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5 September 2018

Morrison’s Pacific no-show

Unlike Jacinda Ardern, who left her eleven-week-old baby at home to make her first foreign trip as a mother, Scott Morrison chose not to attend this week’s Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru. Instead, Morrison will be represented by Marise Payne, the foreign minister, who insisted the prime minister’s absence from the eighteen-nation summit was not …

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29 August 2018

Julie Bishop’s scorecard

Courage and vision have been in short supply in Canberra of late, so it might be unfair to judge Australia’s most recent foreign minister by standards we have learnt not to expect.

Julie Bishop was not particularly creative or adventurous in the foreign ministry, and did little to reshape Australia’s relations with the region. She is known …

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22 August 2018

China detains by the million

China tends to do everything on a grand scale – building huge high-speed rail networks, say, or globe-spanning trade routes – and this has extended to its vast abuse of human rights.

Earlier this month, a United Nations committee reported that more than a million people have been detained and another two million forced to attend indoctrination …

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15 August 2018

Australia’s 6009 sanctions

Australia’s currency and stock market dropped in recent days due to the activities of a fifty-year-old pastor from North Carolina, who has a congregation of twenty-five.

In 2016, Pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested in the Turkish city of Izmir after being accused of spying and of supporting a thwarted coup. His arrest angered American evangelicals …

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8 August 2018

Project of the century

Five years ago, China’s president, Xi Jinping, announced his “project of the century”: the Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar globe-spanning infrastructure scheme. It appeared to be a Sinocentric trade blueprint, or an attempt to extend Beijing’s influence, or a vague branding exercise – and it is probably a little bit of each.

The …

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1 August 2018

Our Cambodia dilemma

In one of the least surprising election results in recent history, Cambodia’s Hun Sen, who is among the world’s longest-serving prime ministers, extended his thirty-three-year reign by another five years on Sunday. The result was assured by the dissolving of the opposition last year, the jailing of its leader and a crackdown on the media. 

Seeking …

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25 July 2018

Talking back to the United States

This week at California’s Stanford University – about as far from the White House as possible – Australia’s foreign affairs and defence ministers held two days of talks with their US counterparts.

Typically, this annual meeting receives little public attention. It is, like the Australia–United States alliance itself, an unremarkable …

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18 July 2018

Putin’s South Pacific adventures

Hours after he finished hosting a football World Cup that he allegedly secured through bribery, Vladimir Putin flew to Helsinki for a summit with US president Donald Trump, whose election he helped to secure through electoral meddling.

Since becoming leader unexpectedly in 1999, Putin has been on a quest to restore Russia’s status as a global …

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11 July 2018

The elephant next door

Within the next six years, Indonesia plans to complete a 142-kilometre high-speed rail link, the first such network in South-East Asia. The line, which will connect Jakarta to Bandung at speeds of 350 kilometres an hour, will reduce the current journey time from more than three hours to forty minutes.

Despite delays and uncertainty, the project …

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4 July 2018

Is democracy normal?

When countries in Eastern Europe broke from the Soviet bloc thirty years ago, their next step seemed obvious: they began turning into Western-looking liberal democracies.

Back then, this shift seemed inevitable. 

“What everybody said they wanted in 1989 was ‘we want to be normal’,” the journalist Anne Appelbaum noted recently. …

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