Briefing MONTHLY #34 | December 2020
Illustration by Rocco Fazzari.
A NEW PAGE
Diversification might be the word of the year in Australia-Asia relations after COVID-19. But Xi Jinping’s Middle Kingdom still commands by far the biggest share of Asia Society Australia’s latest selection of books to read this holiday season.
Drawing on a range of participants in our events and publications over the year, these are the books they came up with to read over summer and beyond. It is an eclectic list ranging from Chinese foreign policy to novels which in various ways reflect a new Asia. There are some interesting voices from the dusty end of the bookshelf as some reviewers have turned to old favourites which have new meaning, including possibly the world’s first novel. We used our editor’s prerogative to wrap up with our own slightly longer list of interesting books published this year, some of which have already been noted in Briefing MONTHLY.
It is been a big year for thinktanks with Covid challenging old research plans and more online publishing to make up for less public events. So, we are switching from our usual wrap of the month’s events to look at some useful holiday catch-up reading from the nation’s Asia focussed thinktanks through the prism of our regular sections covering the region, Australia-Asia relations and business.
Happy reading - both this edition and the books!
To Change China: Western Advisers in China 1620-1960 by Jonathan Spence
This is a classic work, by an author who has penned several, reminding us what a daunting challenge it is to “change China.” There are some lessons here well worth (re)reading as we look ahead to difficult times in our relationship with Beijing.
China's Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People's Republic of China by John W. Garver
This book is Garver's magisterial culmination of a life's work as the one of the greatest historians of PRC foreign policy. Focusing on the how Chinese Communist Party has affected the country's external policy, he writes that the adoption of this “deeply dysfunctional political-economic model … has had profound implications for the legitimacy of the CCP party state and for PRC relations with liberal democratic powers." These words ring as true as ever for Xi Jinping's China.
China's New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong by Jude D. Blanchette
Blanchette, my successor as Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS in Washington, has written the best examination in English of the neo-Maoist revival in China and the influence its adherents have on Xi Jinping and his ambition to make China great again.
Night Heron, Spy Games, and The Spy's Daughter by Adam Brookes
The former BBC China correspondent’s trilogy of spy thrillers follow the China-based journalist Philip Magnan as he is drawn ever-deeper into a dangerous web of intrigue, deception, and espionage involving the Chinese and Western cloak-and-dagger corps. Great pacing and an authentic, underworldly rendering of China's shadowy side.
- Bates Gill is Professor of Asia-Pacific Security Studies at Macquarie University and Asia Society Australia’s scholar-in-residence. Watch his end of year wrap here.
The India Way by Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
India’s Minister for External Affairs reflects on the consequences for his nation of a strained multilateral system and renewed nationalism globally and sets outs his vision for India’s path forward. “India will not get the openness in the world economy that China enjoyed,” he says.
A New Idea of India by Harsh Madhusudan and Ranjeev Mantri
A challenging critique of the orthodox Nehruvian idea of India. They argue: “India would be better served if there were an intellectual and political consensus on the criticality of economic growth and individual rights.”
The Battle of Belonging by Shashi Tharoor
A defence of the Nehruvian idea of India by one of the nation’s most erudite and prolific authors, Congress MP and former UN diplomat, Shashi Tharoor. He says: “The idea of India, articulated by our founders, and carried forward by those who believed in their soaring vision, matters because it is the only idea that can keep India together.”
- Barry O’Farrell is Australia’s High Commissioner to India and delivered an Executive Briefing in August.
Braised Pork by An Yu
This was a curious book. I felt both wonder and darkness reading it. For someone who hasn’t read much fiction set in China, I loved how it was both a completely modern insight into some lives there, but also an exploration of how that life connected to past mythology and an abstract world.
- Olivia Pirie-Griffiths is Executive Director of the Alliance for Journalists Freedom and was part of an Asia Society collaboration with the Alliance for Journalists Freedom on Australian Media reporting in China. Watch the program here.
The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham
A brilliantly young Gen Z Vietnamese author from Sydney, via Los Angeles, debuting and delivering a moving story of friendships and trials of a troubled ethnic neighbourhood in West Sydney in the roaring '80s. Drawing from a foundation in fan fiction, Pham has recreated the lives of second generation Vietnamese boat people in a vividly accurate portrayal blending pop culture and, at times, constricting traditional Vietnamese family values. A beautiful and complex piece that has come from nowhere by an extremely youthful author who counts James Baldwin and Monty Python as her influences.
Chinese Spies by Roger Faligot
Not dissimilar in concept to Richard McGregor's The Party, Chinese Spies reveals the sheer depth, coordination and resources behind China's intelligence networks. With so many physical neighbouring states, historically complex relationships with the trilogy of Japan, Korea and, more recently, Taiwan and not to mention the highly complex and conflictual relationship with Russia, perhaps we should not be surprised China's intelligence apparatus is as advanced as it is. The detail of the multitude of networks, Chinese loyalties and breadth of sources across academia, business, student bodies, journalists and its vast diaspora combined with the co-ordinated leadership monopoly of the party creates an enviable force in spycraft. While not making this reader necessarily alarmed, the books serves as a wake-up call to agencies outside China to match these darks arts.
- John O'Loghlen is Director of Alipay Australia & NZ. He delivered a Masterclass to our Gen A network with lessons for building a career in China (or China ‘adjacent’) Explore the program here.
Where Great Powers Meet by David Shambaugh (forthcoming)
The book argues that Southeast Asia is the epicentre of US-China strategic completion. This argument is in line with much on-the-ground evidence which is taking hold. The geographic proximity and China's modest ambition to be an Asia Pacific hegemon will make ASEAN a flash point in bilateral competition in the years to come. A new US pivot to Asia strategy under future administrations will need to answer many more questions ranging from the updating of traditional hub-spoke model to how to push back against China's looming economic dominance in this region.
- Shan Huang is Associate Managing Editor and an Editorial Board Member at Caixin Media. He was a panellist at Asia Briefing LIVE.
China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order by Geoff Raby
This is a thoughtful book by someone with deep experience of the Australian-China relationship. Given the current situation, Raby’s insights are particularly timely.
Blockchain Chicken Farm and Other Stories of Tech in China’s Countryside by Xiaowei Wang
A well written book by someone with the inherited cultural sensitivities, yet has the perspectives of a well-adapted migrant to the US. It underscores the challenges of the Chinese Communist Party in managing China’s growth as a global power and is complementary to Raby’s observations.
- Su-Ming Wong is a director of Asia Society Australia.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
In a year that has been dominated by a global pandemic it felt right to read this anthropology classic about a culture clash between a traditional society and the US health care system. Lia is the daughter of Hmong immigrants who moved to California as part of the post-Vietnam War wave of refugees. When Lia begins experiencing signs of epilepsy, she ends up caught in a tug-of-war between modern American doctors and the values of her parents. The book is fascinating for the historical background it provides about the Hmong involvement in the 'Secret War,' but it also poses some thought-provoking questions about how medical professionals can build trust with their patients.
The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China by Timothy Brook
There's a tendency to view China's economic transformation as a one-off, but of course, it's just the latest in a series of evolutions and setbacks that spans China's thousands of years of history. The Ming Dynasty arguably saw the transformation of the Middle Kingdom from a patchwork of farming communities to a more commercially-oriented society, but it was never certain that this would be the outcome. This book details why and how that happened, using primary sources to paint a colourful picture of the changes that took place over an almost 300-year period.
Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick
I'm a fan of Demick's earlier work Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and looked forward to this new release. In it, Demick casts her gaze on a Tibetan town known for the self-immolation of its monks. She uses the town – Ngaba – to tell the story of China's influence in the region. Following a cast of real-life characters, she weaves a tapestry of the economic and cultural change that swept over Tibet in recent decades, building up to the fiery protests that made Ngaba both internationally famous and uncomfortably problematic for the Chinese government.
- Tracy Alloway is an executive editor at Bloomberg, head of the Asia News Desk and co-host of the Odd Lots podcast and was an Asia Briefing LIVE panellist.
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu
With its strikingly spare cover design by Akiko Chan, Jessie Tu’s novel set in New York and Sydney was my most unputdownable book of the year. Insistent and raw with short sentences, short chapters and not a word wasted, this story is like an unexpectedly revealing conversation with a friend.
The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
With lists of ‘Pleasing things’ like finding a large number of tales that one has not read before to ‘Squalid things’ such as the back of a piece of embroidery or the inside of a cat’s ear, Sei Shonagon’s insightful, funny and often unkind observations of court life in 10th century Japan are enjoyable to dip in and out of.
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
Arguably the world’s first novel, Lady Murasaki’s story has inspired endless works of art, plays and parodies. Tenderly told, this winding story of love and betrayal remains engaging more than a thousand years after it was written.
- Melanie Eastburn is senior curator of Asian art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She spoke at Cultural Diplomacy: The Tradition of Diwali Transcending a Nation, exploring how we define cultural heritage and, how regional and nuanced stories compete against globalization.
Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
After the events of this year, coupled with a long career committed to solving one of the most urgent and intractable of challenges – climate change – I find the enduring Buddhist wisdom of letting go of what you can't control, and bringing your attention into the moment in order to experience the simple pleasures in day to day life resonates strongly. Vietnamese Buddhist monk Nhat Hanh is a delightful and engaging writer, and this book remains an excellent entrée into mindfulness, but offers pearls of wisdom that have stayed with me for the several decades since I first read it.
Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken
Climate change is a complex and often overwhelming issue, but it can be solved. Drawdown focuses on how. It outlines the practical solutions, most of them implementable today, that are needed to solve climate change. While it’s not specific to Asia, the solutions required to rapidly mitigate climate change are highly relevant for the region. And many also offer better outcomes for sustainable development, an added bonus. Seeing just how practical, and often very local, these solutions are also offers hope, which we could all use a good dose of this summer.
The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska
This beautiful and haunting novel is set in Papua New Guinea over several decades as it transitions to independence. It probes the impact of colonialism and modernity on indigenous connection with land, and the negative impact this subsequently has on the natural landscape. It also explores 'otherness' - both the 'otherness' of being a foreigner and trying to fit in, and of being an indigenous person raised elsewhere, and never really fitting in anywhere. I couldn't put it down.
- Meg Argyriou is Head of International Programs at ClimateWorks and contributed an essay on Southeast Asia to the Disruptive Asia Sustainability Special Edition.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Dark, weird and wonderful. The author of Convenience Store Woman once again delivers a captivating journey of an outsider struggling to make her way through the world. Earthlings follows the traumatic life of Natsuki, an 11-year old girl who is convinced she is an alien from the planet Popinpobopia. At the heart of it, Natsuki is a survivor and she does what it takes to get through it all.
- Jette Radley is Associate Director, Programs at Asia Society Australia
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
In an eye-opening third-person narrative, this book follows the life of a typical modern Korean woman and exposes how society’s entrenched misogyny affects her mental health. This book reveals how pervasive gender inequality can be and made me reflect on how my own childhood was flecked with unconscious and subtle sexism. While the story is fiction, the author references real data, research papers and analysis throughout the book, which led to a fierce debate on gender equality in Korea and launched the country’s new feminist movement.
- Lena Duchene is Program Officer at Asia Society Australia
The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
This is a sweeping novel of a family split, and at least partly reunited, amid Vietnam’s century of torment emerging from French colonialism to become an independent nation. The story slowly and tantalisingly incorporates Vietnamese customs and language as it draws the reader into the Tran family’s psychic history away from the bigger background history. As Vietnam becomes more important to Australia’s strategic and economic future, it is hard to think of a gentler, more engaging way to understand its 20th century evolution.
Man of Contradictions by Ben Bland
While a disturbing number of Australians refuse to accept Indonesia as a democracy after almost twenty years of elections, quirky President Joko Widodo has arguably cut through. in the minds of many more Australians than his predecessors. Ben Bland colourfully and insightfully explains Jokowi’s chameleon political character in both an Indonesian cultural perspective and as an example of a successful leader from a developing Asian country. He is less of a contradiction after this first biography in English but not easier to predict or categorise. That’s a good warning for Australian leaders claiming near instant personal relationships with such leaders.
Contest for the Indo-Pacific by Rory Medcalf
Rory Medcalf was one of the first analysts to embrace the idea of a single strategic zone running from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the US as a replacement for the idea of the Asia Pacific. This long-delayed book places his original India-boosting approach to this idea in a much grander framework of a less China-focussed and more multipolar region with shifting combinations of various countries depending on the time, place and issue. He provides a fast-paced but scholarly history of different ways of imagining the region with some fabulous references to old maps.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-joo
Published in 2016 as South Korea’s first female president Park Geun-hye was brought down by a corruption scandal, this stark account of a modern woman’s life became the first Korean novel in a decade to sell a million copies. Now in English, it is part of new wave of feminist novels from Japan and Korea. Told through the emotionless prism of seeing a psychiatrist, the protagonist reveals the traumas of marriage, motherhood and career in a country which is major Asian economic success story.
The Iconoclast by Tobias Harris
Written to coincide with Shinzo Abe ending a stellar career by hosting a second Tokyo Olympics and becoming the country’s longest consecutive serving prime minister, this book was instead published as he was forced to stand down due to ill health. Nevertheless, it provides a detailed explanation of what made Abe a staunch conservative nationalist who also understood the need for economic reform and had the rare ability to raise the country’s stature on the world stage.
The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China by Jonathan Kaufman
This is the story of two Jewish families the Sassoons and the Kadoories who played roles in the emergence of equal rival cities Shanghai and Hong Kong. American reporter Jonathan Kaufman found an old Jewish text on an early visit to Shanghai and has used the inspiration to tell the story of Western commerce arriving in China. It is an apt story to retell at a time when some foreign businesses feel they are being pushed out of the country.
A Bigger Picture by Malcolm Turnbull
While not aimed at an Asian booklist, the former prime minister’s memoir provides a useful fast turnaround record of an Australian leader navigating a changing region which has gotten more challenging since he departed in 2018. China dominates befitting his business experience. But while he doesn’t resile from the policy actions which upset China, he still emerges as a man trying to reconcile early great optimism about the country with the realities of Chinese assertiveness when he was in office. Turnbull says the right things about fostering deeper relations with India and Southeast Asia to offset the various risks of being dependent on China. But he disappointingly doesn’t bring forth any new insights into how to do this given his privileged access to the region’s high tables and personal capacity for engaging conversations.
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
From the author of Booker Prize winning The White Tiger, this novel reveals a single day in the life of an illegal immigrant who is a house cleaner in Sydney. Adiga's main character – Sri Lankan Dhananjaya (Danny) – reveals the contradictions and pain of the lives of people who often underpin the economy with their work but are subject to complex legal restrictions and abuse.
Under Beijing's Shadow: Southeast Asia's China Challenge by Murray Hiebert
This detailed account of China's influence in Southeast Asia comes at a critical time when this region is at risk of becoming a proxy battlefield between the US and China. So, it also makes a good companion for understanding Australia’s recent increase in aid to the region across a range of areas where the Morrison government sees some challenges. Hiebert, a former US journalist in the area, avoids firm overall conclusions but lets his detailed account of different circumstances in each country tell the story.
The Dragon’s Pearl by Sirin Phathanothai
My choice from the vault. Published in 1994, this autobiography is by the daughter of a key member of the 1950s Thai military government, who sent his children to China to be raised by then Premier Zhou Enlai. It was a diplomatic gambit to demonstrate goodwill to China when Thailand was also seeking US financial support. Australian politicians need to read history like this as they make ambitious claims about building relationships in Asia to rein in China.
- Greg Earl is the editor of Briefing MONTHLY and Disruptive Asia.
One way to explore the path out of COVID-19 is to look at how it appears to have changed the starting position of countries around the region through the prism of the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index. The 2020 edition added Papua New Guinea to now include 26 countries and three new power measures covering the environment, defence dialogues and pandemic management for a total of 128 indicators. The bottom line is that while the US remains most powerful, it registered the largest fall. India dropped back from being defined as a major power, raising questions about how much it can really balance China and Japa,n which this index has previously identified as the quintessential smart power will take the longest to recover economically from the pandemic. Only three countries gained relative power in 2020 – Australia, Vietnam and Taiwan. The interactive database provides a neat way to remap the region according to your own inclinations.
NEW US FOREIGN POLICY
US politician Tip O’Neill was long associated with the observation that all politics is local. But the rise of populism from Washington to Jakarta means the same point can be made about foreign policy. One of the more thoughtful attempts to wrangle with this conundrum this year came from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just before the US elections. Making US Foreign Policy Work Better for the Middle Class is the result of a two-year study which attempts to integrate a revival of US global power with a domestic middle class in economic and cultural crisis. “If the United States stands any chance of renewal at home, it must conceive of its role in the world differently,” the study says in what might be a good way of thinking about how the Biden Administration will function.
One of the somewhat underappreciated outcomes of COVID-19 has been Australia’s renewed focus on Southeast Asia from several new aid programs to a special $1.5 billion loan to Indonesia. This reflects both new security and economic considerations. But it remains a mercurial region to understand. The annual State of Southeast Asia survey from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, while now almost a year old, is a rich source of information about diverse thinking in this region.
From New Zealand to Taiwan, it was quite a big year for elections in Asia. This compendium from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute provides a convenient way to recap voting in a once in a century pandemic. Although it oddly overlooks South Korea – one of the first countries to test voter sentiment after the virus.
COUNTING THE COST
From a pivoting aid program to Confucian soft authoritarianism, the pandemic has at least been good for thinktanks looking at the region through a new lens. In May we surveyed the first round of thinking about how COVID-19 would change Australia’s relationship with its region. Here are some of the year’s highlights.
After COVID-19: This series of essays from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute is now in its third guise with contributions from forty members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The first two covered a wide range of issues drawing mostly on ASPI staff.
Southeast Asia: Asia Society Australia joined with the Washington Asia Society Policy Institute to focus on the pandemic in Southeast Asia just as Australia poured more money into this region due to the impact of COVID. The website has interviews with regional experts.
New realities … or not: Asialink collaborated with Aus-CSCAP to publish a collection of essays from commentators and former officials from across the region which focussed on whether the pandemic changed international relations forever or just exposed old problems from a new perspective.
A roadmap out: From a new role for middle powers to a bigger aid program, this mid-year publication from the Lowy Institute provided a series of recommendations on how Australia should emerge from the pandemic on the world stage.
PACIFIC HARVEST TIME
The low-profile Pacific worker scheme hits a sweet spot in Australian policy making. It is a development aid scheme that doesn’t cost the Budget much, it might make rural conservatives think more fondly about aid, it is a pathway for dealing with climate change in the region and it keeps the supermarkets stocked. So, it is worth reflecting on a success.
This report from the Australian National University’s Development Policy Center examines how it has evolved since 2008 with benefits for Pacific workers and farmers but could be better run. It is the culmination of nine years of research in 11 countries. Meanwhile, the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law says in this study allowing one per cent of the South Pacific population to work in Australia under an expanded guest worker scheme could deliver more benefits than Australia’s development aid. It also says Australia should work towards creating bilateral or regional plans to help Pacific Islanders move more freely, and consider developing a special humanitarian visa for people whose lives are at risk on account of disasters or the impacts of climate change.
ASIAN STUDIES CRISIS
A pandemic which has only highlighted Australia’s strategic, financial and human interconnections with the region has coincided with an ironic winding back of deeper cultural connections. The National Library of Australia has pushed ahead with cutbacks to its Asian collection just as the government has been urging business to diversify trade channels beyond China. The library is planning to downgrade the focus of its Asian collection to at-best China, Indonesia and Timor Leste. Meanwhile universities have embarked on a new round of cuts to Asian language courses especially Indonesian just as a new bilateral trade deal gets under way. Asian Studies Association of Australia president Edward Aspinall argues this is at odds with the new debate about reducing dependence on China. Former NLA chair James Spigelman says the institution has now taken an inappropriately narrow view of its responsibilities.
SOFT DIPLOMACY ASSETS
Foreign students have been characterised as everything from cash cows to the backbone of the home delivery system in a strange year for a group of people also seen as prospective arm of foreign policy. But how Australia reengages after COVID-19 with what was once its third largest source of export revenue may well be one of the more subtle determinants of what sort of Asian nation the country is. Regardless of whether or how they rejoin the education system, what sort of Asian interlocutors will these students be for Australian diplomacy and business after their experience this year.
- University of Sydney academic Salvatore Barbones kicked off the Asian student overdependence debate with this study for the Centre for Independent Studies.
- This discussion paper from the Business Council of Australia/Asia Society Australia Asia Taskforce is in part a response but also a new agenda for reviving Asian education.
- And from The Conversation, Angela Lehmann has been charting the experiences of students who have stayed and what this means for the future.
DEALS AND DOLLARS
Just as the pandemic and the China relations downturn have highlighted the risks of overdependence on fragile supply chains, governments and business have been presented with two independent reports this year on increasing Australian investment in Asia. Their messages will only get more important if Asia does lead the world out of the pandemic.
A Second Chance from the Business Council of Australia and Asia Society Australia sets out eight principles to follow in any Asian business expansion. The interim report has 25 recommendations on how to lift Australian participation in Asian business ranging across more collaboration abroad, better domestic policy coordination and more use of talent from the country’s Asian diaspora communities. The final report is due in February 2021. But a series of discussion papers since the interim report which will provide input into the final report are available here.
Winning in Asia from Asialink Business and the Commonwealth Bank argues that while Asian business activity is up led by exports, the Asian literacy of top business leaders has not improved in the past three years. Foreign revenue of the top 200 Australian companies grew 26 per cent in the past five years while domestic revenue was flat. But this was mostly led by average 8.5 per cent a year export growth mainly to Asia and mainly by mining companies. It says there is no one-size-fits-all model for Asian expansion but sets out examples that are succeeding, especially private companies, and argues that there are big opportunities in the consumer and discretionary sectors where Australian businesses have typically been underweight.
While the above reports were outlining the case for more Asian business engagement, this year has seen the release of the first detailed survey of Australian offshore investment for 15 years. The little-reported Australian Bureau of Statistics survey showed there were 5,176 Australian affiliate businesses operating around the world in 2018-19 owned by 275 parent companies compared with 4,012 in 2002-3. The number of Australian-controlled subsidiaries in Asia (excluding Oceania) has only increased from 913 to 1,166 – but the proportion of the global total has remained static at about 22 per cent. See the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter here and Austrade economist Divya Skene here.
It has been eight years in the making and the subject of both hyperbole and disparagement in that time. But the signing of the 15 member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal symbolically underlined the ability of Asian nations to get on with economic integration when the zeitgeist in some other parts of the world was about pandemic-driven reshoring. Australia was a lesser beneficiary due to already having trade deals with all the other members but has received significant new access from some countries particularly in services. The Asian Trade Center has some of the most accessible analysis here. Director Deborah Elms says: “Getting an agreement that could successfully navigate the domestic constraints and starting points in all 15 countries is an important accomplishment.” Peter Petri and Michael Plummer have modelled RCEP for years. Here is their latest take from the Brookings Institution.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
With agricultural exports so far bearing the biggest burden of the breakdown in relations between Australia and China, the next year will likely see even more emphasis on finding new markets and predicting the next product to be targeted. University of Queensland agricultural economist Scott Waldron has produced some detailed assessments of the various forces at work in China, risk assessment and approaches to diversification. They can be found here at Future Directions International and at the Asia Beef Network here.
Meanwhile, diversification of foreign economic links has been an emerging theme this year in business and diplomacy, beyond agriculture. Jeffrey Wilson, from Perth’s USAsia Centre, looks at the potential future shocks due to lack of diversification here. But James Laurenceson, from the Australia-China Relations Institute, argues that closer mutual dependence rather than economic distancing still most accurately describes the Australia-China relationship.
“A post made on an official Chinese Government Twitter account … is truly repugnant. It is deeply offensive to every Australian, every Australian who has served in that uniform. … There are undoubtedly tensions that exist between China and Australia. But this is not how you deal with them … I would hope that this rather awful event hopefully may lead to the type of reset where this dialogue can be restarted, without condition. That we can sit down and start talking sensibly about these issues because this type of behaviour is not on.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, November 30
"Now there is much larger visibility of the Brereton report in China. More people are attentive to what happened in Afghanistan. People wonder why a national leader would have such a strong opinion to an artwork by a normal, young artist in China. We still hope to see concrete actions done by the Australian side to promote favourable atmosphere for stronger collaboration and to bring our relationship back to normal.”
Deputy Chinese ambassador Wang Xining, December 4
ASIA'S ROAD BACK
Oxford University’s COVID-19 Government Response Tracker has become a popular way of following comparative lockdown measures around the world. It measures the stringency of nine pandemic response indicators from school closures to travel bans.
ON THE HORIZON
DAVOS OF THE SOUTH
The masters of globalisation might have been grounded for a year by COVID-19 but it says a lot about the state of the world that they will start their recovery in Singapore. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is shifting its usual January annual summit in Davos, Switzerland to Singapore next May because of concern about how Europe will recover from the pandemic.
This will be only the meeting will be held outside of Switzerland since it began in 1971, and the first time it will be held in Asia. In 2002 it was in New York to show solidarity the September 11 terror attacks the year before. But this year it will be underlining Asia’s relative success dealing with a global pandemic and tacitly acknowledging the crucial role Asia plays in sustaining a global economy.
It will be held from May 13-16 next year and will include a virtual component for the first time to allow larger participation given the uncertainty about the rebound from the pandemic. The WEF can involve up to 3000 official participants but the Davos population can expand by as many as 20,000 for the week of events which is much greater than Singapore’s inflow of only about 400 people a day in recent times.
ABOUT BRIEFING MONTHLY
Briefing MONTHLY is a public update with news and original analysis on Asia and Australia-Asia relations. As Australia debates its future in Asia, and the Australian media footprint in Asia continues to shrink, it is an opportune time to offer Australians at the forefront of Australia’s engagement with Asia a professionally edited, succinct and authoritative curation of the most relevant content on Asia and Australia-Asia relations. Focused on business, geopolitics, education and culture, Briefing MONTHLY is distinctly Australian and internationalist, highlighting trends, deals, visits, stories and events in our region that matter.
We are grateful to the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas for its support of the Briefing MONTHLY and its editorial team.
Partner with us to help Briefing MONTHLY grow. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org