Sunday 24 Mar 2019 | 19:59 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Key takeaways from the Taiwan elections

On Saturday, 24 November, the people of Taiwan went to the polls to vote for over 11,000 local-level officials and voice their opinion on 10 referendums. The results were a stark repudiation of the policies of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Tsai Ing-wen. The DPP lost

Myanmar’s skewed democracy was predictable

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) was made up of exiled pro-democracy leaders who were elected to the national parliament in 1990 (which was subsequently annulled) in one of the military junta’s very brief flirtations with democracy. I worked with them – largely

Afghanistan: the Hazaras are not safe

In late October 2018, the Taliban in Afghanistan launched a new campaign of attacks, taking them into areas which until then had been “peaceful”. The attacks started in the Khas Uruzgan district, part of the very province where Australian defence personnel served as part of their lengthy

Feminism and femininity in Xi Jinping’s “New Era”

In September, Leta Hong Fincher released her second book on gender inequality in China, Betraying Big Brother: the Feminist Awakening in China. The book depicts a Communist Party that “aggressively perpetuates gender norms and reduces women to their roles as dutiful wives, mothers and baby

From the high horse: Malaysia’s problematic track record

Speaking at the ASEAN summit in Singapore this month, Malaysia’s “new” Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad gave counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi a taste of his notoriously acerbic mind. As one of three Muslim leaders present at the gathering, Mahathir made clear Suu Kyi was “defending the

Barley and bases: China stings Australian farmers

China’s Ministry of Commerce announced on Monday that it would immediately start a year-long anti-dumping probe into imported barley from Australia. China is Australia’s largest export market for barley. In 2017, two-thirds of the Australian crop – 6.48 million tonnes, worth US $1.5 billion

Try as it might, Pakistan still needs IMF help

Instantly after returning from China this month, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar declared that Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis to be over. He claimed that a financial bailout package provided by Saudi Arabia and China has helped Pakistan overcome its financial troubles. Yet in

Economic diplomacy: Indonesian trade, RCEP and PNG aid

Plan B for Indonesia An interesting division is emerging between the federal government and a potential future Labor administration over the value of free trade agreements (FTAs) with implications for future relations with Indonesia. With the new Trade Minister Simon Birmingham inheriting

Beijing’s online gaming clampdown

Last month, Tencent Chairman and Chief Executive Pony Ma (马化腾) sent out an open letter, announcing a major strategic shift in direction for one of Asia’s most valuable technology firms. “We believe that the first stage of the mobile internet, the consumer internet, is drawing to a close

The growing attention on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

You don’t hear much about India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands aside from tourism or tribes. The islands, which make up one of India’s seven union territories, are a remote archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, about halfway between Thailand and India. They have traditionally been highly protected

Myanmar’s press freedom mirage

It has been a bad year for press freedom across Southeast Asia. Myanmar has been no exception. Media freedom fell to new lows this month as a self-proclaimed anti-Rohingya supporter, American Rick Heizman, was welcomed with open arms in Myanmar. Heizman, a little-known musician and

Cambodia’s genocide verdict: better late than never

The verdict of the Khmer Rouge tribunal (The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, ECCC) on 16 November that found Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of genocide was scarcely surprising. For all but the most sceptical of commentators, the evidence was clear. During the tyrannous rule

What to watch in the Taiwan elections

On Saturday, the people of Taiwan will head to the polls to cast ballots for more than 11,000 officials. Taiwan’s citizens will vote for the mayors of the “big six” special municipalities of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Also up for election are 13 county

US versus China: the economic model

With the US–China economic rivalry intensifying and “decoupling” becoming the mantra in Washington, what mindset, or economic model, is behind President Donald Trump’s response to China? Trump is a Republican, but not as we know them. Republicans favour free international trade,

Indonesia’s election: Jokowi vs Prabowo

Indonesia is moving into election mode. There will be sweeping general elections in Indonesia in April next year for the presidency, the national parliament, provincial parliaments, and at the regional level across the nation. Australians might go to the polls around the same time, but there will be

Abe’s visit to Australia: raising the stakes

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is scheduled to visit Australia this week on the heels of attending the ASEAN Summit. While there have been regular prime ministerial exchanges between Tokyo and Canberra throughout Abe’s long leadership tenure, there will be more at stake than usual on this

The challenges facing APEC leaders

The Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Summit is being held at a time of enormous global and regional geopolitical uncertainty. It is a tumultuous time for the region, and APEC 2018 provides a real opportunity for leaders to agree on the kinds of reforms that could make a positive difference

Scoring China’s happiness quest

China is fast approaching the first of its “two centenaries”: the 100th anniversary in 2021 of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2021, according to its leaders, China will move from a “moderately prosperous society” (xiaokang shehui) into the next official stage, the “happy

Signalling a whole-of-Australia approach to China

One of the most challenging aspects of Australia’s bilateral relationship with China is finding new ways to signal our interest in the big issues that are shaping the future of the region – a task almost as difficult as deciding amongst ourselves what those issues are. The signalling of

Modi and Abe: judgement waits on India-Japan ties

India and Japan have forged a special strategic and global partnership over the years, and Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe have developed a personal and special relationship, propelling the relationship between the two nations to greater heights. Last month, Abe invited Modi to his

Decoupling from China: cutting the Gordian Knot

The conviction that the interests of the US and China are fundamentally incompatible is gathering weight in Washington, as a consensus for confrontation with Beijing takes hold. Having progressively raised tariffs against Chinese-made goods, and adopted reports declaring that China’s “economic

Singapore: policing social media

My confidence in the Singapore judiciary is as limp as a flag on a windless day. This statement, written by a blogger in October 2013, is not considered in contempt of court. A judge said so herself. For a whole range of other statements about the judiciary, though, Singaporeans can’t be so

China: re-engineering the Uighur

Break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins. These chilling words are stated in an internal document, reported by news agency AFP, and encapsulate Beijing’s policy towards its ethnic Uighur minority. At the United Nations Human Rights

Chinese fishing fleet a security issue for Australia

China’s fishing fleet has been at the forefront of disputes in the South China Sea, and the expansion of China's fleet into the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean may soon create new security headaches for Australia. In 2013, the decline of fish stocks in Chinese waters, together with China’s

Sri Lanka: when is a political opinion a crime?

On 8 October, in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, former state minister and Tamil MP Vijayakala Maheswaran was arrested by the country’s Organised Crime Division. Any citizen has a right to dissent against government actions and raise issues affecting communities. Maheswaran had already

Four reasons to manage China’s rise

No other development has so profoundly transformed international relations in recent years as the rise of China. Over the past 35 years, China has pulled the largest number of people out of poverty in history and, with 39%, has made the largest contribution to global growth since

How China changed its language on speech

The Heart Eyes Emoji is one of the most commonly used icons in today’s digital communications worldwide. The smiling face with heart-shaped eyes generally means adoration and love towards someone or something. It is not necessarily a romantic gesture, but it shows a level of approval and

Sadly, again, Indonesia fails on transport safety

Indonesia just can’t catch a break. Following earthquakes in Lombok in August, and a twin earthquake and tsunami in Palu in Central Sulawesi in October killing thousands, the country is once again reeling after Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea on 29 October. The plane was carrying

Deng’s ghost haunts Xi, as Maoism makes a return

President Xi Jinping is trying to lead the Chinese economy through a very difficult period. Yet despite Xi’s political nous, success is far from assured. Starting with the property market, a reliable indicator for future economic growth, Reuters reported that buyers: Are feeling a chill and

Elections a sham in Rakhine State

People go to the polls on Saturday in Myanmar, or at least some of them do. On 3 November 2018, the Union Election Commission will coordinate by-elections across 13 electorates. Most are to fill seats from vacancies due to deaths of senior members of parliament. There are two reasons these

Melbourne joins the Belt-and-Road

Most maps of the Belt and Road Initiative, the People’s Republic of China’s signature international policy program, have sweeping arrows connecting China with almost all corners of the world. Yet even the most ambitious of these do not have any link to Australia’s most cultured city, Melbourne

Caught in the net: slavery on Southeast Asian seas

About an hour south of Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, down a dusty, broken-edged road, dotted with grimy stores and street stalls, with the incessant buzz of motorbikes, stands a desolate building complex. Turn right at the festering drain, past the guard dozing in his chair, and the

#Metoo catches up with Bollywood and India beyond

An awkward scene unfolded earlier this month in Lonavala, a hill town in the west of India. A group of men claiming to represent a regional political party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), entered a house where a reality television game show called “Bigg Boss” is filmed. They handed over a

With Trump in Mind, China Realigns

The past week says a lot about the quagmire that Chinese President Xi Jinping has found his country in, as his American counterpart Donald Trump has shown no sign of de-escalating the trade war rhetoric. It also offers a glimpse into the most powerful post-Mao leader’s political and strategic

The last man executed in Singapore, until the next

“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop. Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out,” declared Malaysia’s de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong on 10 October, designated the World Day Against the Death Penalty. Abolitionists in Malaysia rejoiced

Japan’s immigration and integration questions

Japan is widely considered one of the most monocultural and insulated countries in the world. This is reflected in the contradictions in its immigration policy. Japan is not an easy place to move to: it does not even have an immigration department that specialises in visa and border control

Indonesia: populism and politicisation of Islam

This is the second of two articles examining the politics behind Indonesia’s revised anti-terror law in the wake of the May family suicide bombings. The first article can be found here. The counter-terrorism landscape in Southeast Asia has fundamentally changed over the 15 years since Indonesia

Indonesia’s anti-terror law: crisis to consensus

This is the first of two articles examining the politics behind Indonesia’s revised anti-terror law in the wake of the May family suicide bombings. The second article is available here. On 25 May 2018, less than two weeks after a series of suicide bombings and armed attacks on churches and

Economic diplomacy: Japan + China, BRI push back

Bonsai diplomacy Australia’s China-befuddled political class could do worse than observe how the world’s leading centre-right politician Shinzo Abe manages a masterclass in “bifurcated hedging” when he arrives in Beijing today. The Japanese Prime Minister will be trying to rebuild old

Island diplomacy: a storm in the Maldives

The Maldives, with its sun-soaked resorts and vivid turquoise waters, epitomises luxury and Instagram perfection for a breed of cashed-up holidaymakers and honeymooners. But the reality of the island nation is vastly different: creeping Salafism and hijabs, political uncertainty, and a gradual

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