ASPI suggests

The world

To launch this week’s Suggests we take you into space which is becoming an increasingly contested domain. A report by ASPI’s Malcolm Davis examines the implications conflict in space would have for the ADF, noting Australia’s heavy reliance on space for both defence and civilian capabilities. As France moves to form its own space force, the International Institute for Strategic Studies analyses the country’s first defence space strategy. This piece from The National Interest has more detail on how France plans to arm its satellites and why it has Russia worried. Check out Newsweek for details on the new humanoid robot Russia plans to send into space. This isn’t the droid we’re looking for.

At the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced the heat, with climate change dominating this year’s meeting. Differences between Australia and Pacific island countries led to clashes between Morrison and other leaders and almost caused the talks to collapse completely.

This Strategist piece argues that if ScoMo can’t commit to genuine climate action, he won’t achieve the level of engagement he’s hoping for. Defence Connect takes a look at Australia’s commitments in the region through the defence lens while the Lowy Institute takes a step back to look at the state of the region, the flashpoints and the issues. And see this piece by Chatham House for a deep dive into the different approaches taken by Australia and New Zealand when it comes to dealing with Chinese influence in the Pacific.

Speaking of Chinese influence, there’s been continued reaction to Liberal MP Andrew Hastie’s piece warning that Australia must understand and tackle the challenge posed by China or risk repeating the failures of the past.

The Chinese embassy accused Hastie of ‘Cold War ideology’ and nationalist newspaper the Global Times said his comments amounted to ‘incendiary vilification of China’. Some Australian business leaders have hit out at Hastie. Kerry Stokes, for example, described the piece as ‘intemperate’. A rift also appeared in government ranks.

Liberal colleague and former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma made probably the most well thought out contribution to the discussion of Hastie’s piece with a Twitter thread outlining the challenges in dealing with rising powers, and in determining whether they can be accommodated in the global order. ‘The ideology of the rising power is everything here, because it reveals intent, and informs whether it will accept a privileged place in the current order, or if it demands a new order entirely,’ Sharma wrote, adding ‘the ideological direction and ambition of China has become far more pronounced’ and that our strategy needs to recognise and reflect this.

The collective security of Europe remains a topic of debate as China’s sway on the continent grows and Brexit creates more uncertainty. The Hill offers an insightful piece on the threats a rising China poses to Europe and the inability of the US military to fight a conflict in Asia and protect its NATO friends in Europe. This takes us back to last month’s Strategist article on whether Europe has the capacity to become a global power in the face of growing challenges.

And one for all the real-estate buffs out there, US President Donald Trump has reportedly been floating the idea of buying Greenland. We can only imagine that will be met with some icy responses. Keeping with the property theme (and if everything above has you heading for the hills), the New York Times has looked at the boom in business for high-end ‘doomsday’ bunkers that include swimming pools and movie theatres.

Tech geek

China is undertaking advanced genetic engineering and research into the enhancement of human performance for the People’s Liberation Army as part of its ‘civil–military fusion’ strategy. Elsa B. Kania and Wilson VornDick have highlighted how the PLA is pursuing a ‘brave new world’ in areas such as military neuroscience and biotechnology.

Russia’s attempts to develop a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile—known as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall—suffered another setback earlier this week with an explosion during a weapons test that killed five and released radiation into the area around the test site. The Washington Post looks back at US efforts to develop a similar weapon in the 1960s. Jeffrey Lewis, otherwise known as @ArmsControlWonk, has a good thread discussing his team’s analysis of the incident.

When it comes to space, most attention focuses on SpaceX and Blue Origin, but Sierra Nevada Corporation has its own spacecraft—‘Dream Chaser’—a small, unmanned space shuttle designed to ship cargo to the International Space Station and support other on-orbit activities. Dream Chaser is set to fly on a new expendable rocket from 2021.

And staying in orbit, a Finnish company called ICEYE is developing small satellites to offer sub-metre synthetic aperture radar imaging. This is important because the technology is dropping the cost of space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which is very useful for aspiring space powers—like Australia!

Finally, the hackers contracted by the US military succeeded in breaking into an F-15 fighter jet at the Def Con cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas.

This week in history

On 15 August 1947, the British government relinquished control of India, partitioning the country into two countries—India and Pakistan—which have since fought three wars and created one of the most militarised border zones in the world in Kashmir. See this short video by Al Jazeera on the history of the division of India between 1946 and 1999.


North and South Yemen united in 1990, but the crisis there could tear the country apart once more. See Al Jazeera’s Inside Story for more. [25:00]

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a multimedia report on the dire state of fisheries in the South China Sea that looks at overlapping territorial claims and what large numbers of Chinese trawlers might be doing near the Spratly Islands (hint: it might not be fishing).


The Lowy Institute has released a panel discussion on the current Hong Kong crisis, the implications for the global economy and China’s image in the world. [58:49]

The Rohingya are among the most persecuted minorities in the world. As crimes against their basic human rights continue, Global Dispatches discusses whether justice can or will be served. [29:01]


Canberra, 19 August, 5:30–7:30pm, ASPI: ‘Report launch: Strong and free? The future security of Australia’s north’. Register here.

Melbourne, 20 August, 1–2pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Trade, national security and the US–China conflict: Can world trade law provide a solution?’. More info here.