ASPI suggests
22 Apr 2016| and

Edited image courtesy of Flickr user Patrick Rasenberg

In the spirit of President Frank Underwood, whelcome back to another wheek of ASPI suggests.

The Pulitzer Committee did us a great service this week in doling out the 2016 prizes. Some prime picks include the Associated Press’ work on labour exploitation in the Southeast Asian fishing industry; some incredible New York Times photography capturing Europe’s refugee crisis; and a searing feature in The New Yorker on the troubling earthquake hazard that lays dormant in northwestern America. And if you’re in NYC and happen to stumble upon a ticket to Hamilton—the breakaway, sold-out and now Pulitzer-winning musical on the US’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton—well, good luck to ya!

Here are two different but related pieces on the theme of hacking. First, a sharp essay from Harper’s on efforts to build an email client that’s impervious to government surveillance. And second, from Bloomberg comes a gripping read on hacking elections, as told by the man who rigged political contests in Latin America for a decade.

After their hugely successful Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative microsite, CSIS has this week launched a new effort to bring together the latest research, commentary, graphics and data on the Middle Kingdom. Bookmark it now, because the ChinaPower microsite will quickly become a go-to for answers and analysis around China’s rise and the economic, technological and military might that goes along with it. One of the new site’s first projects has been to explore China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier in 3D and offer comparative analytics on the PLA-N’s solo carrier versus its international counterparts.

The Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security delivered some thought-provoking new research this week looking at the health of NATO. The full report, ‘Alliance at Risk: Strengthening European Defense in an Age of Turbulence and Competition’, is available here.

Readers will remember the havoc wreaked last week as several Russian Sukhoi Su-24 aircraft buzzed the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea. This week, Russia’s mixing things up a little with Sukhoi Su-34 aircraft, which were used to bomb their own country. No, nothing to do with Ukrainian or Chechen border disputes—rather, the jets were used to drop precision-guided explosives onto the Sukhona River to break up thick ice. Watch videos of the aircraft and the aftermath here.

US political fanatics (West Wing obsessives still included) had been waiting with bated breath for this week’s New York primary, and the results weren’t at all surprising. With Hillary and The Donald taking out their respective parties’ top spots, there’s been plenty of uneasy chatter about the closing gap between the Trump and Cruz campaigns. The New Yorker offers some thoughts on what Sanders’ supporters should take away from their experience in the Big Apple, while The New York Times checks out the steep costs of the Clinton campaign, and the ‘billion dollar onslaught’ that she’ll face from Republicans should she win the Democratic nomination. For different hypothetical angles on the presidential race, The Economist takes an in-depth look at the potential economic challenges that Clinton administration might face; and, not to be outdone, check out this piece on The New York Review of Books which looks at what Russia stands to gain from a Trump presidency.

China’s inaugural National Security Education Day took place on 15 April. The new ‘holiday’ is designed to help Chinese citizens understand the importance of safeguarding state secrets, and led to the promulgation of some pretty unique propaganda about foreigners practicing espionage in China. The Chinese Ministry of State Security released a series of short videos that quickly went viral depicting Western superheroes and pop culture figures as unemployed foreign spies, while a 16-page comic named Dangerous Love warns of  the dangers of sharing state secrets with your handsome, foreign boyfriend. For some background reading on cartoon depictions of spooks in China, check out this longer read from Quartz.


The Loopcast recently sat down with Nic Jenzen-Jones, head of Armament Research Services, to talk about how illegal arms trading is facilitated by social media. It’s a fascinating chat (34 mins). Also check out this piece on the subject over at The New York Times.


The UK’s Minister of State, the Hon Hugo Swire, was in Washington this week to give a rundown on the Britain’s Asia policy, with particular reference to strategic security issues. With Obama landing in the UK today to meet with David Cameron on the state of the transatlantic alliance in the face of the Brexit, the Minister’s speech is a useful glimpse into the centrality, or otherwise, of Asia for British policymakers. The speech and moderated discussion is over at YouTube (43 mins). (On the topic of what the Brexit would spell for the UK–US special relationship, see this smackdown from Brookings president Strobe Talbott.)

The Atlantic Council hosted a panel of entrepreneurs and business leaders to explore how America’s tech community can  assist the government’s response to complex and vexed national security challenges (1 hour 42 mins).


Canberra: Join Rory Medcalf, Ashley Townshend and Euan Graham for what’s sure to be a fascinating discussion about how China’s shifting approach to confidence-building measures in the South China Sea is increasing its ability to challenge the regional rules-based order. Mark your calendars for 29 April, and register here.

Sydney: There’s never been a more exciting time to be watching US politics, a fact which is certainly not wasted on the United States Studies Centre. We recommend checking out this 4 May discussion on how America’s grassroots are transforming US politics and elections.