ASPI suggests

The world

It’s well known that China is always on the lookout for opportunities to extend its reach. The New York Times went to Patagonia to investigate where Latin America sits on Beijing’s list of priorities. And it’s same, same but different in The Daily Beast with a Huawei story, this time about the company’s attempts to gain a European foothold through the Czech Republic. The Atlantic claims that Chinese tech ‘isn’t the enemy’ and that the US ‘risks overcompensating’.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Chinese Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage to Mecca are being tracked with GPS devices, allegedly to ensure their safety. The Intercept outlines some of China’s censorship methods from the past few years, and Vox adds its voice to the recent criticism of Google’s decision to provide a censored search engine for China.

Although China and ASEAN have agreed to a draft code of conduct for the South China Sea, The Economic Times doubts tensions will ease anytime soon due to China’s track record of ‘blatant disregard’ for international law. The National Interest argues that stability depends on America’s willingness to remove itself from East Asia and allow China’s rise to continue unfettered. Foreign Brief, meanwhile, has looked into the risks associated with the Vietnam–China standoff.

The National Interest is at the forefront of analysis on Taiwan–China relations with two great recent pieces: John Mearsheimer outlines the severe implications for Taiwan as China’s growth continues at an impressive rate, and J. Michael Cole describes the options for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Brookings analyses President Tsai Ing-wen’s ‘New Southbound Policy’, which aims to steer Taiwan away from a single market and open it up to more involvement with Japan and the US.

In the US, eyes are on the next chapter of the Mueller investigation. The trial of Paul Manafort, former chair of the Trump campaign, started on Tuesday. On the Lawfare Blog, Autumn Brewington explains the two indictments filed against Manafort, and The Atlantic digs a bit deeper into America’s ‘kleptocracy’ problem.

Several countries went to the urns over the past week. Cambodia’s democracy is crumbling even more after Sunday’s ‘sham election’, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s worth revisiting this 2017 Foreign Affairs piece on the country’s shift. Zimbabwe and Mali also held elections, both of which were marked by violence during and after the voting process. Channel 4 captured the deadly clashes between military, police and opposition supporters in Zimbabwe’s first parliamentary and presidential elections since Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980. Mali will hold a second-round run-off in two weeks.

Coda Story produced a (shocking) interactive long read on Russia’s HIV epidemic, highlighting how the country has become a reservoir for conspiracists but also how its faulty healthcare system drives patients into denial. The Conversation offers an interesting read on how US millennials (and other generations) feel about American exceptionalism and how their sentiments might affect the country’s foreign policy. And you can get ready for tech geek with drone policy research by Loren DeJonge Schulman for the Center for a New American Security.

 Tech geek

Russia is taking a second look at wing-in-ground-effect vehicles. The Soviet Union explored them in the 1960s with its ‘ekranoplan’ (nicknamed the Caspian Sea Monster), which allowed fast low-over-the-water flight by exploiting aerodynamic lift through the ground effect. Current plans suggest a wing-in-ground-effect platform by 2020 for the Russian Navy, with a lifting capacity of 300 tonnes. Such a capability could be a serious threat if it’s equipped with large numbers of high-speed anti-ship missiles.

Following in China’s footsteps (as noted last week) on large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), Russia is also working on its Cephalopod armed UUV. The US, too, has its own program with the Boeing Echo Voyager UUV. The prospect of fleets of autonomous robot subs prowling the undersea battlespace could make it more difficult for manned submarines to remain effective in contested waters.

‘Star Wars’ in the Ronald Reagan sense is set to make a comeback, of sorts. In its 2019 defence spending bill, the US Congress is mandating space-based weapons for missile defence within 10 years—even though this is against the advice of the US Missile Defense Agency, which is currently preparing a review of ballistic missile defence policy.

Why mine asteroids in space when you could bring the mountain to Mohammed? China is planning to capture a small asteroid and bring it down to Earth to extract rare metals in an audacious plan.

Finally, a great story on the new F-16 Block 70, which has ‘F-22 DNA’.


Ten years ago Iceland almost went broke. Now it’s one of Europe’s most successful economies. DW Business investigates. [4:42]

Vox Atlas explains why some of the world’s worst natural disasters happen in the Pacific. The ‘Ring of Fire’ plays a big role. [6:34]


First things first, ASPI has a podcast! The first episode of Policy, guns and money looks at the AUSMIN talks, free speech, Poland, and My Health Record. [26:29]

Women in Foreign Policy also launched the first episode of their monthly podcast. [26:00]

The Global Futures Podcast examines the issues surrounding water as a resource, ranging from shortages to conflict over water and water politics. [36:55]

On the latest episode of Things that might kill us, the hosts talk to environmental justice expert Douglas Booker about something that is killing many people already: air pollution. [55:03]


Melbourne, 6 August, 1–2.15 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Data as labour: rethinking the collection and ownership of personal information in the era of artificial intelligence’. Register here.

Canberra, 7 August, 6–7.30 pm, ANU: ‘Fake news, social media and privacy’. Register here.

Canberra, 16 August, 6.30–8 pm, National Gallery of Australia, presented by Australian Foreign Affairs in partnership with the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific: ‘Canberra launch of Australian Foreign Affairs issue 3: “Australia and Indonesia: can we be friends?”’ More info here.