ASPI suggests

The world

The latest UN climate change report contains some distressing facts and figures. See the media release here which provides the main points. Vox dives in on the most worrying conclusion of the report—that around one million species are at risk of extinction within the next few decades, while Al Jazeera digs a little further into some of the other climate change threats the report outlines. Bringing it home, a Lowy Institute poll has found Australians now see climate change as a greater threat to Australia’s vital interests than terrorism, cyberattacks by state actors and the North Korean nuclear program.

US President Donald Trump has made good on a vow to raise tariffs from 10% to 25% on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods. A deadline for the hike in tariffs passed without a breakthrough in talks between US and Chinese officials, though negotiations will continue on Friday in Washington. China has already said it will retaliate— see the Financial Times for how it will take all ‘necessary countermeasures’. The BBC has summarised the trade war and the proposed new tariffs in five charts and the New York Times has all the background you need. For a different look at the US–China relationship, The Strategy Bridge takes a step back, looking at the strategic competition between the two nations over the past three decades. Meanwhile, ASPI non-resident fellow Elsa Kania has analysed the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military power in a brilliant Twitter thread.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, writing in Foreign Policy, lays out an impassioned plea for the protection of her country’s ‘self-made’ democracy in the face of China’s growing power in the region.

The US has sent an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Middle East in response to escalating tensions with Iran. Vox has an explainer on the rising tensions and this piece in The Strategist views it as a race against time until the 2020 US presidential election. Staying in the region, see Foreign Affairs for a piece arguing why the US-led coalition needs to stay in Syria and the Washington Post for some distressing news on the future of the conflict there as Russia escalates its strikes on the rebel-held city of Idlib. Charged Affairs has an interesting article on the need for US disengagement from Yemen while Al Jazeera illustrates the terrible decisions some Yemenis must make to find enough money to feed themselves and their families.

The latest issue of Foreign Affairs has some thought-provoking reads on America’s foreign policy options in the post-Trump era; Stephen Walt’s essay on the decline of American power, especially, is well worth your time. Check out the latest issue of China Brief, which features articles covering the latest updates on the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front activity, including one from ASPI’s Alex Joske.

It seems that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has decided to test Trump’s patience yet again testing three short-range ballistic missiles recently—including two this week. Alex Ward, writing for Vox, believes that the tests are partly aimed at sending ‘an angry message’ to Trump over the lack of progress in the bilateral negotiations since the Hanoi summit. This New York Times article provides an overarching view of US–North Korean relations and Trump’s problematic ‘art of the deal’ diplomacy with Pyongyang. After the first test last week, a Bloomberg article predicted that the US’s meek response would encourage North Korea to conduct more tests.

For the latest updates on the mega election of the year, read Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interview with Hindustan Times, in which he spells out his party’s strategy and why he’s confident of a victory. Amy Kazmin traces the growth trajectory of Hindu nationalism under Modi in this Financial Times article.

Tech geek

In a key development in plan for humans to return to the moon, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin company this week unveiled the ‘Blue Moon’ lunar lander, which is being designed to take both cargo and, eventually, people back to the moon.

While commercial space companies appear poised to make real progress towards a return to the moon, NASA seems to be losing momentum. Here are some of the views of key Apollo- and Shuttle-era astronauts on why.

The US Navy has confirmed that its next air combat aircraft, the F/A-XX, will not use the same airframe as the US Air Force’s ‘Penetrating Counter Air’ program. That brings to an end the common platform experiment that started with the F-35, and will move the US back to a series of platforms akin to the ‘century series’ of fighters in the 1960s.

And in a related development, the USAF has just successfully tested anti-missile lasers for its next- generation platform.

As if hypersonic weapons aren’t going to be deadly enough through sheer speed, there is now work underway to integrate artificial intelligence into the weapons to make them even more effective.

And how will the next great-power conflict play out? James Lacey in War on the Rocks wargames the next big war to find out.

This week in history

This week proved to be a busy, and at times tragic, period in recent history. In 1937, the famous German airship, the Hindenburg, crashed, and years before that, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by German U-Boats in World War I. An event that contributed to America’s entry into the war. This week is also the anniversary of VE Day, on which Germany surrendered and World War II ended in Europe. See this new photo series to see how countries all over the world celebrated.


Reuters has a devastating photo series on life in the ruined Syrian city of Aleppo.

See Al Jazeera’s 101 East on the corruption scandal surrounding former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak. [26:00]


World Affairs investigates how the social contract established in the years following WWII has been broken. First episode of a three-part series. [54:50]

For a step back in history, listen to When Diplomacy Fails for the nuts and bolts of the Treaty of Versailles, which was presented to the Germans 100 years ago. [32:04]

Listen in to a special episode of Policy, Guns and Money with the former commander of US Cyber Command and director of the US National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers. Includes some updates (spoilers) on Game of Thrones battle strategies. [34:26]


Melbourne, 13 May, 5–7pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Ethics, AI and unintended consequences’. More information here.

Canberra, 14 May, 6–8pm, Australian National University: ‘First 100 days of the next government’. Register here.

Sydney, 15 May, 5:45–7pm, Lowy Institute: ‘The global challenge of far-right extremism: what we’ve learned from Christchurch’. Register here.