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19 June 2019

Choosing Hong Kong

A week ago, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam responded to the first mass protests against a controversial extradition law by claiming that relenting would be like spoiling her children. Days later, as the protests in Hong Kong continued, she suspended the law. After a further march on Sunday that was attended by almost 2 million people …

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12 June 2019

Xi’s Trump card

Last month, Xi Jinping visited a small magnet factory in south-east China. The plant belongs to JL MAG Rare-Earth Co., a Chinese company that produces magnets from rare earths, a group of seventeen little-known metals that are used to make phones, cameras, planes, electric cars, X-ray and MRI machines, and just about every other gadget upon which …

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5 June 2019

Morrison’s China silence

On Monday morning, Sydney residents woke to discover that three Chinese warships had entered Sydney Harbour. The ships, carrying 730 officers and sailors, docked at the Garden Island Naval Precinct for a four-day stopover. Canberra did not announce the visit, leading to anxious and curious news headlines, followed by Scott Morrison’s attempt to …

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29 May 2019

Scott of the Pacific

On Sunday, Scott Morrison will make his first overseas trip since the election – to the Solomon Islands, a nation of 600,000 people that has not been visited by an Australian prime minister since Kevin Rudd went there in early 2008. Back then, Rudd was seeking to fulfil a campaign promise to rekindle regional ties, after attacking John Howard for …

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22 May 2019

Morrison’s great China uncertainty

One of the curiosities of the Australian election was that foreign affairs received so little attention, despite it playing a vital part in Scott Morrison’s victory. Throughout the campaign, Morrison took every opportunity to highlight the rising tensions and escalating trade war between the United States and China. But he didn’t raise this …

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15 May 2019

Duterte’s new dynasty

Given the attention devoted in Australia to rising Chinese and Indian immigration, there is considerably little appreciation of the fact that the Philippines is now the fifth largest source of new settlers here. This century, the expanding local Filipino community has quietly overtaken the more prominent and established Italian, Greek and Vietnamese …

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8 May 2019

Asia’s residual royals

It has been a right royal year thus far for hereditary monarchs, those vestiges from a different time who still reign in modern Asia’s new power constellation of populists, capitalists and bureaucrats. In one single day last week we saw Thailand’s new King Maha Vajiralongkorn turn his flight attendant consort into his queen just prior to his …

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1 May 2019

One road, many questions

Even after last week’s intricately choreographed second global forum of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – to which Australia’s relationship remains unsettled – many questions are still unanswered. How is a project badged “BRI”? How might companies join the Chinese consortia that finance and build BRI infrastructure? With countries …

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24 April 2019

How Joko won

Last August, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, with hours left to register a running mate for this year’s election, faced a terrible choice.

He had to decide between his preferred candidate – a former chief judge – and Ma’ruf Amin, a powerful Islamic cleric who has fuelled the nation’s growing intolerance of minorities. Ma’ruf …

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17 April 2019

The election and foreign affairs

Last year, Bill Shorten promised that if he were elected, Australian foreign policy will “speak with a clear Australian accent”. He insisted he would assert Australian values, and would be confident, independent and ambitious. So, it will be interesting to see how – when it is inevitably raised during this election campaign – he handles …

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