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
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.
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
By Gideon Rachman
The story of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is turning into a diplomatic debacle for the US. By setting up and then losing a power struggle with China, Washington has sent an unintended signal about the drift of power and influence in the 21st century.
By Gideon Rachman
Just before Alexis Tsipras was elected Greek prime minister in January, he made a vow to the voters: “On Monday national humiliation will be over. We will finish with orders from abroad.”
China’s leaders are looking to the internet to offset sagging economic growth.
At the annual meeting on Thursday of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, internet and ecommerce merited a dozen mentions, culminating in Prime Minister Li Keqiang announcing an “internet-plus action plan”.
That, he promised, would “integrate the mobile internet, cloud computing, big data and the internet of things with modern manufacturing, to encourage the healthy development of ecommerce, industrial networks, and internet banking, and to guide internet based companies to increase their presence in the international market”.
Vladimir Putin with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban
In the West, Vladimir Putin is often viewed as something of an international pariah. Shift your perspective, however, and it is quite striking how many international friends, the Russian president has cultivated.
Mr Putin, who enjoys posing bare-chested, is particularly good at making friends with other “strongmen”. His roster of special friends include Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. This week, Mr Putin has also been demonstrating that he is capable of finding pals even inside the “enemy camp” – the European Union. The EU may have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but that has not stopped Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – and another self-styled strongman – from rolling out the red carpet for Mr Putin. Read more
During Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests last year, chief executive CY Leung found himself the subject of many unflattering comparisons – from a vampire to Pinocchio to Adolf Hitler.
But his best-known alter ego is as “the wolf”. And now he’s seeking a more sheep-like population to govern. Read more