Friday 20 Sep 2019 | 17:41 | SYDNEY
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At sea, safety is just as important as security

The extraordinary rescue of crew from a stricken South Korean freighter off the US coast this week might have taken place on the other side of the world, but it serves as a reminder that safety of life at sea is a challenge everywhere. Closer to home, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has made

Can Japan catch up in the economic scramble for Africa?

Recently, China entered the market as an exporter of used cars overseas. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce revealed the populous African nation of Nigeria as one of the destinations for 300 cars in the first batch of freight. The vehicles included brands such as Land Rover, Toyota, Hyundai,

In Java, the water is running out

Indonesia’s dry season has never been easy. Dry winds blow from Australia and rainfall is almost nonexistent, which leads to major forest fires, choking air pollution, and searing heat, along with the energy-sapping effect the season has on residents. For many parts of Indonesia, one problem has

Disinformation and democracy: Podcast out now

In May 2016, before Brexit and Trump, the right-wing populist Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines amidst a co-ordinated disinformation and trolling campaign on social media. In a nation of 105 million where Facebook is embedded into everyday life, political

Keep calm and fly on … unless someone stops me

Shame is a powerful emotion, but is it powerful enough to save the planet? Almost certainly not. But the question has assumed unexpected prominence as the sensitive Scandinavians and the schoolgirl activist Greta Thunburg spearhead a campaign to encourage us to fly less, simply because it’s the

Hong Kong Protest City: Podcast out now

In the latest episode of the Lowy Institute’s new half-hour podcast, Rules Based Audio, I’m talking to Lowy Institute Research Fellow Ben Bland and Hong Kong-based Financial Times journalist Primrose Riordan about the roots of the ongoing political unrest in the city, and where it

Climate change is a national security issue

If only a minister of the Morrison government would be as forthright in identifying climate change as a massive destabilising force in Australia’s region as the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has been. In a private speech in Bowral in June, General Campbell is reported to have sounded

Congo’s Ebola outbreak: sounding a global alarm

As the one year anniversary of the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province draws near, the World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has sounded the global alarm about this most recent outbreak of the deadly virus. Over 2500 cases and

Xi Jinping: much more than just one man

Book Review: Xi Jinping: The Backlash by Richard McGregor (Penguin, Lowy Institute, 2019) Richard McGregor has written a dazzling account of the first six years of the Xi Jinping era and what he sees as the “backlash” to Xi’s increasing authoritarianism domestically and assertive foreign and

Unpacking the Asia Power Index – Podcast out today

This week on the Rules Based Audio podcast: power in Asia. Who’s got it, who’s losing it, and who’s using what they’ve got in the smartest way? The world’s geopolitical centre of gravity is shifting to Asia; and tensions between the region's great powers threaten to shape this

Book review: Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia

Book Review: How to Defend Australia, by Hugh White (La Trobe University Press, 2019) Defence commentator Hugh White never shouts from the rooftops, and his new book How to Defend Australia is written in the same measured tone that has long driven his more strident critics crazy. Yet if White

Book review: The Great Successor

Book Review: The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong-un, Sun of the 21st Century, by Anna Fifield (Hachette, 2019) Anna Fifield’s The Great Successor is a wonderful narrative, weaving together Kim Jong-un’s childhood (and adulthood) basketball

Rules Based Audio: The new Lowy Institute podcast

Today the Lowy Institute is launching a new half-hour podcast, Rules Based Audio. Each fortnight, I’ll be talking to experts and leading thinkers from Australia and around the world, going deep into the complex forces shaping global politics. In our first episode, out today, I discuss the future

Belt and Road: colonialism with Chinese characteristics

Although China’s top-ranking diplomat Yang Jiechi has repeatedly assured the world that his country’s supreme foreign policy project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), “does not play little geopolitical games”, many governments believe this is exactly what it does. The second BRI

Film review: On Her Shoulders

On Her Shoulders, a documentary film by Alexandria Bombach, follows young genocide survivor Nadia Murad in her global cause against sexual violence for which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. Women and girls in her community were subjected to widespread and systematic sexual

Adapting to climate change: the priority for Australia

Adaptation to climate change was for a long time considered as an abstract issue for the future, something that would need to be worked out later by someone else. Adaptation, in short, is a process of preparing to live with a changing climate where most of our definitions of typical weather and

Culture cringe: Laughter links Australia and Asia

The Lowy Institute collects valuable data on how Australians view Asia, but equally important is how Asians see Australia, even if at times it makes for uncomfortable reading. Australia’s future depends crucially on the decisions Asians make: for example, on where to study, visit, live, buy and

Book Review: Utopia For Realists

Book Review: Utopia For Realists, And How We Can Get There, by Rutger Bregman (Bloomsbury, 2017) Rutger Bregman shot to public fame calling out billionaires at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. “1500 private jets flying in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about

Remembering Rwanda: small mercy from the horror of Kibeho

What you don’t expect to see when you arrive at Kibeho are the eucalyptus trees. When Belgium ruled Rwanda, gum trees were planted across the colony to provide firewood. A small country in central Africa, Rwanda is mainly populated by two ethnic groups: the minority Tutsi and the majority Hutu.

Film Review: The Wandering Earth

In a recent visit to Australia, I was treated to Barrie Kosky’s audacious staging of The Magic Flute. I hoped it could offer me a break from writing, speaking, and thinking about contemporary China, but something rather odd happened instead. As Mozart’s opera unfolded, the libretto summoned me

Book Review: A Partnership Transformed

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Book review: Winners take all

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Just how green is the Belt and Road?

China is frequently hailed as a leader in international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement, and pledging that carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and decline rapidly thereafter. The country has quickly become one of the

Book Review: the Clinton fiction

Review: The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Aldred A. Knopf, 2018) Former US President Bill Clinton is a man of singular gifts – a highly intelligent policy wonk with an unmatched capacity to connect with voters through mastery of what we are obliged these days to

Book review: Grappling with the legacy of Barack Obama

Book review: The World as It Is: Inside the Obama White House, by Ben Rhodes (Random House, 2018). The slew of books that find their way to the shelves once a president has departed are often cagey, self-interested and read suspiciously like job applications. Ben Rhodes tries hard to avoid

Russian gas will not stop China’s air pollution

As Beijing clamps down on air pollution, it is seeking to replace coal power plants with cleaner natural gas, especially for heating during winter. Consequently, China has intensified relations with Russia, one of the world’s leading gas exporters, to expand energy ties. But although upping gas

America builds on development aid

In the biggest reform of US foreign aid policy in recent history, the US Senate this month passed the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development, or the BUILD Act. This legislation, signed into law by President Donald Trump on 5 October, will create the new US International

Vietnam’s quandary: red or green?

A hand-crafted map on the wall of the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS) neatly captures the country’s strategic vulnerabilities as it emerges as a dynamic new regional player. The map is fashioned out of grains of rice to demonstrate Vietnam’s agricultural production prowess, but it

What to do about a warming planet

If global temperatures increase by 2 degrees and sail on past it, the ability to learn how to survive under such conditions becomes exponentially harder. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a special report on Monday explaining the science around what

China’s aid: the image boost

Mounting accusations of Chinese debt traps, trade imbalances, and neocolonialism in Africa made for a heady backdrop to this month’s meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. China’s Xi Jinping made clear he was having none of it. In his keynote speech to African leaders gathered in

Climate change, at the frontlines

When Pacific island leaders gathered in Nauru this month, they issued a security declaration affirming climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the region. That climate change is a threat to Pacific islands is in some ways obvious; indeed the climate change wording in the “Boe

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