Opinion

Our experts on Asia guide you through the big issues facing the region
  1. The qualities that have made Jacinda Ardern the most popular prime minister of New Zealand in a century were on display this week as she took an earthquake in her stride during a live television interview.“We’re fine,” she declared cheerfully as the 5.9-magnitude quake shook New Zealand’s parliament house in Wellington for 15 seconds. “I’m not under any hanging lights.”Her coolness under pressure, self-discipline and the decisiveness of her government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has…
  2. Two recent developments in the South China Sea are poised to enhance the Philippines’ position in the increasingly tense flashpoint and allay criticism that President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration is lacking resolve in defending the country’s interests.On May 13, Philippine Navy ship BRP Ivatan became the first vessel to dock at the nearly-completed port of Pag-asa (Thitu Island), Manila’s largest occupied feature in the Spratly Islands in the disputed sea.And last weekend, the country’s…
  3. With the scale and impact of the coronavirus pandemic, we are told to expect a different kind of world when lockdown and quarantine regimes are eventually lifted.But almost certainly, the one aspect of life that will not change is a proclivity for conflict. Rather, existing divides between powers, regions, neighbouring countries and within societies will be exacerbated. New drivers of conflict will emerge.An analogy could be made with the end of World War II, which gave birth almost immediately…
  4. In the run-up to the two-day meeting last week of the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO), expectations were building in the international media that China faced an unprecedented backlash.Beijing reportedly was resisting growing pressure for an independent investigation into the origins of the pandemic; Taiwan was lobbying hard on its latest attempt to join the body as an observer, and some expected the United States to use the forum to ratchet…
  5. In March, governments around the world told people to work from home and socially distance. We cleared space at home for our computers as best as we could, and called into video meetings with laundry drying in the background. For an Asian country that has had more than its fair share of natural disasters, it’s surprising how underprepared Japan was for working from home. There, as in most of Asia, home offices are quite rare. Part of the reason for this is Japan’s reliance on documents “signed…
  6. The coronavirus pandemic has been global in reach and impact, yet cooperation has been anything but. National governments largely fend for themselves, for better or worse. The absence of global cooperation is, moreover, not a simple oversight. It is a consequence of US-China rivalry and finger-pointing.Competition was increasing over the past years, framed as a Thucydides trap between rising and incumbent powers. Under President Donald Trump, the United States is often absent but still…
  7. As the Covid-19 pandemic spreads across the globe, human lives are being threatened and daily activities are impacted on an unprecedented scale and intensity. People everywhere are trying to understand the disease and the turmoil it has brought upon the politics, economics and society of nations.The chasm between China, where the epidemic first erupted, and the Western world has worsened, creating cross-cultural debates on ways of governance, globalisation, national and ethnic identities, and…
  8. Like many catastrophes in the history of mankind, the novel coronavirus will do much to reshape global geopolitics. But while some form of overhaul is inevitable, the key question is whether China will emerge stronger or weaker in its great power struggle with the United States.Thus far China is, predictably, doing better than any other major economy. This should not be surprising as Beijing has outperformed its rivals in controlling the virus. While its record 6.8 per cent contraction in the…
  9. In diplomacy, as in life, if you find yourself in a hole it is better to stop digging.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has excavated a diplomatic cavity for himself and his country as a consequence of an unwise intervention in the debate about China’s responsibility for a coronavirus pandemic.After a phone call with US President Donald Trump on April 22, during which the two leaders discussed China’s responsibility for the contagion, Morrison took it upon himself to push forward with an…
  10. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, China faced the worst possible international environment since the People’s Republic was founded in 1949. Long isolated by the Western powers, China fought a brief, bloody border clash over Zhenbao Island with the Soviet Union in 1969, prompting international concerns of a new World War involving nuclear weapons.To prepare for the worst-case scenario, China’s leader Mao Zedong called on the masses to “deeply dig tunnels, extensively store grain, and never…