Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 16:38 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Governance in PNG: The case of the missing funds

A disturbing chain of events in Papua New Guinea has led me to wonder about the state of good governance there and whether the best remedy is better functioning institutions or just better leaders. We heard a couple of weeks ago  that up to one billion kina (about A$400 million) had gone

Two cheers for ASEAN

News that ASEAN will lead a ‘coalition of mercy’ to assist the ill-destined people of Burma following the cyclone is an interesting development. We’ll have to wait and see whether it amounts to the ‘defining moment’ for ASEAN proclaimed by the grouping’s Secretary-General, Surin

China alarmists: Know thyself!

There's a rather breathtaking lack of self-awareness in this Asian Wall Street Journal op-ed from China military expert Richard Fisher. The passage in question: China and the U.S. have already tangled around Hainan. On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3 electronic reconnaissance

Another North Korea famine?

Nuclear weapons can change your perspective. Here we are, chewing over the rights and wrongs of a coercive humanitarian intervention in Burma, while North Korea, apparently, inches towards famine. Yet in the latter case, Arms Control Wonk gravely (and correctly) warns that: The United

Reader riposte: No easy Burma solutions

Dallas writes: Stephen Grenville's recent item on separating the offer of aid from the offer of aid experts, while on the surface a good way of quickly getting aid quickly to those in need, has some flaws. Firstly, the 'aid experts' are experts because this is what they do;

Ping pong wizard

Via Passport, check out Hu Jintao's table tennis form in Japan: Impressive. So much so that Japanese PM Fukuda said:  "I'm glad I didn't play ping-pong with him," Fukuda told reporters. "He's very strategic. I thought you can't be too careful." That makes Fukuda

Burma: Let offer aid, no strings attached

In this debate about Myanmar's reluctance to open itself up to outsiders, we may do better if we separate the offer of aid from the offer of aid experts. The latter have good intentions, but their own set of priorities, which may not coincide with those of the Burmese, either the regime or the

Reader riposte: Air drops in Burma

Andrew O'Neil responds to my earlier observations about his op-ed: The point made by the director of the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance that air drops are one of the least efficient ways of delivering aid is well taken. But let’s face it: we don’t have any good options

Multilateral or unilateral? Whatever works

In response to my post about Asia’s failure to launch a serious multilateral response to Burma’s cyclone crisis, The Interpreter’s editor asks whether I have an intrinsic preference for multilateral or unilateral action on this front. The short answer is: whatever works. If you are a

Would it be right to bomb Burma?

Andrew O'Neil's op-ed today argues that if we're serious about our commitment to the 'responsibility to protect', we have to risk the lives of our air crews by dropping relief supplies into Burma without the regime's permission. The first point to make about this

Disaster relief: China good, Burma bad

Guest blogger: Alistair Thornton (pictured) is a Beijing-based economic analyst. Early on Monday afternoon, mild tremors disturbed my usually uneventful Chinese grammar class. And like in that scene in Jurassic Park, my water glass started vibrating. It took a few seconds for us to realise what

Two points about Burma

The Defence Department has released pictures of a RAAF C-17 ferrying emergency supplies to Burma. This is a reminder that these new aircraft and the yet to be built amphibious ships are not just military tools but national logistical assets that have applications far beyond warfighting.

Burma: Regional multilateralism fails again

The ineffectual regional response to Burma’s humanitarian disaster confirms the continuing hollowness of Asia’s multilateral institutions. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the ASEAN-3 arrangement including China, Japan, and South Korea; the various ASEAN-1

Burma: Time for some activist middle power diplomacy

It is impossible to look at this morning’s media coverage of Burma — even the few skerricks of news to have made it through the wall of secrecy erected by one of the world’s most appalling regimes — and not feel profound anger. Just look at the photograph in this morning’s Sydney Morning

A storm of protest over Burma

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth, Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute When Tropical Cyclone Nargis cut a swathe through Lower Burma last week, it left more than death and destruction in its wake. The military government’s slow response to the disaster, including its reluctance to

Two disasters, two responses

Another surging wave has crashed into a vulnerable Southeast Asian country, killing tens of thousands and leaving over a million people homeless (most of the destruction of the typhoon that hit Myanmar this weekend came from the huge wave surges it triggered). Yet, while the pictures and the

Is the season right for a new Sino-Japanese agreement?

Guest blogger: Shiro Armstrong is a Research Scholar at the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research, Australian National University. This week Hu Jintao is visiting Japan, the first such trip by a Chinese president in 10 years. It could produce a breakthrough in the important yet rocky

Mindanao: Has peace had its chance?

Today, there will be an important high-level meeting in Asia of great interest to Australia. No, it is not the meeting between Hu Jintao and Fukuda Yasuo but that between the new Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim and the Philippine Secretary for Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo. This meeting is

Crisis-proofing East Asia: IMF, AMF or self-insurance?

A quick glance at some of the reporting of the ASEAN - 3 Finance Ministers meeting in Madrid last weekend shows that the dream of an Asian Monetary Fund (AMF) is still with us. Meanwhile, the original version – the IMF itself – is having a tough time of it, forced to implement an austerity

China: Go easy on the human rights outrage

Rowan Callick, China Correspondent for The Australian, has unearthed an unedifying interview given by Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission President John von Doussa to Chinese state television. Judging by the quotes, von Doussa is too accommodating to China on human rights and Tibet,

China still hard to love

In the Weekend Australian, Greg Sheridan wrote: The China obsession of the Rudd Government, and especially of the PM himself, has alarmed leaders in India, Japan and Southeast Asia, who fear Australia is reorienting its foreign policy to an unbalanced stress on China. There

China new submarine base

This Jane's Intelligence Review exclusive featuring satellite images of a new Chinese underground submarine base is behind a firewall, so I haven't been able to read the whole thing yet. But given the kind of expertise Jane's boasts, I assume their analysis is more sober than that

The urgency of regional nuclear arms control

The New America Foundation recently hosted an event here in Washington, moderated by the Arms Control Wonk himself, Jeffrey Lewis, on the nuclear dimension of Sino-US relations. The presenters, Darryl Press and Keir Lieber, have published a number of provocative articles on the topic (see here, here

Australia-Japan trade talks: The tedium just starting

Spare a thought for our trade negotiators – high pain threshold, high boredom threshold, and an extraordinary ability to do meetings. This week marks the first birthday of the free trade negotiations with Japan, but the celebrations are muted because the tough part of this process gets under way

What on earth was Hillary thinking?

At first blush, this is a pretty appalling lapse in taste and judgment from Clinton: Q. You have any good jokes? A. Here's a good one. Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand: her opponents have observed that in the event of a nuclear war, the two things that

PNG aid priorities

Further to my earlier post on the recent Australia-PNG talks, while Australia was celebrating the Kokoda deal, PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal was more interested in highlighting his government’s interest in seeing improvements to the way Australian aid is spent in PNG. The PNG Government wants

Moment of truth for the Six-Party Talks?

The US media is reporting that the CIA will later today release video evidence of North Koreans helping to build a Syrian nuclear reactor. Israel bombed the site last year. This Washington Post report has a summary of what's actually in the video, while the New York Times piece focuses more on

Australia-PNG: A first-class relationship

Australian and PNG Ministers met yesterday in Madang in the first bilateral ministerial meeting since 2005. The 60-member Australian delegation, including six ministers and 3 parliamentary secretaries, sent a strong signal that the relationship with PNG had not only improved but was now '

2020 Summit: Economic integration with the Pacific

It was extremely pleasing to see a title like Closer Economic and Political Integration with the Pacific appear in the Australia 2020 Summit report. This represents a sharp and most welcome break with an Australian tendency to cast the Pacific Islands as weak and failing states that pose

Look before you leap: Fiji forthcoming elections

Guest Blogger: Associate Professor Satish Chand (pictured), from the Crawford School of Economics and Government at ANU. There is considerable debate about whether Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the interim Prime Minister of Fiji and the coup-maker who overthrew the elected

Reader riposte: The 2020 Summit

Alison Broinowski writes (my thoughts follow): Many thanks Graeme Dobell for showing the rest of us the big picture before it got smaller. But even 13 headings are too many to address the question that underlies all of this. It comes down to a basic inconsistency in Labor’s tripartite

Friday linkage: Asian edition

Japanese PM Fukuda announces he will cut short his upcoming overseas trip, leaving Russia on his itinerary but cancelling Germany, Britain and France. I await a confected political controversy, with the opposition demanding Fukuda visit Berlin, London and Paris immediately, if not sooner. Bad

Reader riposte: China and the KMT

Edwin Lowe writes (my response follows):  In reference to Malcolm Cook's post on 'Cross Strait Calming': the recent meeting of Hu Jintao and Vincent Siew at the Baoao Forum is significant, in that Siew is the Vice-President elect of the ROC. However, this meeting is not

Reader riposte: Korea-Australia people-to-people ties

Hans van Leeuwen writes in with this comment on our Korea thread started here and here. While it's true that the Australian media largely ignores Korea and the government seems to follow suit, on an interpersonal level, I would argue the relationship appears to be thriving. Anyone

Australia and Korea: Not so close

Guest blogger: Brendan Howe (pictured), Professor of Diplomacy and Security, Ewha Womans University GSIS, Seoul and visiting CISS Research Fellow, responds to Malcolm Cook's post on our undervalued relationship with Korea.  Malcolm Cook highlights the importance of Korea to Australian

Cross-strait calming

The most important meeting last weekend at the Boao Forum for Asia barely got a mention in the Australian media, though it did receive praise in the American, British, Chinese and pro-KMT Taiwan press. It was not the meeting between PM Rudd and Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, or PM Rudd

Korea passing

Our lively discussion of the Rudd Government’s foreign policy and his first, unusually long, foreign trip have canvassed Japan’s, India’s and Southeast Asia's concerns about being 'passed', ignored or downgraded in Australia’s new worldview as an active 'creative middle

Prospects for dollar-diplomacy

The Economist this week looks at some early signs of a thawing in cross-strait relations, with the recent election of the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou. But what are the chances this will translate into a decrease in the dollar diplomacy that has been so destabilising in the Pacific? The former Foreign

Reader riposte: Australia weakness

Chris Skinner writes to us about defence policy, with my response below: I think your naiveté is breathtaking in declaring ‘...what if things go really well in the region over the next decade?’ as a basis for any sort of policy development, let alone that of national security!

The costs of having 'the best' for our military

I've written several posts (most recent here) questioning  the terms of the defence procurement debate. Too often, multi-billion dollar decisions about the merits of this tank versus that tank, or frigate A versus frigate B, are discussed much as one would compare horses running in the 3.

Uh-oh, I see a Chinese values debate

Watching the war of words over the Olympic torch relay and the Chinese government’s policy in Tibet, I am getting a foreboding sense of déjà vu about the bad old days of the early 1990s Asian values debate. The 'sacred flame', when not being hidden, is passing demonstrators who

Olympics: The bad news will get out

The images you see scattered throughout this post are collected from the free photo-sharing site, Flickr, and are one manifestation of the 'citizen journalism' that the internet facilitates (with global reach and at negligible cost). I'll return to their larger political significance

Reader riposte: Political reform in China

In response to this post, Crispin writes to ask: Don't you feel, that to some extent, the idea that political liberalisation will come with economic prosperity is a myth propagated by the Chinese government to maintain legitimacy? If not then how do you explain Hong Kong? HK is

Our Tibet protests all sound and fury

If I understand Graeme Dobell's analysis on ABC radio this morning correctly, Kevin Rudd will not mind at all that the Chinese Embassy in Canberra registed complaints about Rudd's Washington comments on human right abuses in Tibet. Rudd, after all, used quite moderate and careful language in

Political vs. economic rights in China

Peter McCawley and I have been in furious agreement that China's economic progress is itself a massive human rights achievement. We also agree that it is wrong to characterise the debate about Australia's stance on China as one of trade versus human rights, because those rights are not

Reader riposte: The perennial China question

Peter McCawley responds to my post of yesterday on why it is wrong to separate economic and human rights issues too starkly in our diplomacy toward China. My response follows: One central issue that underpins Sam Roggeveen's comment on the 'perennial China question' is the

Olympic realism

The troubled Olympic torch relay will soon arrive in San Francisco under the threat of being cancelled to avert the problems visited upon it in Europe. Hillary Clinton, showing signs of desperation, has publicly called for President Bush to not plan to go to the opening ceremony 'absent major

That perennial China question

Over at Blogocracy, Tim Dunlop is using the Olympic torch imbroglio to start a discussion about where Australia ought to stand on the perennial China dilemma: As I say, Rudd isn’t the only political leader with this problem and like most of them, he needs to find a much better way

Those fickle Kiwis

Here's an arresting headline for Australian readers, from today's New Zealand Herald: China — Our new best friend This may be a case of slight over-exuberance in reaction to the news that Beijing and Wellington have inked a free trade deal. But if we spot Helen Clark

The Olympic cough

Alistair Thornton is a Beijing-based economic analyst. My lungs, more used to the Bondi sea breeze than the Beijing city smog, have not fared so well. I’m now the proud owner of an authentic Beijinger cough. And as each day passes, I wince less and less at the horrific phlegm-hacking noises