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8 December 2021

Democracy summit

More than 100 countries will join the US-sponsored online Summit for Democracy on Thursday, which was one of the key international relations commitments made by Joe Biden during his presidential campaign last year.

In the run-up to a proposed second gathering next year, the United States is likely to place new economic sanctions on human-rights …

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1 December 2021

Pacific tensions

Australia is facing potential tensions in Melanesia over independence movements in New Caledonia and Bougainville, as well as unrest in the Solomons Islands, where Australian police and defence force personnel were deployed last week to aid peacekeeping efforts.

New Caledonia is due to hold its third and final vote on independence from France …

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24 November 2021

Asian shadows

South-East Asia’s two oldest democracies – the Philippines and Malaysia – appear to be succumbing to less liberal political forces from their pasts as campaigning gets under way for elections next year.

Last week, the son of former Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos – Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr – emerged as the frontrunner …

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17 November 2021

Biden meets Xi

Asia’s summit season ended on Tuesday when a long-awaited meeting between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping finally took place.

There have been a series of combative encounters between US and Chinese officials in recent months, but this was the first face-to-face meeting (albeit online) between Biden and Xi as leaders of their respective countries …

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10 November 2021

India’s net zero

India has committed to reaching net zero by 2070 in one of the biggest and most debated initiatives to be announced at this month’s UN climate change conference.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the unexpected promise on the first day of the conference last week, but he also called on developed countries to contribute US$1 trillion to help …

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3 November 2021

Japan votes

Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, won a better-than-expected mandate in Sunday’s election. The prime minister’s cabinet was largely appointed by faction leaders, but Kishida may now have more scope to pursue alternatives. His mandate could also allow him to push a reform-oriented agenda.

Although it was the Liberal Democratic …

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27 October 2021

Global disparities

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the pandemic has caused a “dangerous divergence” in the economic outlook of rich and developing countries.

In its latest World Economic Outlook report, the IMF suggests most rich countries will return to their pre-pandemic growth paths next year and will be ahead of them by 2024. By contrast, …

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20 October 2021

Myanmar sanctions

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has excluded Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from its leaders’ summit this month, marking its first substantive action against the leaders of the military coup.

ASEAN announced the surprise decision last Friday night after a meeting of the group’s foreign ministers, saying that Myanmar had …

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13 October 2021

Carbon capitalism

Australia’s biggest companies are putting pressure on the Morrison government to commit to reaching net zero by 2050 ahead of the UN climate change conference in November.

In a plan released on Friday, the Business Council of Australia said that using new technology to achieve the net-zero benchmark could improve employment and economic …

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29 September 2021

Japan’s new PM

Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has called a snap election for 31 October, presumably to take advantage of a potentially brief increase in the government’s popularity since his appointment.

Kishida announced the election on Monday night, hours after he had assumed his role as Japan’s 100th prime minister and appointed a new …

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