Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific


Demystifying Australia’s South China Sea stance

An F18 fighter takes off from the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt while transiting the South China Sea, 10 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Karen Lema).

Author: Sam Bateman, University of Wollongong

On 23 July, Australia lodged a note verbale to the UN Secretary-General setting out its position on China’s claims in the South China Sea. This was part of a series of notes verbale from countries bordering the South China Sea that was triggered by a December 2019 Malaysian submission to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) claiming a partial outer continental shelf in the South China Sea. Read more…

The return of sovereignty to Australia’s defence strategy

An Australian Navy officer from Australian Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ship, HMAS Canberra stands next to a helicopter after arriving at the main harbour in Colombo, Sri Lanka 23 March, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte).

Author: Richard Brabin-Smith, ANU

The Australian Department of Defence’s three recent update documents — the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, the 2020 Force Structure Plan and the Defence Science and Technology Strategy 2030 — all recognise the country’s demanding new strategic environment. This is reflected in the prioritising of operations in Australia’s immediate region, planning for force structure and preparedness, and the greater attention given to sovereignty and self-reliance. Read more…

IA-CEPA will not solve Indonesia’s FDI problem

Stacks of containers are seen at Tanjung Priok port amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Jakarta, Indonesia, 3 August 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana).

Authors: Krisna Gupta and Andree Surianta, ANU

The Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) came into effect on 5 July 2020. It is intended to facilitate less restrictive movement of goods, services and investment between the two countries. As attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) is a top priority for Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, a freer flow of investment from Australia is certainly welcomed. But while IA-CEPA holds promise for trade, there are issues that will undermine its effectiveness in helping Indonesia attract increased FDI. Read more…

The case for an East Asian ‘climate club’ led by Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City, United States, 25 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

Authors: John Mathews, Macquarie University, Elizabeth Thurbon, UNSW, Sung-Young Kim, Macquarie University and Hao Tan, University of Newcastle

The Nobel Prize-winning US economist William Nordhaus fired a salvo recently when he published an article on how to drastically revamp international efforts to deal with climate change. He argued that climate negotiations operate according to a deeply flawed structure that has no chance of success, with no penalties for free-riding and non-membership. Read more…

Laying down the law in the South China Sea

The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) (L) is underway with the US Navy amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) and the Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Barry (DDG 52) in the South China Sea 18 April, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Nicholas Huynh).

Author: Donald R Rothwell, ANU

Australia’s 23 July statement to the UN Secretary-General in formal response to a series of diplomatic exchanges between Malaysia, China and other states is the clearest to date on legal issues associated with China’s South China Sea maritime claims. Diplomatically the statement is unremarkable, legally though, it makes Australia’s position on some key issues very clear.

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London and Canberra offer citizenship for Hongkongers

A couple hugs each other as police fire tear gas into the crowds to disperse anti-national security law protesters during a march on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, Hong Kong, 1 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu).

Author: Tim Summers, Chatham House and CUHK

Following the announcement and enactment of a national security law for Hong Kong by China’s National People’s Congress, both the British and Australian governments have offered ‘pathways to citizenship’ for some of Hong Kong’s population. Why have they done this, and what are the implications?

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Crunch time for US allies and partners in navigating a new Cold War

A man works to remove the US Consulate plaque at the US Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, 26 July 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now leads the gathering charge in Washington to wage a new Cold War on China. All doubts about that were dispelled in his fiery speech at the Nixon Library last week and in his mission to lock Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom in behind him immediately afterwards. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, on their way to Washington for bilateral talks, will fly straight into the middle of this brewing geopolitical cauldron. Read more…

Australia’s defence, South Korea’s dilemma

A South Korean war veteran holds the national flag during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Cheorwon, South Korea, 25 June, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Hong-Ji).

Author: Peter K Lee, ANU

As two of the Asia Pacific’s leading middle powers, Australia and South Korea face increasingly difficult strategic choices. Although separated by vast distances, they both have a vital interest and role to play in shaping the region’s security landscape.

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Indonesian investment in northern Australian agriculture

Cattle wait in an enclosure at a livestock export yard in Noonamah, about 50 km south of Darwin, Australia (Photo: Reuters/Tim Wimborne).

Author: Ashley Vines, University of Melbourne

Indonesia is Australia’s oldest trading partner, with Aboriginal people from northern Australia having traded goods and produce with Makassan people long before European settlement. But this long-standing trade connection remains underdeveloped given the size, complimentary economies and proximity of the two countries. This is particularly the case in the agricultural sector.

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Missing pieces in Australia’s security strategy

The Indonesian Air Force's aerobatic team performs during celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the Air Force at Halim Perdanakusuma air base in Jakarta, Indonesia, 9 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

Australia’s official outlook on the strategic environment in its region has darkened. On 1 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the Department of Defence’s Strategic Update, which ‘sets out the challenges in Australia’s strategic environment and the implications for [d]efence planning’.

Read more…

Australia’s strategic appetite should take more account of Indonesia

Indonesian Air Force planes fly near the National Monument in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 August 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Iqro Rinaldi).

Author: Evan A Laksmana, CSIS Indonesia

Australia launched its 2020 Defence Strategic Update this month to bring defence policy up to speed with the deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific, marked by the rapid military modernisation in the region, sharpening US–China strategic competition, and the rise of ’grey-zone’ forms of assertiveness and coercion to achieve strategic goals without provoking conflict. Read more…

Australia’s Defence Strategic Update: when all you have is a hammer

A Royal Australia Air Force (RAAF) Wedgetail aircraft flies over the Sydney Harbour (Photo: Australian Department of Defence via Reuters).

Author: Melissa Conley Tyler, University of Melbourne

The old saying ‘when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail’ comes to mind upon the release of Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update on 1 July.

The biggest issue is not so much what’s in the Update, but the way it continues the tendency to view international issues through a security lens. To avoid a militarisation of Australia’s international relations, Canberra needs to balance defence, diplomacy and development approaches. Read more…

Australia’s vision of leadership in the Indo-Pacific

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks during a joint news conference with US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Australia's Defence Minister Linda Reynolds (unseen) in Sydney, Australia, 4 August 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Pool).

Author: Bradley Wood, ANU

The recent speech by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was an implicit message to the United States — Australia and the Indo-Pacific region can no longer wait for its leadership. Australia has signalled to the region and the next US administration that it is prepared to lead by example while the United States gets its house in order. Read more…

Will Chinese students study abroad post-COVID-19?

Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) holds annual graduation ceremony in Guanggu Stadium, with around 300 graduates being on site, and thousands of students witness the ceremony online, and take photos with classmates through tablets, Wuhan City, central China's Hubei province, 21 June 2020 (Reuters).

Authors: Bingqin Li, UNSW, Qian Fang, UNSW, and Li Sun, University of Leeds

Western universities are confronting the looming challenge that students from mainland China may no longer desire to study abroad after COVID-19. To continue attracting Chinese and other international students, host universities will need to show that they care about the wellbeing of the students. But if student numbers stay low post-COVID-19, they will have to adapt and implement different strategies. Read more…

Australia’s new defence geography

Commander Peter Lockwood from the Guided Missile Frigate HMAS Darwin watches from the Bridge as (L-R) HMAS Hobart, the New Zealand frigate HMNZS Te Mana, HMAS Arunta and HMAS Anzac sail out of Sydney Heads 28 February on their way to intensive warfare training off the coast of New South Wales (Photo: Reuters/Tan).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

In one of its bolder steps, Australia’s new Defence Strategy and Force Structure Review is proposing a radical redefinition of the geographical reach of Australia’s strategic priorities. It rejects the expansive view of Canberra’s last major defence policy statement — the 2016 Defence White Paper — which accorded equal priority to local, regional and global missions and commitments.

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