2018 Podcasts

Learn about and listen to our 2018 events and podcasts.

Podcast: Defection From North Korea

For most defectors the decision to leave North Korea is never an easy one, and there are major difficulties in addressing the refugee crisis. Those crossing into China risk arrest and deportation, and the safety of those left behind is often in question.

Hyeonseo Lee defected from North Korea in 1997, and has since become an activist for human rights. Her memoir, The Girl with Seven Names, is a New York Times best seller.

Hyeonseo Lee

Podcast: Ache Din (India Rising #7)

When Narendra Modi and the BJP won the 2014 election in India they did so under the slogan 'Achhe din aane waale hain' - Good days are coming.

With an impending election, we give Modi's progress a report card. Have good days come to India?

Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)

Event: What's Happening to the Uyghurs in China?

In the Chinese region of Xinjiang, tens of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained inside enormous extrajudicial ‘re-education camps’.

China claims the region faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists, stirring up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority and the ethnic Han majority. After months of denial, the Chinese government now claims these camps are benign vocational training centers, but many outside observers assert that they are little more than prisons where detainees are subjected to political and cultural indoctrination without legal recourse.

As more allegations come to light about the treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, China faces mounting pressure from international human rights groups, governments, and academics to provide access to these camps and put an end to any coercive and illegal practices.

Speaking on Uyghurs in China and how the world should react are:

- Nury A Turkel (Uyghur Human Rights Project)
- James Leibold (Associate Professor, Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University)
- Louisa Greve (Uyghur Human Rights Project)
- Euan Graham (Executive Director, La Trobe Asia) (chair)

Co-hosted by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA) Victoria, on 7th December 2018.

Podcast: A Land of Languages (India Rising #6)

There are 22 official languages in India, but more than 780 have been recognised. It can be a challenge to communicate across the country, and while the most common language is Hindi there’s communication of all sorts in a variety of dialects and scripts.

Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)
Dr Ian Woolford (Lecturer in Hindi, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Religion and Caste (India Rising #5)

Religion and caste divides Indians in many ways - religion primarily between Hindu and Muslim, with Hindu further divided by a complex caste system which can influence how they work, how they live and even who they marry.

While laws and social initiatives have tried to to counteract inequality and discrimination, it does still happen.

Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Waste of a Nation (India Rising #4)

With a fast-growing population and aspirations to join the throwaway prosperity of the developed world, India generates vast quantities of waste, sewerage and pollution. How does it live with and deal with the problem?

Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)
Associate Professor Assa Doron (College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)

Podcast: Dynastic Leadership (India Rising #3)

The Indian National Congress party in India has mostly looked to the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership, making them powerful figures in India’s political landscape. Four members of the family have been Prime Minister of the country, but does the current leader, Rahul Gandhi, have what it takes?

Guest: Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Voting in the World's Largest Democracy (India Rising #2)

India goes to the polls in 2019, and the popular incumbent Narendra Modi is currently favoured to retain his position. With close to a billion people eligible to vote elections in India promises to be a busy time and an organisational quagmire.

Guest: Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)

Event: How Kawaii Invaded Downtown Tokyo

The vibrant fashion styles of Tokyo are notable for their colour and playfulness, and the shojo culture (girls) draw on anime, manga, literature, film and cosplay.

The distinctive fashion movement has evolved to embrace culture and identity, and in this panel we will hear from four experts about shojo and kawaii (cute) studies.

- Dr Lucy Fraser is a specialist on Japanese fairy tales and girl culture.
- Dr Emerald L King is Japanese literature scholar and cosplayer.
- Dr Masafumi Monden is an expert on Japanese fashion.
- Megan Catherine Rose specialises in kawaii fashion communities in Tokyo.
- Madman MC and cosplayer K (chair).

This event was co-hosted by La Trobe Asia and the Japan Foundation, Sydney. It was recorded on 1 November 2018 at the State Library of Victoria.

Podcast: A Post-Colonial Hangover (India Rising #1)

In 2017 India celebrated 70 years of independence from British rule. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the country, calling for the people to set aside their differences.

"India is about peace, unity and goodwill," said Modi. "We have to take the country ahead with the determination of creating a new India."

Can a new India emerge from the old? How has it been shaped by its years in the British Empire?


Emeritus Professor Robin Jeffrey (Politics, La Trobe University)

Podcast: India's Statue of Unity

India will soon be unveiling the world’s tallest statue, the Statue of Unity. At 182m tall it towers over its nearest competitor by more than 50m.

The statue in the Narmada district of Gujarat is of independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel. The project has been championed by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is not without controversy.

Dr Alexander Davis (New Generation Network Postdoctoral Fellow with La Trobe University and the Australian India Institute)

Podcast: A Walk Along The Bund, Shanghai

The Bund, or Wai Tan in Chinese, is a waterfront strip in central Shanghai. It is within the former Shanghai International Settlement, and so all the buildings there have a grand colonial feeling, right across the river from the Pudong district, with some of the most modern and radical skyscrapers you’ll see.

Associate Professor James Leibold (Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Is Asia on the Brink of War?

Asia is at a dangerous moment. China is rising fast, North Korea may be assembling more nuclear weapons, Japan is building up its military and The United States, for so long a stabilising presence in Asia, is behaving erratically. What can the world’s major powers can do to avoid an eruption of war?

Associate Professor Brendan Taylor (Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, author of ‘The Four Flashpoints: How Asia Goes to War’)

Event: Australia and China in the Pacific

In recent months there has been intense speculation in the media and in policy forums about China’s involvement in the Pacific. In turn, this has raised questions about the Australia’s historical and continuing role in the region, as well as evolving issues around sovereignty and neo-colonialism.

Is the sovereignty of Pacific nations under threat? Or is China really providing aid only in order to help those nations attain sustainable development? Should Australia be doing more to support Pacific nations and, if so, what form should this take?


The Hon. John Brumby (Former Premier of Victoria, currently President of the Australia China Business Council, and incoming Chancellor of La Trobe University).

Ms Makereta Komai (Manager/Editor, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and author of ‘Fiji’s Foreign Policy and the New Pacific Diplomacy’ in The New Pacific Diplomacy, edited by Greg Fry and Sandra Tarte, ANU Press, 2015)

Chaired by Professor Nick Bisley (Head of School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University)

A public forum hosted by La Trobe University’s Pacific Research Community, La Trobe Asia, and the China Studies Research Centre. Held on 20 September 2018.

Event: Cooperation in Contested Asia (policy brief launch)

East Asia’s security environment is changing rapidly. China’s power and confidence is rising, the US is increasingly introspective and uncertainty abounds about its power and purpose. India and Russia also clamour for influence. Regional powers are entering a period of growing rivalry and animosity, nationalism is an increasingly pervasive force, and prompted by a pervasive sense of strategic uncertainty, military spending is ramping up in many countries.

As a new equilibrium has yet to be established in the security order, how can middle ranking countries like Japan and Australia manage their interests? The two countries have developed a close and cooperative security partnership since 2007. The changing environment is challenging but they can better navigate it by working together in a closely coordinated manner involving both diplomatic and security policy tools.


Professor Nick Bisley (Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University)

Dr Rebecca Strating (Lecturer in Politics, La Trobe University)

Daniel Flitton (Managing Editor, The Interpreter Lowy Institute)(Chair).

The launch of La Trobe Asia's first policy paper, authored by Nick Bisley, Rebecca Strating, Chisako Masuo and Nobuhiro Aizawa.

Held at the City Campus of La Trobe University on 7 September 2018

Podcast: Cooperation in Contested Asia

East Asia’s security environment is changing rapidly. China’s power and confidence is rising, the US is increasingly introspective and uncertainty abounds about its power and purpose.As a new equilibrium has yet to be established in the security order, how can middle ranking countries like Japan and Australia manage their interests?.


Professor Nick Bisley (Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University)

Dr Rebecca Strating, (Lecturer in Politics, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Australia needs more Asia, less US

For decades Australia’s security and economic policy has been developed based on an established regional order coming out of World War II, but we are now in turbulent times. Strong personalities and strained tensions means a change in the balance of power in the Asian region.

Guest: Gareth Evans (Former politician and cabinet minister during the Hawke and Keating governments and foreign minister from 1988 to 1996. Chancellor of the Australian National University)

Podcast: Recycling in India

Waste in India is an important and visible issue, and the country is struggling to manage and process recycling. While a reported 60% of plastics are recycled the volume of garbage is immense, and much of the industry is informal.

Guest: Associate Professor Assa Doron (College of Asia and the Pacific. Australian National University)

Podcast: Japan's greying population

Japan is one of many countries faced with an ageing population, but the problem is quite pronounced. The world's lowest fertility rate combined with a high life expectancy gives it the oldest mean age in the world of 46.1. A third of Japanese are aged over 60, and the country's population is falling.

Guest: Associate Professor Nobuhiro Aizawa (Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies at Kyushu University)

Podcast: Emperor Qin's Terracotta Warriors

The mausoleum of Emperor Qin is a national treasure of China, and is known throughout the world for the army of terracotta warriors that guard his final resting place.

The army of terracotta warriors is vast, and we are still discovering how they are made,and how best to preserve them.

Xiuzhen Li (Senior Archaeologist, Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum Site Museum)

Podcast: When Trump met Kim

On 12th June 2018 the world witnessed a peace summit between two long feuding leaders the United States president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. While the meeting was unprecedented but did it deliver anything worthwhile, or was it just a glorified photo-op?

Dr Michael Cohen (Senior lecturer at the National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific). The author of 'When Proliferation causes Peace: The Psychology of Nuclear Crises' published by Georgetown University Press.

Podcast: Chinese philosophy

Chinese philosophy has a long history stretching back more than two thousand years and covers schools of thought such as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, and Buddhism. It has had a deep influence on the cultural and political development of the nation and people of China.

Professor John Makeham (Director of the China Studies Research Centre, La Trobe University)

Podcast: Will China have an economic slowdown?

China's economy has long been a story of success and growth, and being the second largest in the world has given it a position of power in the global economy.

But could there be signs of an economic slowdown ahead of China? What steps would they have to take to safely navigate it?

Professor Michael Pettis (Finance, Peking University)

Podcast: Ageing Asia

Asia’s elderly population is on track to reach a billion by 2050, and there are few governments prepared to meet this change, which will have wide social and economic consequences.

Professor Thomas Klassen (Political Science at York University in Ontario, Canada).

Podcast: China under surveillance

Any visitor to China will be acutely aware of the amount of security, and nowhere is this more visible than the nation’s capital, Beijing. Guards are frequent, Cameras are plentiful, and the electronic data mining is extensive.

Bill Birtles (China Correspondent, Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Podcast: Educating China's little soldiers

The Chinese education system has had its criticisms, but many argue that it delivers, at least in the larger cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. Students are pushed to study, with many students attending after-school tutoring, and qualities such as respect and dedication are held to a higher standard than that of western education systems.

Lenora Chu (American journalist, author of 'Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve’)

Podcast: Jakarta is sinking (Asia and the environment #4)

Indonesia is a sprawling nation of islands across south-east Asia, and two environmental concerns are significant – deforestation and rising sea levels. The deforestation rate is one of the highest in the world, and rising sea levels threaten much of their territory, including the capital, Jakarta.

Dr Dirk Tomsa (Senior Lecturer, Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University).

Event: Ageing Asia: trends, implications and policy directions

The population of Asia is ageing rapidly. People are living longer than in the past, and coping with this problem requires thoughtful social security and balancing the interests of different generations.

Although nations in the region each have unique characteristics, there are overall trends associated with population ageing, which raise implications that extend across most nations in Asia.

Professor Thomas Klassen (School of Public Policy and Administration at York University, Canada).

Recorded at La Trobe University (City Campus) on 21st March 2018, in an event co-hosted by the John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research.

Podcast: China's green leadership (Asia and the environment #3)

China operates on a scale that outclasses every other country, and are taking climate change seriously. As the world’s biggest polluter many would say that this is the way it should be.

But does this give China an advantage and a global platform in green leadership? And are they making the most of it?

Dr Benjamin Habib (Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Relations, La Trobe University).

Event: Japan's approach to a changing world

Japan faces a rapidly changing international environment. Asia is shifting from an era of peace and prosperity to one of contestation and great power rivalry. North Korea's nuclear ambitions are unsettling the region. Xi Jinping's China is more confident, assertive and nationalistic than ever and uncertainty lingers of the role of Japan's security partner, the United States.

In response to these changes and challenges Japan has set out to change its foreign and defence policy and is seeking a greater regional and global influence. It is taking on a greater role in regional security matters including increasing security co-operation with Australia.

What role is Japan seeking to play? How will it carve out space for itself in a region dominated by giant powers? And how will the region respond to a Japan that plays a greater role?

Nobuhiro Aizawa is an expert in Japanese international relations and southeast Asian politics. He is an Associate Professor at the Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies at Kyushu University.

Nick Bisley is the Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Professor of International Relations at La Trobe University.

Introduced by Yoshimitsu Kawata, Deputy Consul-General of Japan in Melbourne. The event was held at the State Library of Victoria on 28th February, 2018.

A La Trobe Asia event. Supported by Consulate General of Japan in Melbourne.

Podcast: North Korea's vulnerable ecology (Asia and the environment #2)

North Korea is a country that can little afford a close examination of ecological impact. The environment exists and is protected as long as it is useful as a resource to the authoritative state.

Despite this it holds an important place in the mythology of the country, and retaining elements of it is useful, as long as they can be exploited.

Dr Robert Winstanley-Chesters (Research Fellow, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University)

Podcast: Pollution and priorities in India (Asia and the environment #1)

India struggles with environmental imperatives. Its cities have the worst air pollution in the world, its iconic rivers are, in some places, literally dead and human development pressures will often override concerns of the natural environment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made commitments to clean up India, but can he follow through with his promises? Are there more invested interests in pushing forward with industrial projects, and does India's environment have the time to be neglected?

Professor Amita Baviskar, (Sociologist, Economic Institute of Growth, Delhi).

Podcast: China ascendant with Kevin Rudd

With China's emergence as a power of the first rank it has changed the Asian region and indeed the world. It has reordered established patterns of trade and investment, unsettled a longstanding balance of power in Asia, and brought old historical antagonisms to the surface. As President Xi Jinping consolidates his power, China increasingly presents a confident and at times assertive face to the wider world.

But what does China want from its region? How much change would this represent? What options exist for Australia to influence how the People's Republic comports itself on the wider global stage?

The Hon. Kevin Rudd (Former Prime Minister of Australia, President of the Asia Society Policy Unit).

Older podcasts

To hear our podcasts from earlier years, visit our Soundcloud channel.