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International Mining and Resources Conference IMARC

Oct 28, 2019Oct 31, 2019

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

Location address: 
1 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf, VIC


Mines and Money

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Major exhibits: 

Dyno Nobel, FLSmidth, Stavely Minerals, Komatsu, Yokogawa, HATCH and Downer Group

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The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) is where global mining leaders connect with technology, finance and the future. Now in its 6th year, it is Australia’s largest mining event bringing together over 7000 decision makers, mining leaders, policy makers, investors, commodity buyers, technical experts, innovators and educators from over 100 countries to Melbourne for four days of learning, deal-making and unparalleled networking.

The conference programme covers all aspects of mining, from exploration to investment, production to optimisation through to new technologies. Along with future energy opportunities, as well as people, projects and infrastructure case studies that will benefit the industry. Click here to download the programme

Furthermore, the free exhibition will feature over 250 leading companies showcasing the mining projects, equipment and innovations the industry has on offer. Dyno Nobel, FLSmidth, Stavely Minerals, Komatsu, Yokogawa, HATCH and Downer Group are just some of the companies you can expect to meet. See who’s exhibiting here.

CLAIM YOUR FREE EXPO PASS or receive a further 10% off current early bird prices when registering with the discount code MA1200AT

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Head of Marketing Asia Pacific

Samantha Lang


(61) 390212031



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MBAM OneBuild 2019


Oct 29, 2019Oct 31, 2019

Opening hours: 
10am to 6pm

Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Malaysia


MBAM OneBuild Sdn Bhd

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Major exhibits: 

Hardware & Tools
Light Construction Equipment
Construction Piling Technology
Industrialized Building System (IBS)
Concrete Technology
Cement & Precast Products
Construction Safety Products
Construction Management System
Construction Waste Management
Construction Chemicals
Road Construction Technology
Bridge & Tunneling
Heavy Construction Machinery
Rail Infrastructure
Flood Control System
Drainage Systems
Sewage & Waste Water Treatment System
Water Treatment System
Filtration Systems
Energy Products & Systems
Infrastructure Engineering

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MBAM OneBuild is an established and a well-recognized professional trade platform dedicated to the local and international construction industry players to explore business opportunities. It is the only trade exhibition in Malaysia that is exclusively dedicated to the construction and infrastructure sector.

The exhibition has gained industry-wide support over the years due to the well planned exhibition venue, wide industry outreach and extensive marketing as well as well thought out exhibition programme. The three-day event provides a welcoming platform for construction industry players in generating new relationships, exchanging of ideas, learning latest innovations, and expanding business contacts.

To participate, please contact us at

MBAM OneBuild 2019 is organised by MBAM OneBuild Sdn Bhd in collaboration with Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM).

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MBAM OneBuild




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Singapore’s nextgen leadership to be baptised in fire


Author: Abdul Rahman Yaacob, ANU

As Singapore approaches the final stages of its customarily drawn-out leadership renewal process, the prime ministerial successor appears to have emerged. Heng Swee Keat’s recent appointment as the sole Deputy Prime Minister provides a clear indication that he will succeed current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the son of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

While the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed since independence, can orchestrate a smooth power transition domestically, the next prime minister faces a turbulent external security environment resulting from unpredictable leadership in other areas of the world. Two key threats dominate Singapore’s geo-strategic landscape — the US–China rivalry and the rising ethno-Islamic influence in the domestic politics of its two closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The US–China rivalry poses a threat to Singapore’s economy and security. China is challenging the United States’ military and economic hegemony in Asia and is shaping the regional order in its favour. A case in point is China’s naval modernisation — China may field four to six aircraft carriers and up to 60 light frigates in the near future.

US efforts to keep in check a rising China place Singapore in a conundrum.

On the one hand, China is Singapore’s top trading partner. The current US–China trade disputes have already adversely impacted Singapore’s economy.

On the other hand, the United States plays a key role in the island state’s security. Singapore hosts the US Navy’s logistics and warships operating in the region and its close security relationship with the United States has led China to believe that the island state would work with Washington if an armed conflict emerged in the region. In the event of a conflict, China’s military may target regional bases used by the US military, including those in Singapore.

Regional leadership also appears to be heading in a concerning direction for Singaporean interests. Domestic developments in its mostly Islamic neighbourhood suggest trouble for the Chinese majority Singapore.

In Malaysia, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that ousted the Malay–Muslim dominated Barisan Nasional (BN) is struggling to win over the majority Malay–Muslim electorate. The lead party of the defeated BN coalition, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), has chosen an opposition strategy focused on garnering ethnic Malay votes. This includes partnering with the conservative Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) that is advancing a revitalised Malay–Muslim supremacy agenda. In the words of one UNMO member, ‘for the sake of political survival, I need to put [the] priorities of Malays and Islam first, then multiracialism’.

Islamic influence has also regained traction as a critical force within Indonesian politics. To ward off the threat to his re-election bid posed by an opposition candidate with strong Islamic credentials, President Joko Widodo appointed Islamic leader Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate in the recent presidential election despite Ma’ruf’s poor record in his dealings with minority religious groups. Growing Malay supremacy and Islamic influence within Malaysia and Indonesia will impact Singapore’s domestic social cohesion and domestic security.

If history is a good indicator, Malaysian and Indonesian foreign policies shaped by domestic ethnic Malay supremacy and Islamic influence will be detrimental to a Chinese-majority Singapore. Past incidents have shown that to shore up domestic ethnic–religious support, political players in these two countries sometimes intervene in Singapore’s domestic political landscape, especially when Singapore’s Malay–Muslim community are affected.

In 1996, then Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad criticised Singapore over its discrimination of Malays in the Singapore Armed Forces. And in 1999, then Indonesian president B.J. Habibie accused the PAP government of racism.

Great power rivalry and the Malay supremacy narrative within the region are not new threats facing Singapore. The island state left Malaysia in 1965 amid the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and a region besieged by military conflicts. The end of the Indonesian confrontation in 1966 drew Malaysia and Indonesia closer on the basis of Malay Brotherhood — a concern to a Chinese-majority multi-ethnic Singapore.

An Indonesian official at the time pointed out that ‘Singapore would need to adjust its relations with Malaysia and Indonesia in order to fit the circumstances of the region’. Despite the turbulent security outlook then, Lee Kuan Yew and the first PAP leadership successfully developed Singapore.

Heng’s approach to governance is consistent with PAP’s past and current creed — he is likely to prioritise PAP dominance and economic development, rather than political plurality, as best for the country. As the PAP is the dominant political organisation in Singapore, Heng’s ascendency to the prime ministership will likely be smooth.

By contrast, the tumultuous external security outlook could be a baptism of fire for the new prime minister. The question is whether Heng and his team will be able to replicate the statesmanship of Lee Kuan Yew and the first PAP leadership that served Singapore so well during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s.

Abdul Rahman Yaacob is a PhD candidate at the National Security College, the Australian National University.

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What will the Japanese upper house elections mean for Abe?


Author: Ko Maeda, University of North Texas

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition will likely lose seats in the upper house elections on 21 July 2019. This is simply because it won big six years ago. In 2013, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won 65 out of the 121 seats up for election — the biggest win by any party since 1992 — and its coalition partner Komeito won 11. Repeating this level of success will be difficult given that the Abe cabinet’s approval rating is much lower than it was in 2013 and the LDP won 55 seats in 2016.

Japanese Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe raises his hands with his party candidate Keizo Takemi (L) at a campaign for the July 21 Upper House election in Tokyo on Sunday 7, July, 2019. (REUTERS/Yoshio Tsunoda)

Japan’s upper house renews half of its 242 seats every three years as its members serve six-year terms. But it will add 3 more seats after these elections which will elect 124 members and the total will go up to 248 in 2022. The elections are conducted in a two-tiered system and each voter casts two ballots. One ballot is for a nation-wide proportional representation (PR) tier that fills 50 members. The other is for a nominal tier that elects 74 seats from 45 districts, where the number of members elected from each district varies from one to six, roughly based on its population.

The LDP currently has a slim single-party majority in the upper house that it will likely lose in the coming elections. It should be easy for the LDP–Komeito coalition to maintain its majority — together the two parties need to win 53 out of 124 seats. In the absence of a shock event before the election, Abe’s position will remain secure and he will become the longest-serving prime minister in the country’s history on 20 November.

Yet the so-called ‘Year of the Boar effect’ poses an ominous challenge for the LDP. The LDP’s vote share tends to plunge every 12 years when upper house elections are held in the same year as synchronised nation-wide local elections. The conventional explanation is that LDP local politicians and activists are tired after local elections in the spring and do not campaign as hard in the lead up to the upper house elections in the summer. Indeed, 12 years ago the LDP suffered a major defeat in the 2007 upper house elections that effectively ended Abe’s first stint as prime minister.

The good news for the LDP this time is that, unlike 12 years ago when the Democratic Party of Japan was the main opposition party, the anti-LDP camp has now fragmented into many parties. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan led by Yukio Edano is the largest opposition party, but not by a large margin.

For this election, opposition parties have coordinated candidate nominations in all the single-seat districts so that each district has only one opposition candidate. But they will be competing against each other, as well as the LDP, in other districts and in the PR tier. When a country’s opposition is fragmented, less anti-government voting occurs.

An uncertain element in the upcoming elections is a new party launched by Taro Yamamoto. The 44-year-old was an actor who turned into an anti-nuclear power activist after the 2011 triple disaster. Yamamoto won a seat in the upper house in 2013 and has since received media attention for his outsider-style political activities and harsh criticism of Abe and the LDP.

His party started soliciting donations at the start of April and raised more than 200 million yen (US$1.85 million) as of late June. It is unclear if Yamamoto’s movement will hurt the LDP by increasing the turn out of voters who are not satisfied with the existing parties or damage the opposition by further fragmenting anti-LDP votes.

A major policy issue on the agenda is a sales tax hike from 8 to 10 per cent scheduled for 1 October 2019. Opposition parties have argued against it and tried to appeal to voters on this issue. The ruling parties maintain that the hike is necessary and promise to implement measures to mitigate negative impacts on the economy.

On 26 June, Abe emphasised that constitutional revision — his long-cherished goal — is an important issue for this election. He presumably wants to divert voters’ attention away from the sales tax and other policy issues and appeal instead to his core support base.

For a constitutional revision, Abe needs a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet and a simple majority in a national referendum. The ruling coalition currently controls a two-thirds majority in the lower house. It has a slim two-thirds majority in the upper house if the seats of other pro-revision forces, namely the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), are included.

As the coalition is expected to reduce its seats and the JIP is not polling well, maintaining a two-thirds majority in the upper house is unlikely. Further, Komeito, whose support base is mostly against a constitutional revision, possesses substantial power within the coalition despite its small size.

To avoid becoming a lame duck, Abe will probably reinvigorate his quest for a constitutional revision after this election. Yet, it is not likely that the LDP’s revision plan can pass through the Diet, at least in its current form.

Ko Maeda is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, the University of North Texas.

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The end of the WTO and the last case?


Authors: Henry Gao, SMU, and Weihuan Zhou, UNSW

On 14 June 2019 the WTO issued a communication announcing that the panel proceedings in case DS516 (European Union Measures Related to Price Comparison Methodologies) initiated by China against the European Union had been suspended at the request of China. Called by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as the ‘most serious litigation matter that we have at the WTO right now’, the case could affect billions of dollars of Chinese products. But its significance rises beyond commercial interests.

Roberto Azevedo, Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) arrives for the General Council meeting at the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland, 26 July, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

This case concerns Section 15 of China’s WTO Accession Protocol, which allows other WTO Members to treat China as a non-market economy (NME) in anti-dumping investigations. Anti-dumping, typically in the form of import tariffs, addresses the practice of ‘dumping’ where an exporter sells goods to another country at a lower price than its normal value in its home country.

When calculating normal values, Section 15 allows investigating authorities to disregard domestic prices in China and use surrogate prices from a third country instead — known as the NME methodology. This methodology can greatly increase the likelihood of positive findings of dumping, leading to exaggerated dumping margins sometimes as high as 1731 per cent.

Section 15(d) states that the NME provision ‘shall expire 15 years after the date of accession’. China took this to mean that the NME methodology would not be continued beyond 10 December 2016. Come 11 December 2016, however, neither the United States nor the European Union (EU) was willing to give up such a convenient tool. Therefore, the day after, in an unprecedented move, China filed separate WTO cases against the United States and the EU for allegedly breaking promises.

One may argue that regardless of whether Section 15 allows the continuation of the NME methodology beyond 2016, WTO Members have other ways to inflate anti-dumping duties. For example, Australia has been using the so-called particular market situation method after it granted full market economy status to China in 2005. Amid the NME dispute, the EU amended its anti-dumping regulation to replace its discriminatory NME list with a country-neutral methodology which mirrors the NME methodology in every way but name.

Why did China quit? There are several possible explanations.

One explanation is that it was to avoid the public humiliation associated with their potential defeat. This is understandable, given how much importance China has attached to the case. Indeed, in his opening statement at the first panel hearing, Chinese Ambassador to the WTO Zhang Xiangchen warned that the case ‘concerns the credibility of the dispute settlement mechanism, the integrity of the WTO and the membership’s faith in the multilateral trading system’.

But there is one problem with this theory: no matter how bad the panel ruling is, China could have always appealed it. So, couldn’t China have just waited for the panel report to come out and then, if necessary, filed an appeal?

The answer is that they couldn’t. The Appellate Body is barely surviving on its last breath after two years of ‘slow killing’ by the United States through blockage of appointment of new judges. In fact, since a year ago the Appellate Body has not held hearings on new appeals, citing heavy backlog of cases and dwindling capacity. Thus, even if China files a notice of appeal, the case might never get heard by the Appellate Body, which means the United States and the EU could just continue what they have been doing.

Another possible explanation is that the panel supported the EU’s position that the 15-year deadline merely shifts the burden of proof and does not terminate the substantive right to apply the NME methodology. This would raise serious political and systemic implications.

Politically, such a ruling may well be interpreted by the public as the WTO court confirming that China remains an NME. This, however, would be a complete misunderstanding of the nature of this dispute as the WTO has no definition of what an NME is and the panel was not requested to decide whether China is an NME. This misinterpretation would reflect badly on China’s progressive achievements in opening up and economic reform. Coupled with calls for WTO reform to deal with China such a ruling could further weaken China’s negotiating position.

At a systemic level, such a ruling would also call into question the legitimacy of the WTO. On the one hand, China views a decision supporting the EU’s position as essentially institutionalising alleged discrimination against China, which it deeply resents and regards as non-negotiable. On the other hand, the United States and the EU regard any ruling that might be in China’s favour as ‘cataclysmic for the WTO’.

If this speculation is correct, then the panel has made a huge mistake. The panel could have handled the dispute more diplomatically by simply letting the NME methodology expire while still allowing WTO Members to employ similar methodologies under the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement. This would multilateralise the unilateral and discriminatory approach under the general framework of the WTO.

Finally, it is also possible that China suspended the case to contain domestic anti-WTO sentiment and maintain political support for the WTO. Since its accession, China has gradually built up confidence in the fairness of the multilateral trading system. Given the current crisis in the WTO, especially when it comes to its dispute settlement mechanism, China’s continued support for the system is critical.

But this is not something that should be taken for granted, as there have been calls for China to withdraw from the system and build an alternative international economic order. If China were to withdraw, it would be much harder to get it back within the system. And if such a scenario does come to pass, case DS516 might well be remembered as the last case; ending the WTO and the rules-based multilateral trading system.

Henry Gao is Associate Professor at the School of Law, Singapore Management University (SMU).

Weihuan Zhou is Senior Lecturer and Member of the Herbert Smith Freehills China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Centre, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney.

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Encouraging signs from the Osaka G20


Authors: Alan S Alexandroff, University of Toronto and Yves Tiberghien, University of British Columbia

The main media narrative surrounding the G20 focussed on the rather disappointing Trump–Xi summit. There was also the Trump–Kim impromptu meeting at the demilitarized zone, the confidence exuded by Russian President Vladimir Putin and continuing trade tensions. Shiro Armstrong summed up this core narrative well: ‘The Osaka G20 summit may yet be remembered in history as the moment the global rules based order was lost’.

G20 leaders and delegates attend the closing session of G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, 29 June 2019 (Photo: Handout via Reuters/G20 Osaka Summit Photo).

But a second narrative is emerging. There remains a strong negative tilt, particularly among media, that on the critical issues of global governance the G20 is unable to make collective progress. And there is no doubt that on rules-based trade and on climate change there remain deep divisions among the G20. The G20 platform, however, allows key defenders of the liberal international order to backstop the global order and advance collective elements. This is being led by among others Japan, Europe, Indonesia, Canada, Australia, Mexico and international institutions like the OECD, IMF and ASEAN. The G20 forum allowed all members to achieve important compromises and progress on a number of new dimensions of resilience, resistance, innovation, leadership and inclusion.

G20 leaders continued their work around macroeconomics, exchange rates and debt risks — the core reason for the G20’s inception. Paragraphs 4–7 of the Leaders’ Declaration focusses on mutual support and collective responsibility in this area, as well as a mutual commitment to monitoring debt risks.

On trade, in the era of Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ stance, the G20 could not change the United States’ ‘love’ of tariffs to solve the China–US trade conflict. The G20, however, is now committed to a one-year timeline to achieve significant WTO reforms, including action on ‘the dispute settlement system consistent with the rules, as negotiated by WTO members’. These two elements went beyond the results of the 2018 Buenos Aires G20.

The United States compromised, it appears, on a number of reforms notwithstanding its current aversion to these institutions. Despite recent misgivings, for instance, expressed by the United States regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, it is comforting to see G20 commitments noted in Paragraphs 3, 12, 23, and 27.

US President Donald Trump attended all sessions — a sign it seems of growing engagement from previous G20 summits. Putin and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro supported the G20’s work inside the plenary room, including the stance on climate change.

The most remarkable battle taking place at this G20 was around climate change and the Paris Agreement. The United States was adamant in maintaining its opposition to the Paris Agreement, while avoiding being isolated. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to support the US desire for a low common denominator unity paragraph on climate. European leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, huddled and coordinated at the G20.

They supported the strong posture taken by French President Emmanuel Macron that Europeans would not sign on to the Declaration without a strong commitment to Paris. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supported this stance. The final outcome was a two-paragraph solution after hours of negotiations among sherpas.

Paragraph 34 for Paris supporters is a strong commitment to action climate change and other environmental causes, including mention of a necessary ‘paradigm shift’. This Paris coalition managed to retain all 19 members, including Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — all previously rumoured as possible targets by the United States. China is also on board with the Paris coalition. The United States got its paragraph 35, affirming its rationale and its own climate results without denying climate change.

This emerging coalition of supporters of a liberal international order could take the spirit of resistance further by institutionalising an alliance between the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific and the European Union along a set of principles.

Beyond the confrontations around trade and climate, the summit made significant advances along a series of dimensions. All G20 members accepted the declaration of principles on ethical Artificial Intelligence prepared by the OECD. All leaders also accepted the additional declaration committing them to fight the use of the internet for terrorism and extremism, while continuing a commitment to an ‘open, free and secure internet’.

Japan pushed a working agenda on e-commerce and ‘data with trust’ though it could not gain unanimity in the end. 17 of 20 members supported the agenda. Opposition to a fully free e-commerce system included India and South Africa.

All 20 members rallied around the list of principles for quality infrastructure brokering a truce between globally accepted principles and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. All members committed to a one-year work plan toward an agreed digital tax, rather than engaging immediately in tit-for-tat taxation, as had been threatened by the European Union. The United States accepted a commitment to further IMF quota reforms in 2019 even though it may eventually be pushed off somewhat.

The Osaka G20 witnessed continued enlargement in circles of engagement. With Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam at the table this year, ASEAN members were well represented and active. Japan also spent time meeting all engagements including Urban 20, the successor group to the C40 network of large cities.

Behind the noise of Trump’s insurgency against the liberal international order and US–China high-wire tensions, the Osaka G20 managed to show resilience, resistance and innovation. Early signs indicate a highly professional Saudi G20 team led by the former central bank governor, despite the pessimism of many around the incoming Saudi presidency.

The flurry of bilateral and multilateral meetings that took place on the sidelines of the G20 may have captured all the media attention and made the G20 highly valuable to leaders. Inside the plenary, however, the G20 continues to prove useful in constructing a collective language and structure for global governance progress, notwithstanding countries otherwise engaged in competition and struggle.

Alan S Alexandroff is Director of the Global Summitry Project, the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the University of Toronto and Senior Editor of Oxford’s Global Summitry: Politics, Economics and Law in International Governance.

Yves Tiberghien is Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Distinguished Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, Co-Director of the UBC Centre for Japanese Research and Vision 20 Co-Chair.

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Stronger institutions sorely needed in the Indian Ocean


Author: David Brewster, ANU

Strategic competition in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) is growing and will likely contribute to an ever more unstable regional order. The IOR also faces a growing list of environmental security threats — including overfishing, loss of fish stocks, climate change and natural disasters — that can further exacerbate strategic competition. Australia and its partners need to find new ways to build effective regional institutions that moderate competition, facilitate cooperation, and provide a collective voice for the region.

Participants stand during photo session for Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA) Leaders' Summit 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia, 7 March 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Beawiharta).

The maritime realm is particularly demanding of regional cooperation. The oceans have no physical boundaries, and security challenges at sea often have a tendency to feed into each other. A boat used for illegal fishing can just as easily be used to smuggle arms, drugs or people. The vast size of the Indian Ocean also demands a cooperative response to threats.

What might appear to be an isolated challenge can have cascading consequences if not properly addressed. One example is the consequences of the plundering of fishing grounds off the coast of Somalia by illegal fishers after the collapse of the Somali state some 25 years ago. The destruction of fish stocks was a significant factor in local fishers turning to piracy.

The international response to piracy involved the deployment of naval vessels from around the world. This in turn led to the militarisation of the waters around the Horn of Africa, including the construction of naval bases by several external powers. This series of events shows the potential strategic consequences for the region of failing to take prompt action to address so-called ‘non-traditional’ threats.

The plethora of regional institutions in the Asia Pacific has been an important element in the security of East Asia for several decades by facilitating sustained engagement across many dimensions and stakeholders.

But building multilateral institutions and norms is much more difficult in the IOR where there are fewer traditions of regional engagement. The vast distances across the ocean, its diversity and the limited resources of most states inhibit sustained engagement. As a result, the IOR lacks the supporting institutions that can help create consensus on security-related issues.

For some years, Australia and others have made considerable efforts to help build Indian Ocean institutions that can address shared challenges and make the region more resilient. But results so far have been mixed.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is the only pan-regional multilateral political grouping, although it doesn’t include all Indian Ocean states. But IORA is plagued by limited interest from its members, a lack of resources and limited outcomes that adversely affects its credibility. When Australia was chair of the grouping in 2015–16, it put considerable effort into giving the group greater focus and achieving concrete outcomes, including placing maritime security on its agenda. It has recently established a Maritime Safety and Security Working Group that can help craft pan-regional arrangements to improve oceans governance.

But IORA remains subject to considerable challenges that hamper its effectiveness as a vehicle for regional engagement. Few members are willing or able to commit substantial financial or diplomatic resources to the organisation.

IORA is increasingly attracting interest from extra-regional players that want to build their regional influence. The grouping has or will likely receive cash funding from China, a German political foundation and France. This increased interest benefits IORA, although there is also the possibility that some extra-regional powers may seek to manipulate the grouping for their own ends.

The other pan-regional grouping in the IOR is the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which provides a valuable forum for networking and dialogue among the region’s navies. Its working groups promote dialogue on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security and information sharing and interoperability. It is also encouraging its members to sign up to a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) that may help reduce the risk of accidental conflicts between naval vessels.

IONS is valuable in helping to build cooperation among regional navies, but it is also limited by its nature. It can’t address political problems and its members do not include extra-regional navies — such as the United States and China — that are active in the Indian Ocean.

There are no silver bullets. Australia needs to continue to work with these groupings to incrementally build their effectiveness. But there are also some important gaps in Australia’s regional engagement.

One such gap is the lack of cooperation among IOR coast guards, which are often on the frontline of maritime law enforcement. There is currently no forum to facilitate IOR coast guards working more effectively together on a regional or subregional basis. For example, a forum for coast guard organisations in the eastern Indian Ocean could significantly improve Australia’s ability to work collectively to address the smuggling of people and drugs and illegal fishing.

Australia should also consider working more closely with the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), a grouping that provides a collective voice to many Indian Ocean island states. Just as Australia uses its membership of the Pacific Islands Forum to plug into local concerns and build resilience among Pacific islands, Australia should consider whether the IOC might provide a way to better plug into the Indian Ocean.

The strategic environment is deteriorating right across the Indo-Pacific, including in the Indian Ocean. It is always a struggle to prioritise limited resources. This means that Australia needs to place even more emphasis on finding innovative and cost-effective ways to help build regional institutions and resilience.

David Brewster is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Security College, The Australian National University.

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Abe’s gamble on Trump threatens to backfire


Author: Tsuneo Akaha, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Even before US President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took steps to develop a personalised relationship with the new leader to put Japan–US relations on a sustainable trajectory. He has since held more than 40 face-to-face meetings and phone conversations with Trump — but has little to show for it.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, 28 June 2019 (Photo: Reuters via Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev).

Abe is concerned about the shifting balance of power in Asia — China’s spectacular rise, the United States’ relative decline, and Japan’s ‘lost decades’. Another element of change is Russia’s ‘pivot to the east’, a reaction to its deteriorating relations with the West over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Against this backdrop, Tokyo wants to ensure that the United States will be a stabilising regional force.

After gambling on Trump to help stabilise Japan’s security environment and protect its foreign policy and national security interests, Abe now faces the disturbing consequences of Trump’s unpredictable and disruptive character. The Trump administration has undergone top-level personnel changes of unprecedented frequency. The very legitimacy of his presidency is under question due to evidence of pro-Trump Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump administration’s attempts to obstruct justice during subsequent FBI investigations.

Trump’s major policy decisions are equally unsettling. Under the banner of ‘America First’, Washington has unilaterally withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, the Paris Climate Accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the Iran nuclear deal, as well as renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement — all international agreements supported by Tokyo.

Unilateralism also characterises Washington’s approach toward Pyongyang, one of the most pressing problems for Tokyo. Trump has held three meetings with Kim Jong-un — in Singapore in June 2018, Hanoi in February 2019, and Panmunjom in June 2019 — but the two sides remain far apart on the core issue of denuclearisation. Abe stands alone as the only regional leader yet to meet the North Korean leader.

Abe is also taking steps to strengthen the Japan–US security alliance. Tokyo revised its long-established interpretation of Article 9 of its constitution so that Japan can engage in limited forms of collective self-defence in areas beyond Japan’s homeland, and lifted a ban on weapons and weapons technology exports. It has also agreed to expand purchases of US military equipment. This includes an additional 105 F-35 fighter jets, 42 of which are set to be deployed on a new aircraft carrier. Tokyo even deployed a US-made land-based ballistic missile defence system — ostensibly to defend Japan from North Korean missiles — that triggered Chinese and Russian protests.

These decisions are clearly in line with Abe’s long-held desire to strengthen Japan’s defence capabilities and play an international security role. They are also meant to bolster Japanese defences against China’s growing military power in maritime East Asia, a goal that underpins Japan’s partnership with the United States in pursuing ‘peace and freedom in the Indo-Pacific’.

But Trump has reportedly recently mused about ending the Japan–US security treaty, calling it an unfair agreement requiring the United States to come to Japan’s defence but not the other way around. The report alarmed and perplexed Japan, but Abe reportedly did not bring it up in his last summit with Trump on the sidelines of the G20 in June, nor did Trump volunteer any information on his remark.

On the trade front, the Trump administration unilaterally imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports — unleashing a trade war with China — and is pressing protectionist demands on Japan and other major trading partners. Japan currently enjoys a surplus of about US$68 billion in its bilateral trade with the United States, accounting for 7.7 per cent of the latter’s total trade deficit. China’s trade surplus with the United States stands at a whopping US$419 billion, or 47.7 per cent of US total deficit.

Tokyo stresses that its trade surplus is declining and that Japanese investment contributes significantly to the US economy. Japan’s investment in the United States in 2017 amounted to US$470 billion, second only to the UK’s US$541 billion. Japanese multinationals also generated 861,000 jobs in the United States, again second to the UK with 1,238,000.

Tokyo opposes unilateral protectionist moves and stresses the importance of multilateral negotiations for trade liberalisation, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), to which Tokyo hopes Washington will eventually return. Tokyo tried to deflect Washington’s demand for bilateral trade negotiations, but in April 2017 it reluctantly agreed to enter into bilateral talks. Japan has much to lose if these talks fail and the United States imposes its threatened tariffs on Japanese imports and demands further defence build-up.

Trump is likely to follow his instinct for transactional victories and, as the 2020 presidential election approaches, he will be tempted to seek any trade victory. Washington has postponed a decision on tariffs on Japanese automobile imports until after Japan’s Upper House elections on 21 July. But regardless of the outcome of the elections, it is likely that Trump will abandon this seemingly benevolent gesture after the Japanese parliamentary elections. Trump has tweeted that he is expecting his tariff threat will succeed in compelling Japan to make a major concession, particularly on Japanese imports of US agricultural products.

If this does happen, there is a good chance that Abe will be criticised as a misguided leader who gambled his nation’s key economic interests on the goodwill of an unpredictable partner across the Pacific.

What can Abe do to deflect such criticism? He could argue that Japan’s concessions are similar to the compromise his government had already made in the CPTPP. And if the LDP-led coalition achieves its expected victory in the July elections, he can continue with no serious challenger within his own party and ride out the criticism from the defeated opposition. In short, despite the unpredictable politics in Washington, Tokyo will remain a stable anchor of the bilateral alliance.

Tsuneo Akaha is Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

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Is there a China model?


Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The US–China trade war has brought to the boil a simmering strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing that some have begun to describe as a new Cold War. The Cold War analogy is something of a stretch given the interdependence of the Chinese and American economies — an interdependence sometimes referred to as ‘Chimerica’. The US–China relationship and rivalry today is very different from that of the United States and the USSR during the Cold War when the two superpowers conducted trade and investment in different spheres of influence, and presided over radically different systems for organising the means of production and markets.

Men check on a light installation in a shape of the party flag of the Communist Party of China in Jining, Shandong province, China, 29 January 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

Even though China and the United States are today nowhere near as ideologically divided as the United States and the USSR, a powerful narrative has emerged that the American-led model of free markets and liberal democracy is being challenged by a new Chinese model of development. The idea of a China model has gained traction on the back of decades of strong economic growth, and in the wake of Beijing’s success in steering the country through the Great Recession of 2008–09. Interest in a China model of development has also been boosted by the crises and instability confronting Western democracies, as well as the apparent failure of liberal democracy to deliver economic benefits and stability to many newly democratic countries in Asia and other parts of the world.

China’s success and its growing clout has prompted Western strategists to worry that Beijing will use its economic strength and influence to promote the Chinese model of development as an alternative to liberal democracy. Those anxieties are amplified by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s muscular approach to foreign affairs and grand ambitions to extend trade and investment across Eurasia under the auspices of the Belt and Road Initiative.

But what exactly is the China model and does it pose a threat to the Western model of liberal democracy and free markets? Within China, advocates for a China model point to a strong developmental state, gradual institutional reform, selective and cautious borrowing of foreign ideas, and a trial-and-error approach to policy making and reform. Western observers tend to highlight the heavy hand of the state in the economy (state capitalism) alongside the suppression of dissent and rejection of political liberalisation.

Although the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) successes are the envy of many political elites in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, there is little evidence that Beijing is actively promoting its governance model as part of its expanding influence in the region. Certainly, Beijing is willing to engage less critically with illiberal regimes, and this runs counter to the interests of Western powers seeking to use aid and economic influence to promote liberal democratic reforms. But Beijing is not promoting one-party systems where multi-party democracies already exist. If anything, China’s appeal to regional leaders from Naypyidaw to Jakarta lies in Beijing’s ability, at least up until now, to marry political control and stability with rapid economic growth and reform.

In our lead essay this week, William Overholt argues that the China model doesn’t really exist. Even though China’s leaders and some Chinese commentators present China’s model as unique, Overholt suggests China’s approach differs little from the East Asian development model pursued by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in the past. The spectacular growth of the Asian ‘tigers’ was also overseen by a single or dominant political party. And as in China, this growth was achieved ‘through gradual marketisation, gradual opening to foreign trade and investment, and vigorous import of industrial and regulatory best practice from successful Western economies’. Overholt highlights another important point of similarity between China and the East Asian tiger economies — they all share a fear of social collapse that stems from the traumas of war and massive disruption, which has inspired leaders to ‘[suppress] normal public reaction against severely stressful social change’.

Overholt reminds us too that China since Deng had begun moving in a similar direction to the Asian tigers, stepping back from tight political control to allow for gradual marketisation and increased social and economic freedoms. Since Xi came to power, the so-called China model has begun to diverge from that of its predecessors. Even though China’s ambitious national economic plans appear to demand greater marketisation, under Xi the CCP is said to have reasserted political control of the economy by strengthening state-owned enterprises and by taking greater control over private ones. The Xi administration has certainly ramped up social controls by curbing freedoms of speech and assembly, by deploying various technologies of surveillance, and by ruthlessly cracking down on perceived pockets of dissent. According to Overholt, ‘the long-term negative effect of that on the economy will likely be severe’. He argues that ‘the China model of today no longer works, even in China’.

This is the big question of the day. Under the slogan of the ‘China Dream’, Xi has outlined concrete goals to make China a society that is ‘moderately prosperous’ by 2021, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CCP, and for China to become a ‘fully developed nation’ (read: high-income, advanced economy) by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Xi’s second and most important goal has never been achieved by an authoritarian one-party state that maintains an iron grip on the economy and asserts rigid demands for obedience. If Xi can realise his vision under current policy and institutional settings, then we may indeed one day speak of a China model, but Overholt reckons that’s unlikely.

The EAF Editorial Board is located in the Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

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Is the China model a threat?


Author: William H Overholt, Harvard Kennedy School

Western strategists have expressed widespread concern that Chinese leaders will promote the Chinese model of development as an alternative to Western democracy. In fact, the China model works only under severely constrained circumstances and so far, Chinese leaders seem to understand that.

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) honor guards prepare for a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 28 April 2019 (Photo: Parker Song/Pool/Reuters).

Efforts to apply one model of governance to all societies under all circumstances have a poor track record. Mao tried to spread his model everywhere and for a while inspired large numbers of people from Dar es Salaam to Berkeley. But in the end his model didn’t work, even in China.

While there is Western worry about the current Chinese model being spread everywhere, it has been common among Chinese thinkers to see their country’s model of authoritarian reform and opening-up as unique. They are both wrong. China is the latecomer in a group of ‘Asian miracle’ economies — Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore — that exhibit common characteristics.

They are all socially egalitarian and in their era of spectacular growth were run by single party or dominant party systems. They all achieved rapid growth through gradual marketisation, gradual opening to foreign trade and investment, and vigorous import of industrial and regulatory best practice from successful Western economies.

They also share a vital common experience of terrible trauma and an overwhelming fear of societal collapse: Japan after losing World War II, South Korea after the Korean War, Taiwan after the Chinese Civil War and Singapore after its shocking separation from Malaya. Fear of collapse inspires leaders to undertake high risk disruptive policies and suppresses normal public reaction against severely stressful social change.

In China, leaders’ acceptance of risky change began with the dismantling of the communes, which were the Communist Party’s principal lever of power, giving them total control over people’s jobs, incomes, location and family circumstances. When peasants in Anhui province began taking back their family farms, this threatened the core of Communist power, but it also generated rapid economic growth. Led by Deng Xiaoping, top leaders decided to make a bet — seemingly very risky at the time — that such growth would continue and would consolidate government income and increase popular support for the Communist Party.

To economists exercising 20/20 hindsight, this looks like an obvious decision. But at the time, politically, it was more like betting the farm. In retrospect it was clearly a winning bet, and it was followed under Jiang Zemin and Zhu Rongji by a similar winning bet in the management of urban industry.

Leaders in normal national situations don’t take such risks. Likewise, in normal national situations the population doesn’t accept the kind of social stress that occurred when Zhu Rongji eliminated 45 million industrial jobs in a decade. Indeed, by the end of that decade popular fear of collapse had dissipated and popular anger at Zhu’s market reforms was intense. Intense reformism gave way to Hu Jintao’s reassuring promise of a ‘harmonious society’ that would eschew such disruption.

Even more dramatically, today’s national economic plans call for further intense market reforms, under the 2013 Third Plenum’s rubric of market allocation of resources, but political resistance is intense and Xi Jinping has instead chosen to emphasise political control over market reforms. The counterpart today of the trade-off Deng and Zhu made, abandoning some forms of direct political control in favour of socially beneficial marketisation, would be for the Party to step back from direct control of state-owned enterprises and the legal system. Instead Xi has chosen to strengthen political control of all enterprises and of the judicial system.

The China model of today no longer works, even in China. The long-term negative effect on the economy will likely be severe.

Politically, the long-term consequences may be equally or more severe. Under Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, the Chinese Communist Party was a social vanguard, sacrificing its own levers of power to improve the lives of the people. Now it is an interest group, grasping to acquire and retain every available political lever even at great cost to national economic plans. Eventually people will regard it as an interest group rather than a vanguard.

This model cannot be emulated, in any comprehensive sense, by normal developing countries. The model is not unique to China, but it is unique to a group of countries that suffered terrible traumas in the 1940s and 1950s and had to risk political control and impose extreme social stress to address those traumas decisively. Chinese thought leaders have largely recognised that the model is not widely replicable.

Western leaders’ fears of a universalising Chinese model are misplaced. If Xi Jinping mistakenly tries to export the model, Cold War style, he would not succeed.

Having said that, the limitations of the Asian miracle model do not validate Western claims that Washington- or Westminster-style democracy will prove optimal everywhere. The contrast between the Asian miracle economies’ successes in improving the lives of the most deprived sectors of the population, and the failure of the Western democratic model to do so in countries like India and the Philippines, can indeed inspire developing countries to seek alternative paths to growth. Xi Jinping’s careful insistence that all countries should be allowed to choose their own path attracts an enthusiastic audience.

Dr William H Overholt is Senior Research Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government of the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University.

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