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30 January 2019

The Indo-Pacific pivot

Political divisions in Washington have left the nation paralysed, yet the warring parties have found a subject upon which they can agree: China.

Last month, Republicans and Democrats in Congress backed a law that committed the US to expanding its military and diplomatic activities in the Indo-Pacific region. Donald Trump signed the bill – …

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23 January 2019

Morrison’s Pacific scorecard

Scott Morrison’s three-day visit to Vanuatu and Fiji marked – surprisingly – the first time in history that an Australian prime minister has made a bilateral visit to either of these maritime neighbours. 

Traditionally, Australia has been more focused on cultivating relations with powers that are greater than it, and has often neglected, …

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19 December 2018

Caught in US–China crossfire

Nine days ago, former diplomat Michael Kovrig was picked up by authorities in Beijing and taken to prison, where he has been held without being formally charged or allowed access to lawyers. His crime is his nationality: he is from Canada, a country whose ties to China typically look much like Australia’s. Kovrig’s imprisonment is almost certainly …

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12 December 2018

The Brexit limbo

Last week, a friend in London sent me a photo of her costume for her office Christmas party. She wore a blue beret with yellow stars pinned on it, and a placard saying: “All I want for Christmas is EU.” Unfortunately, my friend – like the rest of the British population – will not see her wishes fulfilled this festive season. Britain is paralysed …

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5 December 2018

Rising seas diplomacy

Off the northern tip of the Pacific nation of Tuvalu, an anti-aircraft gun emplacement juts above the surf. Built by American troops during World War II to fight the Japanese, the concrete installation was originally on land but is now offshore, a tiny island created by the rising seas and changing shorelines. Today, as new regional rivalries disrupt …

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28 November 2018

Morrison backs Trump

This Saturday, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping will meet at an unnamed restaurant after the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires for a summit – or showdown – to try to end their countries’ trade war. Ahead of the encounter, Trump threatened to impose further tariffs on $US267 billion worth of Chinese imports from 1 January 2019, a move that would likely …

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21 November 2018

China raises red flags

Seven years ago Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state, warned of her country’s growing competition with China, and pinpointed a nation over which the two powers seemed to be coming into conflict: Papua New Guinea. “[The Chinese] have brought all of the leaders of these small Pacific nations to Beijing, wined them and dined them,” …

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14 November 2018

Getting closer to Japan

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe will make an historic visit to Darwin, seventy-six years after the first attack by a foreign nation on post-settlement Australia. In February 1942, about 240 Japanese aircraft conducted two raids on the city, killing at least 235 people and prompting half of the population to flee south.

Abe’s …

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7 November 2018

Navigating China

Before December 2017, a visit by an Australian foreign minister to China was not usually a headline-grabbing event. But Marise Payne’s trip to Beijing today has attained symbolic status, capping off a so-called “thaw” in recent relations between the two countries.

Payne’s two-day visit follows Simon Birmingham’s trip to China on …

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31 October 2018

Rising stakes in the Pacific

Following deadly riots in Tonga in 2006, the local government went looking for funds to rebuild its gutted capital, and found a willing low-interest lender: China. With Chinese money, Tonga not only rebuilt its city centre, but also renovated the royal palace and began work on a new sports complex and a waterfront government office building. These …

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