Wednesday 23 Oct 2019 | 14:36 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Hong Kong protesters need a narrative – now

As the demonstrations roll on in Hong Kong, the narrative surrounding the protests is as unclear as the tear gas clouds in Causeway Bay. While the visual drama tells a certain story, and the #fivedemandsnoless hashtag gives some clues, it’s difficult for many looking on around the world to discern

China’s own “Great Delusion”

In his 2018 book The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, international relations scholar John Mearsheimer argues that many of America’s post–cold war foreign policy failures have ultimately been the result of a misguided strategy of a pursuit of “liberal hegemony”, an

Facebook, the Rohingya, and internet blackouts in Myanmar

The role of social media, particularly Facebook, in facilitating hate speech and spreading disinformation in countries such as Myanmar has undermined assertions by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that his platform promotes “well-being”. Nevertheless, the United Nations has argued that internet

Dispatches from the front (row)

Only last week The Interpreter featured an article about the pitfalls of importing a major international sporting event into a country that didn’t have enough domestic interest or emotional investment to support it. That may have been the case in Qatar, but having just returned from two weeks and

Could Australia unlock the Kashmir question?

The Indian government’s lockdown of the strategic and volatile region of Kashmir is entering into its third month. Thousands of troops are deployed in the valley with shoot on sight orders in place, the internet remains cut off, while mobile phones lines have only just been restored.

Plogging along: India-China struggle to find momentum

You may have seen photos in recent days of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hunched over a beach, picking up rubbish. While the images presented an opportunity for media to write about ocean pollution, there was actually an even bigger event at play: an informal summit between India and China.

The Wiranto attack and the ISIS impact

The stabbing attack last Thursday by an ISIS supporter on Wiranto, Indonesia’s top security minister, was a shock for several reasons. Attacks on senior officials in Indonesia are very rare, though terrorist attacks on police are common. Protection proved to be disturbingly lax – the stabber got

China and Catholicism, an unhappy marriage

China’s Christians are suffering again, as Beijing continues to implement leader Xi Jinping’s policy of “sinicisation” of religion that, in effect, means making adherents to all religions more loyal to the ruling Communist Party, rather than to their conscience. It is now a little more

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

Asia’s diversity, made all the same

Book review: The Future is Asian – Commerce, Conflict, and Culture in the 21st Century, by Parag Khanna (Simon & Schuster, 2019) In The Future is Asian, Parag Khanna provides readers with a rollicking ramble through the economy, society, culture, politics, and international relations of Asia

The next phase of the Belt and Road: Podcast out now

After Malaysia became the first country to tear up its corruptly overpriced BRI deals in 2018, this year has seen a shift in the rhetoric around China’s grand strategy. The second phase of the Belt and Road Initiative is shifting focus from grand infrastructure projects like ports and rail to

Afghanistan: Water management for peace

In the optimistic view, Afghanistan is closer to peace today than at any time in the past decades. The presidential election last weekend may have been hampered by low turnout, and US negotiations with the Taliban have halted, but one of the factors which can significantly contribute to maintaining

Poles apart: The long shadow of US-China competition

From trade to cyber, from the South China Sea to outer space, strategic rivalry between the United States and China is shaping the international order. The polar regions seem no exception. At the recent Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council held in Rovaniemi, Finland, US Secretary of State

Can the ICC bring justice to Myanmar?

More than 700,000 men, women, and children, many identifying as Rohingya, crossed the border from Myanmar’s Rakhine State into Bangladesh in 2017, fleeing violence at the hands of the military and security forces. A UN Fact-Finding Mission was established to determine the facts and circumstances

Violence in Papua could get worse

Violence has swept across Indonesian Papua in the last six weeks, starting with racist taunts against Papuan students in East Java, and moving back to Papua where protests against racism turned into larger pro-independence demonstrations. On 28 August, police opened fire on demonstrators in Deiyai

In Sri Lanka’s election, bumps ahead

The race for Sri Lanka’s presidential election is heating up, with the vote slated for 16 November. On 11 August, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, became the candidate of the Sri Lanka People’s Front (SLPP). The SLPP is a Rajapaksa-backed political party that

India’s RCEP reticence

Despite the modern proliferation of free trade agreements, there is an enormous gap between free trade as it is understood and advocated by those who benefit from it, and free trade as it is practiced today. The understanding of economic integration is diverse and complicated – at its heart sits a

Book review: Common enemies

Book review: Common enemies: crime, policy and politics in Australia–Indonesia relations, by Michael McKenzie (Oxford University Press, 2018) Next month marks the 17th anniversary of the Bali Bombing, which on 12 October 2002 claimed the lives of 202 people and injured 209 others. The attack

Myanmar: postage stamps and political signals

Myanmar’s former military regime often used new issues of the country’s postage stamps to send political signals, not only to its own people but also to the international community. It appears that this practice is also being followed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s quasi-democratic

Stalemate leaves Rohingya refugees trapped

It has been two years since the forced exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, and for about a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, there is no sign of returning in the foreseeable future. The growing uncertainty of repatriation, diminishing international aid, and an aggrieved local host community have

Malaysia’s dangerous racial and religious trajectory

When Malaysia’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition ruled the country, it faced an opposition that campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption, free and fair elections, and greater democracy. BN, led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), the largest and most dominant party, ruled

Book review: Hidden histories of Australia’s cameleers

Book review: Australianama: The South Asian Odyssey in Australia, by Samia Khatun (University of Queensland Press, 2019) A decade ago, Bangladeshi-Australian writer and historian Samia Khatun sat on the floor of the 150-year-old mosque in Broken Hill and opened up a thick volume from the bookshelf

The sharp sword: China and the drone threat to Australia

In Saudi Arabia, a combined drone and cruise missile attack conducted by still-unknown forces (either Iran, Iraqi proxy groups, Yemeni militia forces, or a combination of all three) caused significant damage to the Kingdom’s most important oil facility. Defence writer Tyler Rogoway is alarmed

What’s so strategic about baby-food?

The discussion about China’s bid for baby-formula supplier Bellamy’s Organic shows the usual confusion about just what should guide decisions on foreign investment in Australia. Of course there will be some proposals that are defence-strategic. But baby formula is not one of them. Nor is

North Korea under Kim Jong-un: Podcast out now

Episode 10 of the Lowy Institute’s new podcast, Rules Based Audio, is out today. In Socialist Paradise: North Korea under Kim Jong-un, the Washington Post Beijing bureau chief and author Anna Fifield talks about how the strange, closed country is changing under its young leader. And

Micro-loans raise major questions in Cambodia

A recent report in Cambodia detailing human rights abuses in the microfinance sector has prompted government outcry – not against predatory lenders, but against the organisations and journalists who exposed them. The study, released by Licadho and Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), paints a picture of

Remembering Timor – a soldier’s view

Twenty years ago, several hundred soldiers from the 3RAR Parachute Battalion Group, including me, flew from our base in Holsworthy to Darwin. We had a brief training session with a cavalry squadron we had never worked with, and then, never having conducted any maritime training, we embarked on HMAS

Habibie’s lasting legacy for Indonesia

Bacharuddin Jusuf “BJ” Habibie, third president of the Republic of Indonesia, passed away on 11 September in Jakarta. After serving as vice president under Suharto, Habibie succeeded him when political and economic crisis forced the president of three decades to resign in May 1998. Although it

INTERFET and the defence of Australia

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Force East Timor (INTERFET), a multinational mission led by Australia to stabilise the country in 1999. As a former Army officer posted to Timor-Leste after INTERFET, I’m proud to be back in Dili today to represent the

Afghanistan – what’s next?

Ten days ago, US President Donald Trump called off negotiations with the Taliban about withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, widely expected to be followed by intra-Afghanistan peace talks, which Norway hoped to host and President Ashraf Ghani had begun to prepare for by selecting a negotiation

Gladys Liu and the pitfalls of cultural anxiety

This country’s diverse Chinese-Australian communities are hurting. From conversations with friends, I gather they feel burdened by an obligation to show loyalty to Australia that others simply take for granted. Some report feeling caught in the crossfire between a Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

Habibie’s legacy of Reformasi in Indonesia

Bacharuddin Jusuf “BJ” Habibie, Indonesia’s third president, died last week at age 83. Habibie was an unexpected president. He hesitantly took over the reins of government from the second president of the Republic, Suharto, in an event televised worldwide on 21 May 1998. Unlike his predecessor

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