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10 July 2019

The Hugh White debate

Late last month, China tested a series of anti-ship missiles close to its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Beijing initially denied building these islands, and then insisted they would not be militarised. Now, yet again, China is going one step further.

These strategic developments reflect the current pattern in the Asia-Pacific. …

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3 July 2019

Australia discovers Europe

From 1989 to 1994, Boris Johnson was posted to Brussels for London’s Daily Telegraph, where he delivered a colourful – and largely fictional – series of dispatches about the European Union’s bureaucratic overreach. These stories, including accounts of plans to regulate chip flavours or to classify snails as fish, have been credited …

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26 June 2019

America’s plans for Australia

At a United States–run store at a military base outside Darwin, the currency is US dollars and the marines stationed there can buy cans of Coke at the non-Australian price of 50 cents. Marines have rotated through the base since 2012, starting with 200 troops. In July 2019 the size of the deployment is due to expand to its intended maximum of 2500 …

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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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