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With Jonathan Pearlman

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12 February 2020

Wuhan and diplomacy

Australian diplomats are currently attempting a delicate task that could save the country billions of dollars – they are trying to persuade China to open a small gap in its great internet firewall.

As a result of the Wuhan coronavirus, about 100,000 fee-paying Chinese students may not make it to Australia for the start of the academic year. …

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5 February 2020

Taco Bell in Indonesia

On Saturday, Indonesian president Joko Widodo is due to arrive in Australia for a visit that will include a speech to the joint houses of parliament. This will be the first such address since March 2010, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged Australians to see Indonesia as “more than a beach playground with coconut trees”.

In the …

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29 January 2020

Wuhan tests trust in China

In 2003, a semi-retired surgeon in China, Jiang Yanyong, wrote a letter to the nation’s leaders, revealing that authorities had been covering up the extent of the SARS epidemic. Chinese authorities responded by sacking the minister of health and mayor of Beijing. They then put Jiang under police surveillance before detaining him.

Five years …

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22 January 2020

Bushfires are foreign affairs

Earlier this month, residents in South America experienced a phenomenon that has become a defining feature of this Australian summer: a blood-red sun set against a hazy sky.

The cause, according to Argentina’s national meteorological service, was the smoke from Australia’s bushfires, which had drifted more than 12,000 kilometres to the …

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18 December

Australian Foreign Affairs Annual Index – 2019 Edition

Days Scott Morrison spent in the United States in 2019: 8
Days he spent in Indonesia: 2 
Days he spent in Vanuatu: 2
Days he spent in China: 0
Days he spent in India: 0

Number of people in Australia who speak Mandarin at home: 596,711
Number of fluent Mandarin speakers in Australia who are not of Chinese ancestry: …

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Wednesday 11 December

Morrison’s climate self-destruction

At the United Nations climate summit in Madrid this week, Australia will present the case for its carbon emissions targets and resist calls from other countries for stronger commitments. The emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, will claim that Australia is on track to meet its current targets, even though by all measures – except those used …

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4 December 2019

Taiwan votes, China interferes

On 11 January 2020, Taiwan will hold elections that pit the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which favours independence from China, against the Opposition, Kuomintang, which favours closer ties to Beijing.

As usual, China has made its preference clear. Last month, on the day President Tsai Ing-wen announced that her running mate was William …

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27 November 2019

China pulls strings in Vanuatu

Australia’s spy agency, ASIO, does not usually provide a running commentary on its investigations. But on Sunday night the agency confirmed that it was aware of China’s reported attempt to install a candidate into federal parliament, and that it was “actively investigating” the allegation. 

Presumably, ASIO made this rare statement …

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20 November 2019

American disengagement

As a businessman and then a politician, Donald Trump has long held a hustler’s suspicion that friends are just as likely to rip you off as enemies – making them doubly duplicitous. This belief has led Trump, as president, to unrestrainedly attack longstanding American allies.

Australia, however, has proven the handy exception which allows …

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13 November 2019

The future of Bougainville

In ten days, the people of Bougainville will start voting in a referendum on whether to break away from Papua New Guinea and create a new state. A decisive majority is expected to vote for independence. The long-awaited referendum marks the start of a new era for the province, following Australian colonial rule for most of last century and the civil …

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