Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:46 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Rudd on right track, but with wrong vehicle

Geoff Barker claims (subscribers only) in today’s Australian Financial Review that criticisms of Prime Minister Rudd’s recent initiatives on Asia-Pacific regionalism and nuclear disarmament are all of a kind. He writes: …it is also important to note that Rudd’s critics are

The regional architecture debate continues

The debate that Hugh White, myself and others have conducted on the merits of Prime Minister Rudd's Asia Pacific Community proposal has migrated to the Australian National University-based East Asia Forum blog. Peter Drysdale argues there that we should not wait to build a new regional order

Geography isn't economic destiny

Sam noted in a recent post that the physical distance of countries like Australia and New Zealand from world economic activity can have economic costs, and that one current trend – rising energy prices – looks set to increase the importance of distance in an adverse way by boosting

The Rambo approach to Burma

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth, Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and author of Populism, Politics and Propaganda: Burma and the Movies Sylvester Stallone has claimed that his movie, Rambo 4, released internationally in February and available to Australians on DVD next month, has

How to spot Chinese military power projection

In relation to my last post, I should note that the cross-posting initiative with World Politics Review will not inhibit the regular back and forth we have. And to that end, my thanks to Judah at WPR for pointing me in the direction of this essay from the Washington Quarterly on China's

China earthquake: All those broken windows

The FT reports that: Last month’s devastating Sichuan earthquake will boost China’s economic growth, thanks to the billions due to be poured into reconstruction, according to a government think-tank. The State Information Centre, a research group that is part of the government’s

Oil prices revive the tyranny of distance

The Economist's Free Exchange blog has had a couple of posts in recent days on New Zealand's apparent slide into recession. Their conclusion is that Australia and New Zealand will have to rely on markets physically closer to us if we are to overcome the higher costs of transporting our

A feast of trilaterals

Strategic triangles (never squares, rectangles or hexagons) are a very familiar theme in security studies and now, in the Asia Pacific at least, they are being institutionalized into a growing number of trilateral dialogues. In Tokyo last week, Prime Ministers Fukuda and Rudd reinforced

Reader riposte: Put the China-Japan champagne on ice

Go writes from Japan in response to my brief item yesterday on joint Sino-Japanese exploitation of gas fields in disputed territory in the East China Sea: I read that you introduced the FT's story saying that Japan-China gas cooperative development agreement is coming soon. But it

Livre blanc: France defence white paper

Media coverage of France's newly released Defence White Paper focuses heavily on the decision to return to NATO's command structure. Of the coverage I've seen, Only World Politics Review talks about 'the prominence of Asia as a strategic focus of interest' in the document

Japan-China: It a gas, gas, gas

What was I saying just the other day about Japan needing to do more to resolve various territorial disputes with its neighbours? Well, when it comes to at least one of those disputes, the Japanese (and Chinese) are way ahead of me, and almost ready to announce some big news about joint

Institutions and power

As usual, Sam has spotted the weak point in my position. I had argued that Rudd should not waste his time and credibility by proposing half-baked new ideas for new forums like his aspirational Asia-Pacific Community. He should focus instead on trying to mobilise changes to the fundamentals of

Getting the regional structure right does matter

Hugh White has two lines of attack against the PM's Asia Pacific Community proposal. Let me address them both. First, I take Hugh at his word that the Rudd Government did not do the intellectual and diplomatic spadework necessary before the PM announced his Asia-Pacific Community idea

Reader riposte: One China, two parties

Edwin Lowe replies to Malcolm Cook's post of last week: Malcolm suggests that democratisation in Taiwan, South Korea and Japan may mean the end of the party-to-party relations paradigm in East Asian diplomacy. But I don’t see that paradigm changing anytime soon for cross-Strait

New Caledonia: What now after twenty years of peace?

For two days in Paris, while Australians were marking Anzac Day, quiet discussions took place involving historic players from our closest Pacific island neighbour, the French collectivity of New Caledonia. The occasion was a Colloquium held 25 to 26 April, amidst the chandeliers and plush velvet

Rudd Asia plan lacks conviction

Sam is right to say that Rudd’s vision of an Asia-Pacific Community would – if it got anywhere — help address the concerns I raised in Friday’s op-ed about the trajectory of major-power relations in Northeast Asia. He can therefore reasonably challenge me to say why I am so

Rudd in Japan: Credit where credit is due

I have been among the critics of the Rudd Government’s handling of Australia’s vitally important partnership with Japan, so it is only fair to acknowledge good news when it occurs. The joint declaration Mr Rudd and his Japanese counterpart, Yasuo Fukuda, released after their discussions

Hugh White doesn't like Rudd big idea either

Hugh White is right that Australia's highest foreign policy priority should be to promote the creation of a stable regional order (or a 'convergence', as Hugh calls it in his column in The Australian today) that accommodates a rising China. Or, to put it in the negative, we should

East Asia party diplomacy

A while ago Edwin Lowe from Macquarie University criticized a post I wrote on Taiwan-PRC rapprochement. He argued that I fell into the trap of many Western analysts (even Asia-literate Australians) of assuming diplomacy is only between governments and not political parties. After some thought, I

Reader riposte: The Japan phone call that never came

Peter Alford, Tokyo correspondent for The Australian, argues (in response to this) that there are several reasons why Prime Minister Rudd should have been first to pick up the phone to his Japanese counterpart Yasuo Fukuda. My response follows: Japan is still Australia’s principal

Malcolm, would that excuse work on your mother?

My colleague Malcolm Cook writes from Japan this morning: (Japanese PM) Fukuda has been fighting for his political life since before our November elections and has had little time to focus on Australia or even pick up the phone and call Canberra. It emerged in March that Prime

Regional architecture: Squaring the hexagon

At last. After all the debate on this blog about the 2020 vision for the Asia Pacific’s regional architecture, cutting through the geo-political confusion and the jumble of acronyms comes someone who can see the big picture clearly. And it takes a former Lowy Institute intern to do it. Aaron

Japan preoccupied

Being in Japan at the same time as PM Rudd is very insightful. I have been quite critical of the new Rudd Government's approach to Japan (hopefully not obtuse though) and I stand by my remarks. However, I am now also more sympathetic to the challenges Canberra faces in engaging with Tokyo at the

Rudd arms control initiative

It's welcome news that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has at last put nuclear security prominently on his government's agenda, with his visit to Hiroshima and his announcement of a new expert commission, co-chaired with Japan, on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. He came to

Reader riposte: More action, not more acronyms

Brendan Howe writes: What is needed is not another ingredient in the current alphabet soup of regional international organization, but rather improvement in the effectiveness or sustenance levels of those already constituted. The big questions are which organizations should be improved

Reader riposte: Europe and Asia compared

Hans van Leeuwen writes: On the uncertain prospects for East Asian multilateralism, Rory Medcalf writes: 'Many features of the region work against such solidarity. It has diverse cultures, political systems and levels of development. It is divided by unresolved historical grievances

Reader riposte: Union or Community?

Dominic Meagher from East Asia Forum writes: Your comment in this piece is heartening: 'The instinct to enmesh the region in structures that will help prevent conflict with China, rather than just preparing for it, is the right one.' But I want to call you on an error

Reader ripostes: My 'Bahasa' error

Two responses to my post from yesterday, on Barack Obama's Indonesian language skills. This from Lucy: This is just a note on a common mistake that you have made in calling the Indonesian language 'Bahasa'. 'Bahasa' means 'language', and it is therefore

One mechanism to rule them all? Not so fast

Mark has suitably sobered East Asia Summit spruikers like me with a reminder that sometimes expanding a forum is the best way to render it ineffective. And if the goal is a free trade area, then pinning your hopes on bringing together the US and China isn’t going to achieve much in a hurry (or

Burma armed forces: How loyal?

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth, Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute and author of Burma's Armed Forces: Power Without Glory. It is always difficult to know what is happening inside Burma, and in particular inside the armed forces (known locally as the Tatmadaw). There are signs

More reactions to Rudd big idea

Yesterday I asked why Prime Minister Rudd had not enlisted two previous Labor PMs with strong records of support for regional multilateralism to help sell Rudd's new Asia-Pacific Union initiative. Well, here's my answer: they're agin' it. Or at least, they have serious

A quick way to kill off the East Asia Summit?

Rory is right to note that a major obstacle facing efforts at regional institution-building is the vested interests that the various players have in supporting their own preferred bit of the regional architecture. Together with my colleague, Malcolm Cook, I have spent a fair part of the past six

Rudd grand design

An ‘Asian Union’ sounds grand and logical. But the early media reports about Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 4 June Sydney speech on regional co-operation were overblown. While it is heartening to see the Rudd Government identifying the need for stronger diplomatic ‘architecture’ in

Kevin Rudd big idea

I joined 500 or so others at the Asia Society’s annual dinner last night to hear Kevin Rudd’s speech. The Prime Minister had two purposes.  One was to place Asia in the centre of Australian foreign policy with a Big Idea to match Bob Hawke’s APEC and Paul Keating’s Leaders Meetings. The

Rudd Asia-Pacific Union

The text of the PM's speech is not up on his website yet, so I only have the press accounts to go on, but my initial reaction to his plan for an Asia-Pacific Union by 2020 is cautiously favourable. This was a striking quote: The danger of not acting is that we run the risk of

Reader riposte: Bali belly trumps terrorism

Following two recent posts on The Interpreter calling for Australia's travel advisory for Indonesia to be revised, Peter McCawley writes (my thoughts follow): The Australian Government travel advice on the DFAT web site warns Australians against visiting Indonesia. The warning is

Reader riposte: Of shoes and rationality

Al writes in response to my post about Iran, in which I argued that those who look nostalgically back at the 'rational' Soviets to justify their view that the US cannot deter the 'mad' mullahs in Tehran should think again. The Soviets were plenty erratic at times, for instance

Dealing with a 'normal' Indonesia

With Kevin Rudd visiting Indonesia next week, thoughts are turning to what 'deliverables' he might achieve. As I argue in the AFR today, the visit won’t revolutionise our relationship, but it is important to shift it a notch higher, to reflect Indonesia’s return to being a 'normal&#

Southeast Asia politics: The next generation

This year may see the end of UMNO rule in Malaysia if Anwar Ibrahim can attract the required number of turncoats in the fraying Barisan Nasional to gain power, as he is hinting he can.  UMNO and its increasingly weakened coalition partners have ruled Malaysia for more than 50 years, but if Anwar

DFAT travel advice to Indonesia: Time to reconsider

Guest blogger: Mitch O'Dwyer interned at the Lowy Institute in 2006 and has just returned from a few months living in Indonesia The prime minister is scheduled to make his first official visit to Jakarta next month, and while Mr Rudd will undoubtedly be looking to continue Australia’s

McCain Asia op-ed

This McCain-Lieberman op-ed on US Asia policy is worth your time, I guess, particularly in light of the debate Hugh White and I conducted some time back on whether a President John McCain would be good for Australia. Hugh endorsed McCain on the grounds that he would be best placed of the

Burma continuing fear of invasion

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth, Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute Even before 1988, when the armed forces crushed a massive pro-democracy uprising and took back direct political power, Burma’s military government feared an invasion of the country. In those days, the greatest

China transforming

The more one looks at the huge transformations taking place in China, the more one becomes desensitized to extraordinarily large numbers. Yet, this report* out of China on the government’s urbanization plans still bowled me over. The Chinese Government, as part of its development and

Stockpiling rice to feed the hungry

The Interpreter has held a few discussions on global food shortages, and on this theme just last month the cost of subsidised rice to Indonesia's poor shot up by 60 per cent: tough news considering half of its population live on less than $US 2 a day. Sharp swings in commodity prices aren

Taking Southeast Asia seriously

It is interesting that a conversation about the suffering of the Burmese people at the hands both of nature and of an odious regime ends up being about the US. The unipolar moment may have passed, but for some, America clearly remains the indispensible whipping boy. I would have thought

Notes on the China earthquake

Since I'm in the mood for displaying my ignorance, here's something else I didn't know. According to the World Health Organisation: ...most people killed in natural disasters are healthy at the time of death...and the decomposition process won’t put public health at risk

Should it all be Chinese to us?

Guest blogger: Scheherazade Rogers, a Lowy Institute intern, is undertaking a Master of Translating and Interpreting (Chinese-English)/Master of International Relations at Macquarie University. A key ambition that emerged from the recent 2020 Summit was to ‘ensure that the major

Two thoughts on the China earthquake

This from Time magazine's China blog: For the past year everyone has called the Beijing Olympics China's "coming-out party." I'm beginning to wonder if the adjectives, if not the noun, are more suitable to the earthquake. It is as far from a party as you can get, but from

Change in Asia

I'm grateful to Greg Sheridan for the reminder, in his weekend column, that big things are happening in Malaysia. Here's a blog post about Anwar Ibrahim's recent travels to India, which reinforces Sheridan's message that Anwar aims to lead a secular, liberal government. On

Reader ripostes: Sovereignty in Southeast Asia

Two responses to Andrew Shearer's post on ASEAN. The first is from Hans: I find something puzzling about Andrew Shearer's enthusiastic support for 'the breaking down [within ASEAN] of views on sovereignty, and an increasing emphasis on consistency with international norms&#