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Interpreting Myanmar »

A Decade of Analysis

Authored by: Andrew Selth
Publication date: 2020
Since the abortive 1988 pro-democracy uprising, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has attracted increased attention from a wide range of observers. Yet, despite all the statements, publications and documentary films made about the country over the past 32 years, it is still little known and poorly understood. It remains the subject of many myths, mysteries and misconceptions. Between 2008 and 2019, Andrew Selth clarified and explained contemporary developments in Myanmar on the Lowy Institute’s internationally acclaimed blog, The Interpreter. This collection of his 97 articles provides a fascinating and informative record of that critical period, and helps to explain many issues that remain relevant today.

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Made in China Journal: Volume 5, Issue 2, 2020 »

Publication date: October 2020
The most Gothic description of Capital is also the most accurate. Capital is an abstract parasite, an insatiable vampire and zombie-maker; but the living flesh it converts into dead labor is ours, and the zombies it makes are us. There is a sense in which it simply is the case that the political elite are our servants; the miserable service they provide for us is to launder our libidos, to obligingly re-present for us our disavowed desires as if they had nothing to do with us. – Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (2009) Ghostly analogies drawn from the gothic imaginary are common in the Marxist canon, with the most famous case in point being the incipit of Marx and Engels’s Manifesto of the Communist Party, where readers are told that ‘the spectre of communism’ is haunting Europe. Far from being considered curious aberrations, these preternatural metaphors have given rise to a whole literature on spectral capitalism that spans to our present stage of late capitalism. In the 1980s, Aihwa Ong made waves with her study of spirit possessions on the shop floors of modern factories in Malaysia, in which she argued that these spectres represented a form of resistance by workers otherwise powerless in the face of capital. In another instance from the 1990s, Jean and John Comaroff introduced the idea of ‘occult economies’ to make sense of the wave of episodes in which real or imagined magical means were deployed in pursuit of material gains that occurred in South Africa after the end of apartheid. While both conceptualisations received a fair share of criticism—not least for presenting the ghosts of capitalism as dreams and the anthropologist as the psychoanalyst instead of dealing with the proper social and historical context of these phenomena—this issue of the Made in China Journal cuts the Gordian knot by focusing on how individuals in China and other contexts in Asia live and interact with the supernatural. In some cases, ghosts, fortune-tellers, shamans, sorcerers, zombies, corpse brides and aliens merely assist people to get by and cope with the difficulties they face in their daily lives; in others, these beings play subversive roles, undermining the rules that underpin contemporary society. In both cases, they challenge the status quo, hence the title ‘spectral revolutions’.

Collaboration for Impact »

Lessons from the Field

Publication date: September 2020
Collaboration is often seen as a palliative for the many wicked problems challenging our communities. These problems affect some of the most vulnerable and unempowered people in our community. They also carry significant implications for policy processes, programs of service and, ultimately, the budgets and resourcing of national and sub-national governments. The road to collaboration is paved with good intentions. But, as John Butcher and David Gilchrist reveal, ‘good intentions’ are not enough to ensure well-designed, effective and sustainable collaborative action. Contemporary policy-makers and policy practitioners agree that ‘wicked’ problems in public policy require collaborative approaches, especially when those problems straddle sectoral, institutional, organisational and jurisdictional boundaries. The authors set out to uncover the core ingredients of good collaboration practice by talking directly to the very people that are engaged in collaborative action. This book applies the insights drawn from conversations with those engaged in collaborations for social purpose—including chief executives, senior managers and frontline workers—to the collaboration challenge. Backed up by an extensive review of the collaboration literature, Butcher and Gilchrist translate their observations into concrete guidance for collaborative practice. The unique value in this book is the authors’ combination of scholarly work with practical suggestions for current and prospective collaborators.

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 12, Number 3, 2020 »

Publication date: September 2020
Japan's choices will be consequential — potentially pivotal — as the world moves through an inflection point in history. The United states and China are locking into strategic rivalry, with both countries dealing poorly with transition to a more multipolar order. How the rest of the world responds will determine global security, prosperity and stability for decades to come. This issue examines how Japan will navigate the policy challenges associated with a post-COVID and post-Abe world. Our contributors offer a variety of perspectives on Japan’s global leadership role, domestic politics, health governance, diplomatic strategy and economic recovery. Our Asian Review pieces examine the domestic drivers of India’s foreign policy and the shaping of politics in China.
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Bridging Australia and Japan: Volume 2 »

The writings of David Sissons, historian and political scientist

Publication date: August 2020
This book is volume two of the writings of David Sissons, who first established his academic career as a political scientist specialising in Japanese politics, and later shifted his focus to the history of Australia–Japan relations. In this volume, we reproduce his writings on Japanese politics, the Pacific War and Australian war crimes trials after the war. He was a pioneer in these fields, carrying out research across cultural and language borders, and influenced numerous researchers who followed in his footsteps. Much of what he wrote, however, remained unpublished at the time of his death in 2006, and so the editors have included a selection of his hitherto unpublished work along with some of his published writings. Breaking Japanese Diplomatic Codes, edited by Desmond Ball and Keiko Tamura, was published in 2013, and the first volume of Bridging Australia and Japan was published in 2016. This book completes this series, which reproduces many of David Sissons’ writings. The current volume covers a wide range of topics, from Japanese wartime intentions towards Australia, the Cowra Breakout, and Sissons’ early writings on Japanese politics. Republished in this volume is his comprehensive essay on the Australian war crimes trials, which influenced the field of military justice research. Georgina Fitzpatrick and Keiko Tamura have also contributed essays reflecting on his research. Sissons was an extraordinarily meticulous researcher, leaving no stone unturned in his search for accuracy and completeness of understanding, and should be considered one of Australia’s major historians. His writings deal not only with diplomatic negotiations and decision-making, but also the lives of ordinary and often nameless people and their engagements with their host society. His warm humanity in recording ordinary people’s lives as well as his balanced examination of historical incidents and issues from both Australian and Japanese perspectives are hallmarks of his scholarship.

Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Asia Pacific »

Publication date: August 2020
The world’s developed economies are experiencing a sharp backlash against globalisation, and it appears to be contagious. Will Asia catch it next? Asia has seen spectacular growth in recent decades. It has benefited substantially from global trade, finance, openness and the rules-based international order. But much of the growth Asia has enjoyed has not been shared. It has not been inclusive growth. Inequality in Asia is among the highest in the world. The richest man in Vietnam now earns more in a single day than the poorest person does in a decade. Asia has far to go in making its societies more inclusive to women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community. How can Asia reduce inequality? What are the forces that determine whether growth in the Asia Pacific is inclusive or not? And what can be done to make Asia’s growth more inclusive in the future? This book brings together the region’s leading thinkers to explore how to change Asia’s trajectory, before it is too late. The Pacific Trade and Development (PAFTAD) conference series has been at the forefront of analysing challenges facing the economies of East Asia and the Pacific since its first meeting in Tokyo in January 1968.

Designing Governance Structures for Performance and Accountability »

Developments in Australia and Greater China

Publication date: July 2020
Designing Governance Structures for Performance and Accountability discusses how formal and informal governance structures in Australia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan may be designed to promote performance and to ensure accountability. The book presents a selection of papers developed from the Greater China Australia Dialogue on Public Administration’s seventh workshop held in June 2017 hosted by City University of Hong Kong. Insights are provided on both current developments in the different contexts of the three jurisdictions examined, and on broader institutional and organisational theories. Chapters cover theories of organisational forms and functions in public administration, the ‘core’ agency structures used in the different jurisdictions, the structures used to deliver public services (including non-government organisational arrangements) and other ‘non-core’ agency structures such as government business enterprises, regulatory organisations and ‘integrity’ organisations. A particular emphasis is placed on the institutional arrangements the executive arm of government uses for advising on and implementing government policies and programs. Although the book explores arrangements and developments within very different political governance systems, the purposes of the structures are similar: to promote performance and accountability. This book is a companion volume to Value for Money: Budget and Financial Management Reform in the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Australia (ANU Press, 2018).

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 12, Number 2, 2020 »

Publication date: June 2020
How can Asia deal with the triple crises—health, economic and financial—of COVID-19? This issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly focuses on Asia's response. This Quarterly features an important strategy paper by over a dozen distinguished experts that details a compact for cooperation among Asian countries for managing the immediate impact of the crises, plan for a speedy exit from the economic damage and protect against similar catastrophes in the future. Our contributors offer a variety of perspectives on Asia’s role in mobilising international cooperation that is needed to deal with the triple crises of COVID-19. Instead of accentuating differences and retreating from openness, the lessons of past crises point to a need to realise the common interest in immunising Asia from a great depression.
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Made in China Journal: Volume 5, Issue 1, 2020 »

Publication date: May 2020
‘Art must not be concentrated in dead shrines called museums. It must be spread everywhere—on the streets, in the trams, factories, workshops, and in the workers’ homes.’ — Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1918 With these words, the great Soviet poet addressed the key question of how to bring art to people and people to art in a new world in which old aristocracies, elites, and their aesthetic privileges were fading away. In the words of art theorist Boris Groys, ‘the world promised by the leaders of the October Revolution was not merely supposed to be a more just one or one that would provide greater economic security, but it was also and in perhaps in even greater measure meant to be beautiful.’ Walking in these steps, the Chinese Revolution was a project of further experimentation and creation in the realm of the relationship between art and the people. The world it created was at once utopian and disfigured, radiant and desolate. While today that world is no longer, the questions it raised about the relationship between the working class, artistic production, and aesthetic appreciation remain with us. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a collection of essays that examine the ‘work of arts’, intended as the extension of art beyond the confines of the museum and into the spaces of ordinary life and production.

East Asia Forum Quarterly: Volume 12, Number 1, 2020 »

Publication date: March 2020
The changing geopolitical context compels middle powers to act. Countries have responded by forming explicit alliances, building upon hedging strategies or altering their leanings from one great power to another. The need for collective action is more urgent than ever to deal with emerging regional and global challenges. This issue of East Asia Forum Quarterly looks at middle powers and the range of priorities they have. Some are focused on their domestic priorities while others are more eager to shape the political, economic and security dimensions in the region. Our contributors offer a variety of perspectives on the challenges that middle powers face and identify the call of middle-power vision in defending the rules-based order. EAFQ 12.1 is dedicated to Aileen S.P. Baviera, founding president of Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress, who died on 21 March 2020, from pneumonia related to COVID-19. East Asia Forum Quarterly grew out of East Asia Forum (EAF) online, which has developed a reputation for providing a platform for the best in Asian analysis, research and policy comment on the Asia Pacific region in world affairs. EAFQ aims to provide a further window onto research in the leading research institutes in Asia and to provide expert comment on current developments within the region. The East Asia Forum Quarterly, like East Asia Forum online, is an initiative of the East Asia Forum (EAF) and its host organisation, the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research (EABER) in the Crawford School of Economics and Government in the College of Asia & the Pacific at The Australian National University.
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