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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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10 April 2019

India’s jumbo elections

Voting starts tomorrow in India, the world’s largest democracy. It is a hefty process that involves 900 million voters, eleven million electoral officials and 800,000 polling stations. Voting will occur on seven nominated days over the next six weeks, with the results due on 23 May.

Indian elections are an incredible feat. They reflect a …

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3 April 2019

The budget’s pitiful response

Tucked away inside last night’s budget papers was a surprisingly candid – and slightly alarming – note that revealed the extent of the government’s concerns about Australia’s global outlook. The note appeared on page thirteen of the budget statement for the foreign affairs and trade portfolio. It began by stating that the 2017 Foreign Policy …

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27 March 2019

Is China cutting Australia out?

Earlier this year, customs officers at five harbours in northern China suddenly blocked the passage of Australian coal. Yet they waved through shipments from other countries such as Russia and Indonesia. The block later spread to other Chinese ports, apparently to allow Chinese officials to conduct “radioactivity tests”. Australian coal typically …

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20 March 2019

Australia’s muffled voice

Since the devastating attack in Christchurch, there has been much discussion about the spread of xenophobic and anti-Muslim views in Australian media and politics. But this concern should also apply to the nation’s foreign affairs, where successive Australian leaders have put a distorted sense of diplomacy and realpolitik above principles and integrity.

In …

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13 March 2019

Australia’s ISIS expats

In Syria, the last holdout of Islamic State is finally being overrun. The so-called caliphate, once the size of Britain, attracted supporters from around the world, including from Australia, but has now been reduced to a small enclave on the Iraqi border. Those remaining – including some of the movement’s most vehement adherents – are surrendering, …

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6 March 2019

Trade deal hype

Almost nine years ago, then prime minister Julia Gillard visited Jakarta and announced that talks had started on a free trade deal that would transform ties with Indonesia. On Monday, the agreement was signed. Scott Morrison did not attend the ceremony in Jakarta, perhaps wary of reminding Indonesians of his proposal last year to move the Australian …

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27 February 2019

The Hanoi summit

Today in Hanoi, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will start their second summit on North Korea’s nuclear program. This follows last year’s meeting in Singapore, which was described by Trump as a war-averting triumph but was actually an embarrassing failure: Trump granted Kim international legitimacy and, going off-script, suspended US military exercises …

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