By Gideon Rachman
American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.

Australian politics is so cut-throat and brutal that it is easy to treat it simply as a spectator sport – without much wider international significance. But that would be a mistake. The fall of Tony Abbott and his replacement as prime minister by Malcolm Turnbull may well herald a shift in Australian foreign policy that will be noticed in Beijing, Tokyo and Washington.

Put simply, Turnbull is likely to take a softer line on China. Abbott was a firm supporter of America’s pivot to Asia and the effort to push back against Chinese territorial ambitions. But Turnbull seems to be more sceptical. The evidence for his scepticism is set out, in this informative post from the Lowy Interpreter. It is interesting, in particular, that Turnbull has sympathetically reviewed the work of Hugh White, an Australian academic who has argued that the US should do more to accommodate a rising China – and that the alternative might be a catastrophic war. Read more

Barack Obama’s first trip to Beijing as president in 2009 took place at a moment of great weakness in the US during a deep recession, and apparent strength in China, which had rapidly engineered a return to growth.

The roles seem oddly reversed ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington later this month. In contrast with steady if unspectacular US growth, Chinese leaders are struggling on multiple fronts, to calm a wobbly stock market and maintain output in a slowing economy. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The gigantic military parade that will pass through Beijing on Thursday is meant to be all about the past. But, inevitably, many in the Asia-Pacific region will see it as a disturbing message about the future.

How risky is China’s volatility for the global economy?
The impact of China’s stock market volatility has been felt around the world this week. Martin Sandbu is joined by the FT’s economics editor Chris Giles, and US economics editor Sam Fleming, to discus show risky this is for the health of the global economy.

China’s renminbi devaluation
China this week stunned financial markets with the biggest devaluation of the renminbi in two decades, only to intervene to stop the slide. Was it a move towards liberalisation or a desperate bid to halt the country’s economic slowdown? Ben Hall discusses the move and its consequences with James Kynge and Gabriel Wildau.

  • Angela Merkel is taking her revenge on Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras by insisting there can be no more talks on the country’s debt crisis until after its referendum on the bailout on Sunday
  • After China’s main stock index fell by 5 per cent yesterday, investors are blaming the share collapse on the securities regulator and the shadowy world of margin lending
  • An Egyptian soap opera set in a neighbourhood in old Cairo circa 1948 offers an empthatic portrayal of the Jewish community – and casts Islamists as the bad guys
  • Yes? No? Greek Voters Are Perplexed by a Momentous Referendum (New York Times)
  • In Ramadi, the Islamic State settles in, fixing roads and restoring electricity (Washington Post)

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Satellite image of man-made islands in the South China Sea

This week I have had the pleasure of escaping from Europe’s obsession with the Greek crisis and travelling to Sydney for the Australia-UK Asia dialogue, which is taking place at the Lowy Institute – Australia’s leading foreign-policy think-tank. The idea is to bring together British and Australian experts to discuss trends in Asia – and, it is hoped, to form common views and approaches. But, after the first day of discussion, I was left wondering whether the “tyranny of distance” may ensure that the Brits and the Australians will struggle to form a common view.

It is not so much a difference of interpretation, between the two sides, as a gap in urgency. For the Australians, the rise of China overshadows all other issues and raises fundamental questions about the role and future of their country – as an outpost of the west in the southern Pacific, with a rising China to the north. For the moment, however, the British can still treat the rise of China as a second-order issue – while policymakers in London obsess about Europe and keep a wary eye on Russia and the Middle East. Read more

  • Greece cannot lose by rejecting this week’s final offer from international creditors – and leaving the eurozone would achieve a better outcome for its economy, argues Wolfgang Münchau
  • Foreign companies are finding ways of circumventing economic sanctions on Russia, enabling the provision of goods and services like banking to blacklisted entities
  • As the government in Athens fast runs out of money – and nervous depositors pull cash from the country’s banks – there is growing talk of the extraordinary use of capital controls in Greece
  • A documentary shows how the poorly-trained and equipped Kurdish peshmerga forces are the international coalition’s only reliable boots on the ground in northern Iraq (Vice Media)
  • A Chinese entrepreneur who took just 19 days to build a 57-storey tower says he has triggered a construction revolution. And his dreams soar far, far higher (BBC)

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By Richard McGregor in Washington

In the confrontational atmosphere pitting Beijing against Washington and its allies in Asia, it is often forgotten that China and much of the west were allies in the region’s defining wartime struggle, fighting their then mutual foe, Japan.

In September, Beijing is planning a massive military parade to remind the west and the rest of the world of that moment, the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War. As commemorations go, it promises to be an awkward occasion. Read more

There are drawbacks to being a satirist from a deeply authoritarian state. Exile is a frequent consequence. But it has its advantages.

“I’m really blessed as an Iranian comedian,” Kambiz Hosseini told the audience of democrats, dissidents and defectors who gathered this week in Norway for the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (or “Davos for dissidents”). “There’s no shortage of material for me.” Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Why is Barack Obama so desperate to secure a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal? The long-winded official answer is that the US president thinks that it would break down barriers between 12 leading Pacific economies and so increase prosperity. The short, real, answer is: China.

  © Getty Images

Have the US and its allies in Asia reached a tipping point in their relations with China? The question posed by US China scholar, David Lampton, in a speech in Shanghai in March looks disturbingly prescient after a whirl of diplomatic and security offensives in recent weeks in the region.

The US and Japan substantially upgraded their defence alliance in a high profile summit meeting in Washington earlier this month. Japan, in turn, held its first naval exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This week, the US announced (and then later denied) it would station B-1 bombers in northern Australia, also with an eye on balancing China in the region.

Then, just in time for John Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, the Pentagon made it known it was contemplating limited military options in the form of naval patrols and surveillance flights in contested areas in the South China Sea to reinforce its opposition to Chinese actions. Read more

Obama seeks to cement Japan ties
Siona Jenkins, Gideon Rachman and Lindsay Whipp discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Washington as the US seeks to cement defence and trade ties with Japan, a key ally in its bid to push back against growing Chinese influence in Asia.

By Gideon Rachman
Rome fell. Babylon fell. Hindhead’s turn will come.” George Bernard Shaw’s bon mot in Misalliance was a reminder to British theatre audiences in 1910 that all empires eventually decline and fall. The fact that Hindhead is an English village was a light-hearted cloak for a serious point.

Rush to join China-led bank embarrasses Washington
It seems odd that an international bank for building roads and airports in Asia should become a yardstick for the rise of China as a global power and of the relative decline of the US. But that is what Beijing appears to achieved with its Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Some of Washington’s closest allies have signed up even though it had lobbied furiously to dissuade them from doing so. Ben Hall discusses the development with Alan Beattie and Ed Luce.

  • As the US moves closer to a nuclear deal with Tehran that could end decades of estrangement, it simultaneously finds itself scrambling to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East
  • The contours of Russia’s new national ideology have become clear in the Ukraine crisis; its foundations are nostalgia for a glorious past, resentment of oligarchs, materialism and xenophobia
  • Despite being engulfed in news about corruption, Latin America is showing advances in strengthening institutions and holding the powerful to account
  • Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov has upgraded his country from pawn to rook as central Asia’s chess master uses the rivalry between China, Russia and the US to its advantage (Foreign Policy)
  • The provision of an hallucinogenic drug to inmates in the middle of the rain forest reflects a continuing quest for ways to ease pressure on Brazil’s prison system (New York Times)

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The scramble by European countries to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a powerful symbol of the eastward shift of global power

Soldiers of fortune from apartheid-era South Africa that inspired the Hollywood thriller ‘Blood Diamond’ are starring in Nigeria’s attempt to flush out Boko Haram terrorists

Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen’s civil conflict has turned up the heat on a simmering cold war between regional Sunni Arab states and their Shia rival, Iran

If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair, argues Nick Cohen (The Spectator)

Chad’s strongman president, Idriss Déby, says Nigeria is absent in the fight against Boko Haram as Chadian troops defend Nigerian territory from the extremists (New York Times)  Read more

  • An economic crisis in the Russian hinterland of Karelia, which exposes over-reliance on resource extraction and state jobs, is emerging as a microcosm of Russia’s woes
  • The rare spectacle of a banking chief behind bars is part of an unfolding crisis in the minuscule state of Andorra, wedged between France and Spain
  • Britain’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, seen as China’s answer to the World Bank, is a sensible decision – though not without risk, argues Martin Wolf
  • A former facial reconstructive surgeon turned bike gang leader has become a Russian patriotic leader, proponent of ultra-conservative views and vocal supporter of Vladimir Putin (Vice News)
  • How a slain Afghan woman became an unlikely champion for women’s rights (Washington Post)

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  • Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and patriarch of modern Singapore who has died at the age of 91, was one of postwar Asia’s most revered and controversial politicians
  • In a fight between whales, the shrimp’s back is broken, according to a South Korean expression that sums up the country’s struggle to balance its strategic relationships with China and the US
  • Can economic optimism return quickly enough in Europe to prevent the further rise of extremist political parties? asks Gideon Rachman
  • Despite brutal punishments under Saudi justice drawing comparisons to Isis, avenues for mercy are built into the system that allow reprieves (New York Times)
  • It is used by almost a tenth of the world’s population, gives a buzz equivalent to six cups of coffee and is a symbol of love. But the humble betel nut is also sending tens of thousands to an early grave (BBC)

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