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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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24 October 2018

A new neighbour

Australia could soon have a new country on its doorstep. 

In June 2019, the people of Bougainville, a province that is part of Papua New Guinea, will vote in an independence referendum. Earlier this month, leaders from both sides finally agreed that the question to be put will be: “Do you agree for Bougainville to have: (1) Greater Autonomy …

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17 October 2018

Cold War II?

Three years ago, a China expert in Washington, Michael Pillsbury, controversially predicted the date by which China secretly intends to take over the world: 2049, the hundredth anniversary of communist rule. Drawing on ancient Chinese history, his book The Hundred-Year Marathon argued that Beijing is applying 2500-year-old lessons of statecraft …

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10 October 2018

North Korea rebrands

Last month, North Korea unveiled its latest series of propaganda posters, which, unlike some previous batches, contained no images of Donald Trump being attacked with an axe or Washington being destroyed by missiles.

Instead, the four brightly coloured posters promoted local production of steel and fabrics, as well as branded drinks, jams …

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3 October 2018

The China – United States collision course

On Sunday, a US missile destroyer and a Chinese warship came within about 40 metres of colliding near a tiny set of Chinese-occupied reefs in the South China Sea. According to the United States, which revealed the incident on Tuesday, the USS Decatur was cruising close to the contested reefs when confronted by a Chinese destroyer that approached …

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26 September 2018

The Japan–China thaw

Next month, for the first time since 2011, a Japanese leader will make an official visit to China. These two Asian giants have one of the world’s largest trading partnerships, yet their relationship is marked by historical tensions and petty snubs. Seven years ago, the trip to Beijing by former Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda lasted just …

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19 September 2018

Big Brother in China

Every New Year, Xi Jinping gives a televised address from his office, in which two bookshelves can be partially seen in the background. The event prompts an online scurry to identify which new books the leader is reading. 

At his last address Xi had included, in addition to classics such as Marx’s Das Kapital, two books about …

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12 September 2018

Trade war fallout

Until last Friday, Donald Trump’s trade war with China had been relatively easy to ignore. Trump’s US$50 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese-produced goods, announced in June, were quickly matched by China, which caused pain to select groups such as vehicle manufacturers and farmers. But the damage could soon spread.

Trump’s plan to …

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