Tuesday 20 Oct 2020 | 17:13 | SYDNEY

Asia and Pacific

Burma: The limits of international action

Guest blogger: Andrew Selth (pictured), a former diplomat and now a Research Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute. Andrew has recently returned from Burma. The demonstrations in Burma last August and September — dubbed the ‘saffron revolution’ due to the participation of many

Reader riposte: Too much focus on 'hard security'

Peter McCawley writes: Graeme Dobell's comment that 'One of the old divides in Australian diplomacy is between the Northeast Asianists and the Southeast Asianists' is quite true. And it is also true that Southeast Asian specialists have noticed this emphasis in the Prime

China in two minds about the 6PT

Greg Sheridan is right to be skeptical about the near-term prospects for turning the Six Party Talks into a more formal and permanent regional security institution. That the Talks have thus far failed to achieve North Korean denuclearization is perhaps less significant than Washington and Beijing’

More Pacific partnerships...with China?

In his speech to the Brookings Institution on 31 March, Prime Minister Rudd suggested  China should be encouraged to work with other donors to develop appropriate OECD-consistent norms for development assistance delivery. He added that, as getting assistance to Pacific Island nations on a stable

A big North Korea story?

It's been three days since this was published, but I see that a major Western news organisation has now picked up on what is a potentially important development in a big nuclear proliferation story. According to the Japanese daily, Asahi Shimbun, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 

Rudd the Northeast Asianist

One of the old divides in Australian diplomacy is between the Northeast Asianists and the Southeast Asianists. No points for picking Kevin Rudd as a Northerner, not an ASEANist. In pushing for the Six-Party Talks to become the basis for Asia’s attempt at 'doing a Europe', Mr Rudd has

The 6PT: An alternative take

Here's an alternative take on the idea of institutionalising the Six-Party Talks as a regional security mechanism. Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation have not been prominent in the international policy priorities emphasised so far by the Prime Minister during his visit to the

China extends its southern reach

The near-completion of a new road linking Kunming, the provincial capital of China’s Yunnan province, with Bangkok is the latest step in China’s steadily developing policy of closer physical ties with its southern neighbours. Running for a distance of 1800 km, the event was marked by a

Rudd to Fukuda: Why didn't you call?

Prime Minister Rudd had an awkward moment at a press conference yesterday when a Japanese journalist asked him if he had spoken to his Japanese counterpart on the phone. Rudd's answer was less than elegant: Asked if there should have been telephone contact between him and Mr Fukuda

Our man in Beijing

Alistair Thornton (pictured) is a Beijing-based economic analyst. This is his first post about life and politics in today's China. The thick morning smog did a wonderful job of obscuring my view of one of China’s newest architectural wonders, Beijing Airport’s Terminal 3, as I descended into

Tibet: the Kosovo connection

Greg Sheridan is right that China has been ‘brutal and clumsy’ in its ‘mismanagement of Tibet.’ What is especially puzzling about this latest overreaction is that it comes at a time when everything else seems to be going China’s way. After all, Beijing is approaching the final stages in

The Bangkok skytrain

With urban metros so much on our minds here at The Interpreter lately, and with Wired magazine's transport blog, Autopia, recently posting about Bangkok's Skytrain, I thought I'd say my piece. On my single visit to Bangkok, I found the Skytrain a brilliant service: clean, efficient

Another view of the Rudd speech

Three elements of the PM’s speech to the ANU East Asia Forum struck me as interesting and important. First, Mr Rudd made a strong case for the centrality of international policy in Australia’s national life: he said it is ‘the natural expression and extension of the nation’s

Don't wait until HIV is a big problem in Indonesia

For over two decades, sensible HIV/AIDS policy-making has been hampered by the crippling intellectual orthodoxy that funding for HIV/AIDS programs should be applied only after it becomes a serious problem. This is nonsense of a superlatively high order stemming from the stranglehold that the

Reader riposte: Wrong train, right message

Responding to my recent post about how infrastructure-poor Sydney’s proposed metro seems to be modelled on Delhi’s new transit system, and in particular my comment that a Sydney Morning Herald report carried a photograph of the Delhi metro (editor's note: we can't find the photo online

Northeast Asian security dialogue: Here we go again

Ahead of Kevin Rudd’s first Prime Ministerial to the US and China, this Sydney Morning Herald report suggests that the Bush Administration is keen to enlist the Australian Prime Minister in its now desperate bid to forge some permanent regional security structure out of the Six Party Talks on

Reader riposte: HIV in Indonesia

Dave Burrows of AIDS Projects Management Group writes: I appreciate Peter McCawley's difficulty in seeing the need for ongoing funding for HIV programs in Indonesia. I've been working on HIV internationally since 1996 and I've lost count of the number of times I've faced

The quad: China might have overdone it

It is difficult to disagree with Raoul Heinrichs’ recent assessment that the evaporation of the US-Japan-Australia-India quadrilateral dialogue demonstrates China’s growing influence and willingness to wield it.  Much depends, of course, on whether the quadrilateral ‘Chinese ghost

Email of the day: Managing China strategic growth

Takeo Iwata writes (my response follows): Navy Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the US Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a high Chinese official had told him during his visit to China last May that China envisions the future naval security role in the

Japan has a right to be worried about us

In his post on Australia and Japan, Sam dismisses Japan’s concerns with the new Rudd Government as Japan acting like a 'jilted lover'. While Kenichi Ohmae’s op-ed in the SMH today likely reaffirmed to Sam his view that Japan is being petulant, I think if you take a few more things

Taiwan chooses

Taiwan presidential elections garner more international attention than almost any other elections in East Asia, and this attention is usually solely focused on the question of what the result will mean for the 'cross-strait status quo' and the likelihood of further tensions between China

Let resist the urge to panic about our Japan relations

More 'KEVIN RUDD MUST GO TO JAPAN RIGHT NOW!!!' hysteria in the SMH today. As I said earlier this week, Rudd has two visits to Japan planned this year, and that is surely enough. The fact that he is not going there on his first big trip strikes me as significant only if you regard our

Email of the day: More on HIV in Indonesia

In response to Macolm Cook's post on HIV/AIDS funding in Inonesia, Peter McCawley writes: The focus on HIV/AIDS in the debate about Indonesian health care is puzzling. HIV/AIDS is important, but is only one of a wide range of key issues in the health sector. Arguably, other health

Poll: China, please restrain yourself

A poll, released today, of three Western and three Asian countries shows a harsh assessment of China’s approach to Tibet. The poll was conducted between late January and late February, before the recent Tibetan protests captured world headlines, so may well understate current feelings. South

China and Tibet: Missing the point

The recent demonstrations in Lhasa and beyond against Beijing’s treatment of Tibet has certainly hit a raw nerve in this year of the Olympics. Yesterday, the English language version of the People’s Daily (the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party) came out with its explanation of the

Who really killed the Quad?

Sam Roggeveen said yesterday that:  The Rudd Government did not 'kill' the quadrilateral dialogue with the US, Japan and India at the behest of China. As my colleague Rory Medcalf has noted, nobody was proposing a new round of that dialogue anyway. I read the situation a little

Email of the day: Indonesian HIV/AIDS funding

Rawdon Dalrymple is unconvinced by a Jakarta Post report that Indonesian authorities plan to cut HIV/AIDS spending in order to fund upcoming elections, which Malcolm Cook blogged about yesterday: The real reasons for inadequate funding (and effort) on the part of the Indonesian and

Two bad reasons to cut HIV/AIDS funding in Indonesia

Two newspaper articles came across my desk last week that show some of the political challenges facing the worldwide fights against HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that by 2015, Indonesia may well have 1 million HIV/AIDS cases, with the western provinces on Papua already facing an HIV/AIDS epidemic with

Rudd doing the right thing on Japan

The Australian press (or at least, the small portion of it that reports on foreign policy) is today all atwitter about Jason Koutsoukis' scoop claiming Japanese 'fury' over Kevin Rudd's decision not to include Tokyo in his upcoming 17-day world tour. Koutsoukis cites only one

What the blogosphere saying about Tibet?

Not a lot, evidently. In situations like this, where big media is shut out of a story, citizen journalists using blogs to get a message out are supposed to have the inside running. But evidently, they cannot overcome China's internet censors — the Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows,

Email of the day: Where are Pyongyang nukes?

In response to my recent post about North Korean denuclearization, reader David Callard comments: I have long wondered if there might not be a third possibility to those raised by Raoul Heinrichs; that the North Korean regime has some ultra-secret facility buried in a mountain somewhere that

A Washington sweetener for Pyongyang?

Christopher Hill is set to meet with his North Korean counterparts in Geneva in the coming days to re-energize the diplomatic process driving North Korea’s denuclearization. Negotiations have largely stalled since the New Year, as a result of a dispute over Pyongyang’s unwillingness to disclose

Email of the day: Malaysian election

Responding to Malcolm Cook's Malaysian election analysis, Erin Maulday writes: The result will undoubtedly send a huge wake up call to the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), and to Prime Minister Abdullah personally. The recriminations have already started. Mahathir came

Malaysia unbalanced (part 2)

In a blog post in the run-up to the Malaysian parliamentary elections, I hinted that change may be in the offing and that Malaysia’s post-Independence order, crystallized by the UMNO-led ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), may be in trouble. Well, the election results reflect this, but in a

China engagement in Africa: Gargantuan or puny?

Reading Harry Broadman’s essay (subscribers only) in Foreign Affairs — China and India go to Africa — was a reminder of just how hard it is to get a handle on the scale of China’s involvement on the continent. Broadman claims China’s cumulative FDI in Africa at the end of 2005 was a

What does China military power mean for us?

The Pentagon has handed down its annual report to Congress on China’s military power. Given that it is now in its eighth edition and beginning to get a little tedious, the release of this year’s report appears to have been nicely timed to coincide with an official Chinese announcement, ahead of

The Lombok Treaty: Devil in the detail

There is a worrying little fault line in our relations with Indonesia, which may in time become a major crack.  It was neatly exposed by some deft questioning from Jim Middleton in his new program a couple of weeks ago.  First, Jim pressed the Indonesian Ambassador, Mr Thayeb (video here; scroll

Australia in Mindanao: Taking up the gamble

Recently, an Australian delegation went from the embassy in downtown Manila to the jungles of Mindanao to express Australia’s interest in contributing more to the peace process between the Philippine Government and the main Moro insurgent group, the MILF. This is certainly a brave move, given

Floating communications

This Wall Street Journal article describes an innovative effort to bring mobile phone access to rural America. Since it isn't profitable to install towers in such thinly populated areas, this company floats baloons with small electronic packages 20 miles into the stratosphere. Hey presto,

Email of the day: The times suit Obama

Fergus Green writes: I have followed with great interest the debate that has played out on these pages (and on those of The Australian) over the past few days concerning whether Obama or McCain is likely to be more adroit at managing the US-China relationship. From my temporarily

Rudd Govt getting a dose of the Howard stumbles

Communiqués issued after AUSMIN meetings seldom make for gripping reading, but there was something odd and interesting about the one issued last weekend after the Rudd Government’s first AUSMIN. Tucked away under the heading ‘Regional Cooperation’ were a few sentences about the most

The coming Burma question

Hamish McDonald has a terrific piece of reporting from inside Burma in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. 'Where Giants Jostle' deals with the struggle for influence over the regime by its two large neighbours, China and India, and the impact their struggle is having on the society. As a

China one-child policy: The damage is done

Next week, the National People’s Congress will meet in the warm atmosphere of the thirtieth anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s economic opening reforms, a set of policies that radically changed China’s trajectory and helped it regain its paramount position in Asia. This week, the Chinese

Obama vs McCain: A question of war and peace

Hugh White asks rhetorically whether there is any reason to think Obama has either the strategic vision, strategic judgement or political courage to build a new accommodation with China. 'Not much', he answers. But this overlooks one of the great strengths of Obama's campaign (and,

Vote McCain

As always, Sam scores some telling hits in his response to my argument that Australians should hope McCain becomes President. But let me just press him a little harder.  First, let us agree that for Australians the future president’s ability to manage the long-term US-China relationship is

Gershwin in Pyongyang

I know only a little of Gershwin's music beyond Rhapsody in Blue, so I'll take Rory's word for it that An American in Paris is not much good. But still, I think the US side might have snuck one by the North Koreans in getting Gershwin on the NY Philharmonic's program for Pyongyang

What the NY Phil should have played in Pyongyang

No doubt the emotion-laden performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang this week was a powerful step towards détente in US-North Korea relations. It must have been quite the diplomatic juggling act: choosing a program of music that conceded enough to the propaganda imperatives

Email of the day: Obama has better instincts on China

From Edward Cohen, a former Lowy Institute intern now studying for the MPhil in International Relations at Cambridge University: Hugh White’s recent opinion piece in The Australian raises a critical question: which of the presidential candidates would conduct foreign policy in a way

McCain is not our man

Hugh White argues Australia's interests would be best served with another Nixon in the White House, because a Nixonian would be best placed to manage the US relationship with China. For Hugh, that man is Republican candidate John McCain. Let me explain why I disagree. [more] First, I

Have shoe industry, will travel

According to this FT report, the footwear industry has been something of a weather vane for economic development in Asia, with the industry moving from Taiwan to South Korea and then to China as wages rose in each country. The report says there's now talk of the industry migrating again as

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