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20 February 2019

Hackers target Australia

Several years ago, an American security firm allegedly accessed the computers used by China’s military hacking unit, which operates out of a nondescript twelve-storey building near one of Shanghai’s main airports. This enabled American intelligence to piece together a day in the life of a People’s Liberation Army hacker. According to The …

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13 February 2019

Why foreign aid?

Earlier this week, a grazier affected by the recent floods in Queensland pleaded for support, asserting that the government should assist Australians rather than spend money on foreign aid. This is a familiar refrain, and it was soon echoed in national headlines. But it perpetuates a series of common misperceptions about aid: that it is wasteful, …

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6 February 2019

Lessons from Afghanistan

Australia’s longest war is coming to an end.

For eighteen years, Australian troops have operated in Afghanistan in a deployment that has been backed and extended by six prime ministers. Tens of thousands of people have died, including forty-one Australian soldiers. Now, the United States and the Taliban are negotiating a peace deal that …

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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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