Learn about and listen to our 2021 events and podcasts

Live Podcast: China Panic

Australia’s relationship with China has been in sharp decline, fueled by a critical government agenda and a hostile media environment. The trust, warmth and confidence towards China is at a record low, and the majority of Australians now see it as a major security threat.

In his new book China Panic, David Brophy offers a progressive alternative to Australia’s relationship with China aside from paranoia and pandering, with solutions and strategies that strengthen Australian democracy.

Dr David Brophy, Senior Lecturer in Modern Chinese History, University of Sydney

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 22 July 2021.

Episode #167

Webinar: Australia-Southeast Asia Relations: The Post COVID-19 Regional Order

The relationship between Australia and Southeast Asian countries has grown substantially in the last decade, from a marriage of convenience to the development of regional agendas, strategic partnerships and shared economic interests.

A global pandemic has shifted priorities, and vaccine diplomacy throughout the region has both shifted and strengthened existing allegiances. Has Australia’s actions during the pandemic helped or hindered relationships with Southeast Asian nations? What will the post-COVID-19 regional order of Southeast Asia look like?

The launch of the fifth issue of the La Trobe Asia Brief which was the product of a fruitful online academic dialogue held in February 2021 in collaboration between La Trobe Asia, Asia Centre, Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, Griffith Asia Institute, Asialink, Perth USAsia Centre and Generate Worldwide. It was proudly supported by the Australia-ASEAN Council.


  • Professor Caitlyn Byrne, Director, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University
  • Chen Chen Lee, Advisor (Diplomacy) to Asialink
  • Dr Huong Le Thu, Senior Analyst, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Dr Jeffrey Wilson, Policy Fellow, Perth USAsia Centre

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director - La Trobe Asia

Held as live zoom panel on 7 July 2021.

Live Podcast: Is Asia Becoming Less Democratic?

Asia’s relationship with democratic governance is complicated. While some countries such as Japan and Indonesia pride themselves on transparent elections, the struggles for democracy continue in countries such as Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines, where growing authoritarianism may be undermining long-term prospects for democratic institutions and civil liberties.

Dr James Gomez, Regional Director, Asia Centre

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 23 June 2021

Episode #166

Live Podcast:  Is Taiwan a target?

For the last seventy years Taiwan and mainland China has remained mostly separated. While China has encouraged interaction in the hope of a peaceful reunification, they have sought to isolate Taipei internationally, offering inducements and economic incentives to those who might engage.

In recent months there could be signs that Beijing is contemplating taking Taiwan by force, with an increase of military activity near the island. This live podcast discusses this shift, the implications for Taiwan, and the international dilemma.

Dr Oriana Skylar Mastro, Center Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), Stanford University

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 15 June 2021

Episode #165

Live Podcast: The Philippines and Regional Security

Regional security is a critical issue for the Philippines. Once closely aligned with western democracies, the strong-arm leadership of Rodrigo Duterte has guided it in a more authoritarian direction, leading critics to voice concern for the country’s democratic freedoms.

In the international arena, tensions in the South China Seas have complicated a cooling relationship with China, leading the Philippines to diversify its foreign relations and take the development of its defence and security capabilities seriously.

Dr Charmaine Misalucha-Willoughby, Associate Professor in International Studies, De La Salle University, Manila

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 10 June 2021

Episode #164

Webinar: Japan's Evolving Security Policy

Japan has been expanding its military roles in the post-Cold War period. While the conventional security threats associated with China’s military rise and North Korea’s nuclear weapons are still present, Japan’s participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, the arms trade ban policy, regional maritime capacity-building and shaping international norms have become more influential in Japan’s foreign and defence policy.

How have domestic norms and political interests contributed to this trend? How does Japan balance a desire to broaden its military role without violating the pacifist domestic norm? And how will it expand relations with other states to pursue its economic and security interests in a changing region?

The book launch of Japan’s Evolving Security Policy: Militarisation within a Pacifist Tradition by Kyoko Hatakeyama, published by Routledge.


  • Professor Kyoko Hatakeyama, Graduate School of International Studies and Regional Development, University of Niigata Prefecture
  • Professor Nick Bisley, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University
  • Associate Professor Nobuhiro Aizawa, Department of Cultural Studies, Kyushu University

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Held as live zoom panel on 8 June 2021.

Xinjiang's Falling Birth Rate

In April 2017, Chinese Communist Party authorities in Xinjiang launched a series of “strike-hard” campaigns against “illegal births” with the explicit aim to “reduce and stabilise a moderate birth level” and decrease the birth-rate in southern Xinjiang. The crackdown has led to an unprecedented and precipitous drop, and the largest declines have been in counties where Uyghurs and other indigenous communities are concentrated.

Professor James Leibold, Head of Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University and a senior fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Recorded 18 May 2021

Episode #163

Live Podcast: What to Expect at the Shangri-La Dialogue

The Shangri-La Dialogue is one of the premiere defence summits on the Asian calendar, where leaders from all over the region gather to discuss key global issues and security trends. James Crabtree, Executive Director of IISS-Asia, oversees the event and lays out what likely to be on the agenda at this year's dialogue.

James Crabtree, Executive Director of IISS-Asia

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 4 May 2021

Episode #162

Social Justice in Japan's Education

Over the past two decades Japan has experienced slow economic growth, changed employment practices, population decline, an ageing society, and an increasingly multi-ethnic population resulting from migration. How all of these factors have influenced education will shape the society of the future.

Professor Kaori Okano, Asian Studies and Japanese, La Trobe University

Episode #161

Seminar: China's Grand Strategy and Australia's Future in the New Global Order

The rise of China, Trump’s America First policies, division within Europe and successful defiance by authoritarian states are affecting the shape of the emerging new order. Human rights, rule of law, free media and longstanding global institutions all seem set to be weakened. Autocracies are exercising greater control over world affairs. Australia will need to engage heightened levels of diplomacy to forge relations with countries of opposing principles. It will need to be agile in pursuing a realistic foreign policy agenda if it is to be well positioned for this future.

Speaker: Dr Geoff Raby AO, former Australian ambassador to China (2007–11); ambassador to APEC (2003–5); and ambassador to the World Trade Organization (1998–2001). Member of the La Trobe Asia advisory board.

A La Trobe Asia 'China in Focus' seminar, held online via zoom on 22 April 2021.

Webinar: Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking in Asia

Human trafficking is an urgent human security issue in Asia. The abuse and exploitation associated with human trafficking have been documented across a range of sectors, including the sex industry, domestic work, construction, agriculture, and fisheries. Key drivers of human trafficking across the region include poverty and the desire for a better life. Increasingly widening economic disparities in Asia and the impact of climate change have become a focus of attention for organisations attempting to address peoples' vulnerability to human trafficking.

Trafficking for labour exploitation outside the sex industry is now recognised as an equally significant concern in the region. The offshore fishing industry is beset by extreme cases of forced labour and human trafficking, exploiting migrant workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar, and with countries like Australia benefitting from the import of this seafood only fuelling the problem.


  • Associate Professor Sallie Yea, Tracey Banivanua Mar Principal Research Fellow, La Trobe University
  • Jenny Stanger, Executive Manager at the Anti-Slavery Task Force, Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
  • Sunil Rao, Lecturer, La Trobe Law School, La Trobe University

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Held as live zoom panel on 20 April 2021

Live Podcast: China's COVID-19 Exit Plan

While the rest of the world still struggles with a deadly pandemic, Beijing has suppressed the spread of COVID-19 and is executing an exit plan to make the most of its opportunities in a changing world, where "the east is rising while the west is declining".

Chris Buckley, Chief China correspondent for The New York Times

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 30 March 2021

Episode #160

Webinar: Fighting Fake News in a Time of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how the spread of fake news and misinformation online – even if shared without malicious intent – can weaken global public health efforts, contribute to social unrest and lead to real-life harms or even death.

In the Asia Pacific, Singapore and Indonesia are among the early adopters of fake news laws to crack down on the pernicious problem of online misinformation and disinformation. These laws aim to address COVID-19 misinformation and the real-world violence and hate speech aimed at minority and religious groups, but internet and human rights experts fear the laws are also open to political misuse.

A landmark report from La Trobe University details the harm caused by online misinformation, how it is being regulated in some countries, and how it might be tackled.

The launch of the report Fighting Fake News: A study of online misinformation regulation in the Asia Pacific.

A La Trobe Asia / Asia Centre event.


  • Associate Professor Andrea Carson, Journalism, La Trobe University
  • Dr James Gomez, Regional Director, Asia Centre
  • Associate Professor Dirk Tomsa, Politics, La Trobe University

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Held as live zoom panel on 16 March 2021

Live Podcast: The Chagos Islands Sovereignty Dispute

The Chagos Archipelago, a group of small tropical islands in the middle of the Indian ocean, has become a surprising location of strategic importance. Recent international legal rulings have invalidated The United Kingdom’s claimed sovereignty, and international groups are urging the UK to end its ‘unlawful occupation’, presenting interesting dilemmas for the United States and its allies.

Nilanthi Samaranayake, Director of the Strategy and Policy Analysis Program at the Center of Naval Analysis in Washington D.C.

Host: Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 9 March 2021

Episode #159

How COVID-19 Impacts International Students in Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit tertiary education in Australia hard, and for most of 2020 it prevented students from studying on campus. For international students they were unable to enter the country, which meant a drop in enrolments and a decrease in university revenue, a situation which will likely continue into 2022.

Australian international students are largely from Asian countries, with large numbers from China and India in particular, and how the pandemic affects enrolment numbers will have flow on effects throughout not just those societies, but Australia as well.


  • Dr Jasvir Nachatar Singh, Lecturer at the Department of Management, Sport and Tourism, La Trobe Business School, La Trobe University
  • Dr Stacey Farraway, Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), La Trobe University

Recorded February/March 2021

Episode #158

Webinar: Could Taiwan be the Next Global Flashpoint?

In late January 2021, China moved to intensify military activity in the Taiwan Strait, sending bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons and fighter jets into airspace just southwest of the island. Taiwan responded by scrambling fighters and broadcasting warnings, but there has been no subsequent comment from China.

Beijing has long regarded the island as a renegade province and strongly opposes diplomatic attempts by other countries to engage with it. The action is the latest in an escalation of tension around the independence of Taiwan, and it coinciding with the inauguration of new United States President Joe Biden has led many to interpret it as a clear warning and the first major test of the Biden administration’s foreign policy.

What do these heightened tensions mean for Taiwan’s dreams of independence? What are the Chinese Communist Party’s objectives for Taiwan? Will the Biden Administration stand up to China over Taiwan, and will it look to its allies such as Australia for support?


  • Professor Brendan Taylor, Strategic Studies, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University
  • Natasha Kassam, Research Fellow, Lowy Institute
  • Jessica Drun, Non-Resident Fellow, Project 2049 Institute

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Held as live zoom panel on 3 March 2021

Webinar: Myanmar’s Military Coup: Challenging Democracy in Southeast Asia

On 1 February 2021, the military upended years of quasi-democratic rule in Myanmar in a carefully orchestrated coup. Military leaders justified the takeover by alleging voter fraud in the 2020 November election, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won in a landslide. The civilian leader of Myanmar and the NLD, former Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained by the military, along with dozens of officials, law-makers and aides.

The military announced that it will remain in power for one year, with ultimate authority resting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Some suspect the military will stay in charge beyond that, returning to the time prior to Myanmar’s first democratic reforms in 2011.

What were the driving factors behind the military coup? Does Myanmar have a long-term future as a democratic country? What response should be expected from the international community, and what are the implications for regional stability in Southeast Asia?


  • Hunter Marston, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University
  • Christopher Lamb, President of the Australia Myanmar Institute; Honorary Associate Professor - The University of Melbourne; and, Former Australian Ambassador to Myanmar
  • Wai Wai Nu, Peace, Human Rights and Women Rights Advocate, Founder of Women's Peace Network, Myanmar

Chair: Dr Bec Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia

Recorded live as a zoom webinar on 24 February 2021

Live Podcast: Is the Democratic Dream of Hong Kong Over?

In the course of a year Hong Kong has been transformed by a new security law. Drafted by Beijing and aimed at protestors, it has led to mass arrests of activists, lawyers and law makers. Political participation in Hong Kong is now more dangerous than ever, and with rights and freedoms diminishing under Beijing’s vast national security apparatus, is the democratic dream of Hong Kong over?

Antony Dapiran, Hong Kong-based writer and lawyer, author of the book City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong

Recorded with a live zoom audience on 17 February 2021

Episode #157

Islam and Indonesian Politic‪s‬

The political landscape of Indonesia has had a shakeup with the resurrection of the long-defunct Masyumi Party. The once-powerful party invokes a time when Islamists were more united in Indonesia, and signals a desire for greater coordination.

Associate Professor Dirk Tomsa, Politics, La Trobe University

Recorded 9 February 2021

Episode #156