ASPI suggests

The world

Imran Khan claimed victory in Pakistan’s controversial elections. The BBC has a great explainer on the former cricket star and the challenges he’s set to face. DW offers a pessimistic view of Khan’s win. On a different note, this HuffPost article explains how the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (part of the Belt and Road Initiative and worth US$62 million) is a handy project for the Pakistani military, as it promises profits without democratic requirements. The Wall Street Journal highlights that Pakistan’s financial situation (maybe better described as a debt crisis) should be worrying Beijing.

While the BRI won’t benefit everyone (and isn’t without risks, as The Economist argues), it’s providing parts of Central Asia with the necessary infrastructure to potentially come out on top in the trade war between China and the US, a Eurasianet piece argues.

A theme familiar to Australians seems to be taking hold in the US—more and more officials lobbying for China. In The Daily Beast, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian provides a list of men thought to be in China’s sphere of influence. At the same time, US policy in Asia and across the Indo-Pacific remains uncertain under the current administration. Following on from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s speech at Chatham House, it’s clear Australia is facing a growing number of international challenges. This Australian Institute of International Affairs article echoes Bishop’s view, outlining the difficulties Canberra is facing and how it may respond. In the Financial Review, Ashley Townshend and Brendan Thomas-Noone call for more Australian engagement in the region. Also, Paul Dibb passionately advocates on ASPI’s The Strategist for Australia to acknowledge the changing security environment in its neighbourhood and beyond.

Donald Trump’s all-caps tweeting escapade has increased fears of conflict between the US and Iran. But The Atlantic is out to ease your minds, comparing the situation to North Korea and ultimately doubting Iran’s ability to mobilise against America, a view echoed by War on the Rocks. Carnegie’s Dmitri Trenin thinks fears of conflict between NATO and Russia are well off target. And this interview with Ashley Tellis outlines the impact America’s deteriorating relations with Iran and Russia are having on India.

The difference between fact and fiction has been dominating public discourse, not least thanks to the US president, who continues to talk and tweet about ‘fake news’. For Longreads, Bridey Heing reviews former New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani’s book The death of truth: notes on falsehood in the age of Trump, in which she points to not only cultural reasons but also the rise of bots. Bloomberg has published its own long analysis on state-sponsored trolling across the globe and the Institute for the Future’s Digital Intelligence Lab has covered the topic too. Complement those pieces with the ABC’s Russia, If You’re Listening podcast, which investigates how an army of Russian internet trolls attempted to tamper with the 2016 US election and the overall impact they had. To round it off, consult Kate Lamb on Indonesia’s ‘buzzer teams’ that spread content on social media, and take a look at Vox on how false memories are constructed.

Tech geek

Funding in the 2019 US National Defense Authorisation Act for Trump’s proposed US space force has been deferred until at least 2020. Instead, Congress has directed the Department of Defense to begin a process of policy debate on space warfighting.

There’s a growing race for hypersonic weapons, and Russia is investigating a leak of information about its hypersonic programs. Though speed gives an advantage, fusion of data and systems is also vital. This video explains why fusion is as important as speed.

Nanotechnology may lead to another revolution (alongside artificial intelligence and autonomous systems), allowing rapid manufacturing at the molecular level to transform military logistics, and maybe even exotic weapons tech. A team from the University of Manchester has built a molecular robot that’s designed to bring manufacturing on such a small scale one step closer.

China is looking to develop AI-controlled large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to challenge traditional Western advantages in places like the South China Sea. The Chinese are being pretty ambitious, and are planning to begin deploying such capabilities by the early 2020s. Though the boats will be fully autonomous, humans will decide whether to attack a target.

Russia is also progressing its Poseidon (formerly Status-6 Kanyon) nuclear-armed long-range UUV, with sea trials now underway. The Poseidon will be equipped with a 2-megaton nuclear warhead with a cobalt-59 jacket to maximise radiation contamination for a prolonged period.

Finally, we recommend the Center for a New American Security’s excellent report on strategic competition in an era of artificial intelligence.


The International Criminal Court has created an interactive tool based on its exhibition ‘Building a more just world’ that lets you explore the court’s activities and the general importance of justice.

The Atlantic features a photo series of China’s beautiful Qiandongnan Prefecture.

With Chinese president Xi Jinping travelling to Africa, Al-Jazeera’s Inside Story explores whether China’s economic engagement actually benefits the continent. [25:00]


The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ podcast on North Korea sat down with the Wall Street Journal’s Seoul bureau chief, Jonathan Cheng. He talks about recent dismantling efforts, the general state of denuclearisation and the view from South Korea. [31:42]

On the Guardian’s Australian politics podcast, Katherine Murphy hosts shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin to discuss her long career and decision to move to the backbench and retire at the next election. [37:06]


Canberra, 1 August, 6–7 pm, ANU: ‘When proliferation causes peace: the psychology of nuclear crises’. Free registration here.

Sydney, 1 August, 6–7.30 pm, University of Sydney: ‘The weary titan: the fading of the ‘American’ twentieth century’. Registration here.

Brisbane, 2 August, 10 am–7 pm, University of Queensland: ‘Translating PVE/CVE research into evidence-based policy: a research–policy–practice trilogue’. Background info and registration here.