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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

China’s arms trade: a rival for global influence? 

Against the backdrop of the recent China-Africa Defence and Security Forum, numerous articles have been written questioning the rationale behind the conference and the potential ramifications of a closer Sino-African relationship. The fall in export of Russian made weapons to Africa

Explaining green and blue growth

A new report co-authored by Lord Nicholas Stern made headlines earlier this month with the projection that efforts to transition to a low carbon economy within the next 15 years could add $26 trillion to the global economy. The report is underpinned by the concept of “green growth”, an

A life in fear: violence against adolescent girls

The escalating violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014 sparked widespread international condemnation, but the fighting triggered a regional crisis in neighbouring countries of northern central Africa that continues to this day. While the roots of the problem are complex – involving inequality

Rights for people forced out by climate change

Imagine living on a low–lying atoll island in the Pacific and having just survived a severe cyclone. Your island is in ruins and you have lost everything. Humanitarian help is insufficient, your children need urgent medical care, but hospitals are not functioning, and your only hope is to join

Working with China on Pacific climate change

The recent release of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Aid Map has relieved some “strategic anxiety” around China’s growing influence in the Pacific islands. Beijing committed only 8% of total aid to the region between 2011 and 2018. If we want to live in a more peaceful world,

Xi Jinping, Senegal, and China’s West Africa drive

Xi Jinping’s choice of Senegal for a state visit on 20–21 July, his first visit to West Africa, en route to the BRICS summit in South Africa, suggests that China seeks to deepen cooperation in a region that has seen comparatively less Chinese engagements than elsewhere in Africa. In using

“Poor old” China meets “poor young” Africa

The success of China’s reform and opening program across 40 years has shifted the nation from backwater to the centre of global growth, lifting 800 million people from poverty in the process. A largely complementary economic relationship has meant Australia has enjoyed a record-breaking prosperity

Japan floods a warning for a changed climate

The scenes in Japan in the wake of torrential rain that has caused landslides and widespread flooding are heartbreaking. The rains have been described as unprecedented, and the death toll has continued to rise as emergency workers and volunteers search for those who are still missing. While

Climate change and shifting alliances

In 2009 the first democratically elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, held an underwater cabinet meeting. The stunt was crafted to draw international attention to the plight of many low-lying island nations as climate change causes sea levels to rise, threatening their continued

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