Talks

Guest blogger: David Howell is a Lowy Institute intern and a student in the Department of Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney. In a recent post Sam argued that, whatever the outcome of the Six-Party Talks, they had the benefit of 'socialising' North Korea among its

Avoiding Asia decline and fall

On strategic affairs I usually seem to be the most pessimistic person in any discussion, so it was nice to find my colleague Raoul Henirichs is even gloomier than me in his recent post about the chances of building a peaceful new order in Asia.  Raoul is right that building the kind of

Beijing: Ready, set...

Guest blogger: Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst. With a month to go until the lavish opening ceremony sparkles into life, Beijing is awash with activity. Finishing touches are being applied the city over, and on the face of it, the capital seems pretty much there. In terms

Asia in concert: Beethoven ninth or Holst 'Mars'?

I'm grateful to Raoul Heinrichs for alerting me to Hugh White's IISS address on 'Why war in Asia remains thinkable'. As seems to be so often the case with Hugh, I find myself agreeing on the generalities but disagreeing on some specifics. For instance, I don't see why,

On Hugh White 'Concert Of Asia'

Hugh White is always persuasive; and this speech, made at the IISS in early June, is a particularly elegant account of how he believes the major powers of Asia must adapt themselves to a new kind of strategic order if they are to preserve the peace, stability and prosperity of the past three decades

North Korea: Chris Hill vents

The American conservative weekly The National Review carries an article attacking the State Department's senior North Korea negotiator, Christopher Hill (h/t One Free Korea). It features extracts from some hotly-worded emails Hill sent to a reporter: This idea that we would ignore

Taiwan: Closer to China, further from Japan

The new Ma Ying-jeou government in Taiwan has been successful, so far, in moving China and Taiwan closer together and reaffirming Taiwan’s Chinese nature. This after his opposition predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, worked for two terms to push the two sides of the Taiwan strait further apart and to

Asia illiberal liberals

Thailand and South Korea are facing serious challenges to their democratic consolidations. Seoul and Bangkok have been clogged for more than a month with daily demonstrations against their popularly elected governments. Opponents to these governments seem to be trying to overturn the results of

North Korea: And another thing...

In addition to the arguments I put in previous posts defending the Six-Party Talks process and the North Korea nuclear accommodation, I heard another today at a seminar: it's the regime that matters as much as its weapons.  The reason we care so much about North Korea's nuclear

That North Korea idea I was looking for

Last week I linked to a Korea-themed blog, One Free Korea, to illustrate what sceptics are saying about the recently announced accommodation between the US and North Korea on the latter's nuclear program. My criticism of such critics was that, although they made many fair points about the

North Korea: Got a better idea?

The big diplomatic news of the day is that North Korea has handed over a partial accounting of its nuclear program, and in return the US will remove North Korea from its sponsors of terrorism list and ease sanctions. Those who support this move call it 'huge news...and...a giant step in

Reader riposte: Indonesia AIDS funding

Dave Burrows from AIDS Project Management Group has this response to my post (my response follows): I agree with Bill Bowtell that the German debt for health swap is an intelligent way to deal both with Third World debt and the need for global HIV funding. But it should perhaps be