ASPI suggests

The world

Some interesting analysis on the coronavirus has emerged this week looking at its impact on technology, economies and society. Foreign Policy has an interesting piece on the impact religious cults and conservatives have had on the spread of the virus in South Korea. Writing for East Asia Forum, Mu Li dives into the pros and cons of using social media and the internet to disseminate information and whether it has helped slow the spread of coronavirus in China. With no official cases of coronavirus in North Korea as yet (though the accuracy of those reports has been questioned), 38 North discusses how the reclusive regime has responded to pandemics in the past and how it may be responding to this one. The virus’s impact on Southeast Asian economies is outlined by the Carnegie Endowment, while Vox explores how technology may help prevent future pandemics.

More than two dozen Turkish soldiers have been killed in fighting between Turkey and the Russian-backed forces of the Syrian regime in Idlib province. For a perspective on why Turkey is becoming more entrenched in the conflict, see this piece in the Financial Times, which argues that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main priority is to stop a new wave of Syrian refugees from crossing into his country. As the US rules out the possibility of re-engaging in Syria, Bloomberg highlights the importance of Idlib and what’s at stake should it fall. In Idlib alone, more than 900,000 civilians have been displaced. An article in Foreign Affairs calls for the US to protect refugees fleeing the conflict by setting up a safe zone, and a Foreign Policy piece claims the UN’s broken governance system means a NATO- or EU-led humanitarian intervention is the country’s last hope.

An article in The Interpreter this week highlighted the significant economic woes facing Lebanon as it contemplates defaulting on its debt to European creditors. Such a default would create insecurity for the international community by raising the possibility of another failed state in the Middle East. The Washington Post reports on the warning signs of economic collapse in Lebanon that have been on show since last year. The New York Times reports that in an effort to stave off the problem, Lebanon has started offshore drilling for oil and gas; however, some government officials warn any results could take years.

Foreign Policy looks at the continuing contest for Catalan independence in Spain as negotiations resumed this week after being halted in October last year. The New York Times reports that internal political struggles on both sides could complicate talks. An article from the Washington Post outlines the significance of Catalan independence for other EU countries and how the independence movement there reflects calls for Scottish independence.

Protests have escalated in Haiti. Time reports that police among the protestors exchanged gunfire with soldiers for several hours on Sunday. The Financial Times explains how a 2005 deal to purchase Venezuelan oil on favourable terms was designed to enable Caribbean nations to put money towards infrastructure, but Haiti has been reported as mismanaging these funds. The country also witnessed violent protests last year, during which police fired live ammunition, something Amnesty International says is a violation of international policing and human rights standards.

First Brexit, then Harry and Meghan gave up their royal titles in Megxit—is Scotxit next? The Times suggests the answer is no (but only just), citing a poll in which 51% of Scots said they would vote against leaving the UK if there was another referendum on independence. The Hill, meanwhile, highlights how Scotland could hold a referendum and examines the likelihood of such an event taking place. Take a look back at this Foreign Policy piece illustrating Russia’s efforts to encourage the breakup of the UK, partly to justify its own actions in Ukraine. And finally, see this BBC article for how Britain’s decision on Huawei’s 5G network could significantly affect its position within the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

Tech geek

A new study has found that in certain scenarios the helmets used by the French Army in World War I can provide better blast protection than those currently used by the US military. The impact of blast shocks on troops is a well-known problem which regained media scrutiny recently when it was revealed that 110 American soldiers had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries as a result of Iran’s ballistic missile attack on a major US base in Iraq.

The UK’s National Audit Office has released a report critical of the Ministry of Defence’s equipment plan. The report highlights major deficiencies in government decision-making and planning, and flags a potential funding shortfall of £13 billion ($25.5 billion) within the next decade. The report came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major review of the UK’s defence and foreign policies.

The US Air Force is preparing to conduct a live-fire exercise involving SpaceX Starlink satellites. The War Zone reports the exercise will be part of a larger test of the ‘advanced battle management system’ which was first run in December.

How can the internet of things help against biodiversity loss and climate change? Charles McLellan explores this important question in a TechRepublic piece in which he gives an overview of potentially game-changing technology that will help provide timely and actionable information on environmental degradation.

This week in history

This week in 1972, US President Richard Nixon became the first sitting president to visit the People’s Republic of China. The visit aimed to create stability in Asia, reduce Cold War tensions and help extricate the US from the Vietnam War. See Dispatch for photos of the event.


The man who led the WHO’s response to SARS discusses the key facts of the coronavirus outbreak and the challenges of addressing it. [60 min]

A BBC photo series highlights the destruction wrought by recent protests in Haiti.

The Lowy Institute’s latest podcast discusses the impact coronavirus could have on the Chinese state, its leadership and its global standing. [56 min]


Melbourne, 4 March, 6.15–8 pm, Global Citizen after-hours event series: ‘International Women’s Day 2020’. Register here.

Canberra, 6 March, 12–2 pm, Australian National University: ‘2020 International Women’s Day panel—climate change’. Register here.