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  • Author: Arzan Tarapore
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The still-unresolved Ladakh crisis has created a new strategic reality for India, marked by renewed political hostility with China, and an increased militarisation of the Line of Actual Control. This new strategic reality imposes unequal costs on India and China. India is likely to defer much-needed military modernisation and maritime expansion into the Indian Ocean — which would impair its ability to compete strategically with China. In contrast, China incurred only marginal material costs; it was probably more concerned with the prospect of continued deterioration in its relationship with India. Even that cost was more threatened rather than realised, and largely reduced when the disengagement plan was agreed.
  • Topic: Crisis Management, Strategic Competition, Militarization, Disengagement
  • Political Geography: China, South Asia, India, Asia
  • Author: Patrick Porter, Michael Mazarr
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Washington on a tighter embrace of Taiwan, which may soon become a stronger implied US commitment to go to war in the event of a Chinese invasion. Taiwan matters to US security and the regional order, and the United States should continue to make clear that aggression is unacceptable. But those advocating a stronger US security commitment exaggerate the strategic consequences of a successful Chinese invasion. The stakes are not so high as to warrant an unqualified US pledge to go to war. American decision-makers, like their forebears confronting the seeming threat of communism in Indochina, may be trapping themselves into an unnecessarily stark conception of the consequences of a successful Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It would be irresponsible for the United States to leave itself no option in the event of Chinese aggression other than war. But nor should Washington abandon Taiwan. There is a prudent middle way: the United States should act as armourer, but not guarantor. It should help prepare Taiwan to defend itself, to raise costs against aggression, and develop means of punishing China with non-military tools.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Territorial Disputes, Crisis Management
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Greg Raymond
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has land borders with mainland Southeast Asia and strong strategic imperatives to develop land routes to the sea. It has both potential and motivation to pursue an infrastructural sphere of influence in the Mekong subregion through Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects joining southern China and mainland Southeast Asia. The poorer states, especially Laos and Cambodia, have been receptive to the BRI and infrastructure investment, but Thailand and Vietnam, strong states and protective of sovereignty, have been more cautious. This means China’s impact is significantly varied across the subregion. China’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are in some cases dissolving borders and in others carving out Chinese-controlled enclaves, all increasing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) presence and influence.
  • Topic: Infrastructure, Foreign Direct Investment, Regional Integration, Borders, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar
  • Author: Anthony Bubalo
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The examples of Egypt and Saudi Arabia show the risks in betting on the stability of autocratic regimes in the region. Despite the Arab uprisings of the last decade, most countries in the Middle East remain in the grip of autocrats, with a widespread view that this is the 'default setting' for the region. However, an examination of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where authoritarianism has been revived, reveals both regimes are struggling for popular legitimacy. Increasingly reliant on repression, these regimes risk provoking civil unrest, and external powers should reconsider their assumption that autocracy guarantees stability in the Middle East.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Legitimacy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Egypt
  • Author: Roland Rajah
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Indonesia has much economic potential but the trade-off between growth and stability continues to bind its growth ambitions. Indonesian economic policy continues to prioritise stability over growth but the adequacy of economic growth has become the bigger issue. President Joko Widodo’s commendable pro-growth efforts have so far only stabilised Indonesia’s trajectory rather than boost it. Doing better will require reforms to be calibrated to make the trade-off between growth and stability less binding while enhancing productivity.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Economy, Economic Growth
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Natasha Kassam, Richard McGregor
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has lost the battle for public opinion in Taiwan. Saturday’s elections are likely to reflect strong anti-Beijing sentiment China is already looking past the elections to weaken the island’s democracy through overt and covert means Whatever the result, Beijing will increase pressure on Taipei to open talks on unification
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: China, Taiwan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Catherine Wilson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: High population growth is driving a rapid increase in the proportion of young people in Pacific Island countries, with half the region's population aged under 23. This 'youth bulge' is particularly acute in Melanesian states and will have a major impact on every area of development in the region in the coming decades. Economic prosperity, political success and social stability in the Pacific Islands region in the future will depend on harnessing this demographic dividend and preventing youth marginalisation and disillusionment. Urgent and coordinated national and regional responses should include addressing pressing health problems, expanding Australia's seasonal worker scheme, increasing migration pathways, and targeted skills and employment programs.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Migration, Politics, Employment, Youth, Population Growth, Marginalization
  • Political Geography: Melanesia, Pacific Ocean
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the dismal state of global governance. The rules-based order has given way to a new world disorder, dominated by narrow self-interest. The crisis of the liberal order reflects a collective Western failure to live up to its principles. The actions of Donald Trump have damaged the moral authority of the West. There is a future for liberalism in global governance, but on a more inclusive and less antagonistic basis. The primary focus must be on meeting universal challenges, such as climate change, pandemic disease, and global poverty.
  • Topic: Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19, International Order
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Eurasia, Asia
  • Author: John Edwards
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Despite Victoria’s second wave of infection, Australia’s economic recovery from the coronavirus is underway. The bitter aftermath includes high and rising unemployment, vastly increased government debt, and a markedly less congenial global economy. Though formidable, the fiscal challenge is well within Australia’s means, especially if the Reserve Bank remains willing to acquire and hold Australian government debt. It may need to do so anyway to suppress an unwelcome appreciation of the Australian dollar in a world where major central banks are committed to low long term interest rates. Australia’s increasing integration into the East Asia economic community offsets the drag from the major advanced economies, but the US–China quarrel and the dislocation of global trading and investment relationships it threatens heightens the tension between Australia’s economic and security choices.
  • Topic: Debt, Economy, Fiscal Policy, Unemployment, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Dhruva Jaishankar
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: India and Australia have successfully managed to overcome prior inhibitions about security cooperation. Since 2000, the two countries have significantly improved their strategic coordination, military interoperability, and maritime cooperation, motivated by China’s rise and behaviour, faltering regional security institutions, and uncertainty about the United States’ role. Today, India–Australia security relations comprise regular military exercises, professional exchanges, operational coordination, and nascent defence technology cooperation. But the two countries’ different capabilities, priorities, and strategic circumstances will have to be overcome if relations are to deepen. Future priorities should include institutionalising bilateral and multilateral coordination mechanisms, improving military interoperability, deepening defence technology collaboration, and broadening relations to give ballast to the security relationship.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, International Cooperation, Partnerships
  • Political Geography: China, India, Australia, Asia-Pacific, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Thomas Wright
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: With the international order weakened by COVID-19, economic recession, and receding American leadership, the 2020 presidential election will be even more consequential than that of 2016. There is no reason to believe that President Trump will follow in the tradition of other Republican presidents and pursue a more multilateral and cooperative strategy in his second term. Emboldened and unconstrained, a second Trump administration could spell the end of the alliance system and the postwar liberal international order. A Biden administration would be a reprieve for the US-led international order, and will act on climate change, COVID-19, immigration, and multilateralism, while Biden will need to adjudicate internal debates on China, the Middle East, globalisation, and foreign economic policy.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Globalization, Elections, Economic Policy, Donald Trump, COVID-19, International Order, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, United States of America
  • Author: Lydia Khalil
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has emboldened Beijing to expand its use of digital technologies in the name of public health and safety. From mass surveillance, tracking intelligence, and internet censorship to the use of social credit systems, augmented data-collection capabilities, and big data, China’s new normal exposes and expands encroachments on civil liberties. The pandemic has provided a ‘proof of concept’, but China’s actions in the new digital landscape extend beyond managing its own pandemic response and controlling its own citizens. China is aggressively pursuing global technological dominance by investing in its indigenous tech sector and exporting technological surveillance tools. The reach of Chinese-engineered and monitored social control systems has wide-ranging implications, with current pandemic conditions serving as the justification for a significant increase in state surveillance, the adoption of digital authoritarian tools, and the deterioration of privacy and civil liberties.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Intelligence, Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Surveillance, COVID-19, Civil Liberties, Social Control
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: David Orsmond
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China’s economic growth has fallen to its slowest rate since 1990, and this deceleration looks set to continue unless China implements the kinds of deep reforms behind the successful economic transitions of Japan and Korea. China’s economic growth has fallen to its slowest rate since 1990, and this deceleration looks set to continue. Key factors include weakening demographics, inefficient investment, maturing export markets and declining productivity growth rather than the current trade dispute with the United States. To reverse that trend, China will need a wide-ranging policy approach that mimics the policies implemented by Japan and Korea at a similar economic stage. While there are considerable political and economic obstacles to such reforms, if it manages to continue its rapid catch-up to advanced economy incomes the potential returns for both China and the world are significant.
  • Topic: Reform, Economy, Economic Growth, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia, United States of America
  • Author: Elina Noor
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Malaysia’s foreign and security policy faces myriad challenges, but not much is likely to change under Mahathir Mohamad’s ‘New Malaysia’ framework. The return of Mahathir Mohamad to the prime ministership of the country he had previously led for 22 years has raised questions about the direction Malaysia’s foreign and security policy might take. While there may be some course-corrections in foreign and security policy under Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan government, it will not stray far from the approach of previous administrations. Continuities will include its non-aligned status, its pragmatic dealings with both the United States and China, its focus on ASEAN centrality and Malaysia’s economic development through trade. Malaysia will revisit its earlier “Look East” policy; it has plans to upgrade its defence capabilities in the South China Sea; and it will take a more consultative approach to foreign policy-making.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Government, Politics, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Malaysia, Asia
  • Author: Roland Rajah, Alexandre Dayant, Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: China has not been engaged in debt trap diplomacy — at least not yet. China has not been the primary driver behind rising debt risks in the Pacific, although a continuation of business as usual would risk future debt problems in several countries. There is scope for a new Australian infrastructure financing facility to provide loans to the Pacific without causing debt problems, particularly as it has adopted key sustainable lending rules. Pacific nations have an opportunity to obtain more favourable financing from official development partners but care must be taken to avoid overly geopolitical aid.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Infrastructure, Geopolitics, Soft Power, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Australia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Ben Bohane
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: As Bougainville prepares for a referendum on independence, Australia must navigate a policy response that acknowledges the history of conflict and colonialism there, Bougainville nationalism, PNG sensitivities, the principles of the guiding Bougainville Peace Agreement and new geostrategic realities to help forge a lasting solution. Bougainville is largely ‘referendum ready’ and its people are expected to vote overwhelmingly for independence in the November referendum. While Bougainville has abundant natural resources and a skilled older generation, as an independent nation it would face many challenges including fiscal self-reliance, consensus on mining issues, unity and political integrity. Australia has a significant stake in the outcome and should step up its engagement to remain a trusted peace and security broker in Melanesia. It should not oppose Bougainville’s independence if that is the result under the referendum and peace process, and should take a leading role in ensuring a peaceful resolution between the parties.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Colonialism, Conflict, Independence, Referendum
  • Political Geography: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, Melanesia
  • Author: Bobo Lo
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: The rise of Asia is the central challenge of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy, calling into question long-standing assumptions about Russia’s place in the world. Moscow is now more committed to engagement with the Asia-Pacific than it has ever been. This reflects belated recognition of the region’s critical importance in global affairs. Russia’s ambition to become a major player in the Asia-Pacific faces considerable hurdles. Overcoming them will depend on larger changes in its foreign policy mindset — an uncertain prospect at best.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Economy, Vladimir Putin
  • Political Geography: Russia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Lydia Khalil
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: Women will be important to the resurgence and transformation of the Islamic State from governance project to global terrorist insurgency. Islamic State has expanded both the potential and the scope of the roles and functions women can play, providing additional avenues for their participation in jihad in both kinetic and non-kinetic roles. The cohort of former caliphate members of mostly women and children now held in camps pose a key challenge for counterterrorism efforts around the world. Assumptions about women and violence can obstruct an accurate assessment of the threat female IS supporters pose and an accurate understanding of their agency.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Violent Extremism, Counter-terrorism, Women, Radicalization, Islamic State, Jihad
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Australia, Syria
  • Author: Denise Fisher
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: As 30 years of peace agreements come to an end, stability in New Caledonia is now at risk. New Caledonia faces an uncertain future as it prepares for its last local elections under the Noumea Accord, and as it enters a four-year process ending 30 years of peace agreements. The continued stark ethnic divide over independence revealed in the November 2018 referendum, the first of potentially three such votes, revives old tensions and complicates essential discussions about future governance, which will have consequences for France, Melanesian neighbours and the wider region. While strategically Australia benefits from continued French regional engagement, its support should not be at any cost.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Political stability, Referendum
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific, New Caledonia, Melanesia
  • Author: Denise Fisher
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Lowy Institute for International Policy
  • Abstract: As 30 years of peace agreements come to an end, stability in New Caledonia is now at risk. New Caledonia faces an uncertain future as it prepares for its last local elections under the Noumea Accord, and as it enters a four-year process ending 30 years of peace agreements. The continued stark ethnic divide over independence revealed in the November 2018 referendum, the first of potentially three such votes, revives old tensions and complicates essential discussions about future governance, which will have consequences for France, Melanesian neighbours and the wider region. While strategically Australia benefits from continued French regional engagement, its support should not be at any cost.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Political stability, Referendum
  • Political Geography: Australia, Asia-Pacific, New Caledonia, Melanesia