Asia Brief

The La Trobe Asia Brief is a publication from La Trobe Asia, based at La Trobe University.  This series provides a platform for commentary, research and analysis of policy issues that are of key importance in the Asian region.  The work features La Trobe University academics working with collaborators based in the region.  The papers in the La Trobe Asia Brief series are written for an informed audience and are ordinarily 3,000-4,000 words in length.

Download a digital copy below, or contact us to request a free printed copy (where available).

La Trobe Asia Brief # 3

Melting Opportunities: Managing climate change and conflict in the Himalaya

The ice-capped peaks of the Himalaya are instantly recognisable and play a critical role in Asia's climate, hydrology, ecology and geopolitics. The mountains are home to more than 150 threatened species, and 3 biodiversity hotspots. The rivers that flow from them support nearly half the world’s human population and twenty per cent of its economy.

The mountains are also the site of international border disputes, ethnic unrest, competitive development and ongoing environmental and cultural destruction.

In issue 3 of the La Trobe Asia Brief, the authors examine the problem of climate and conflict in the Himalaya, and the implications it has for resources and security across Asia.

In order to avoid an environmental catastrophe that will impact much of Asia, the authors recommend:

  • Militaries in the Himalaya abide by strict environmental protocols and work towards demilitarisation.
  • Indigenous communities be given a greater advisory role in regional governance.
  • Language revitalisation programs are implemented and local place names are used.
  • ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) is funded and supported at a higher level by both its member states and internationally.
  • Linkages and supports are encouraged between Himalaya governance institutions and those in the Arctic and Antarctic.
  • The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism removes its support from large hydropower projects built near fault lines and ice packs in the Himalaya.


  • Dr Alexander E. Davis (New Generation Network Research Fellow, Politics, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Ruth Gamble (David Myers Research Fellow, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Sonika Gupta (Chinese Studies and Global Politics,  Indian Institute of Technology Madras)
  • Dr Anwesha Dutta (Post Doctoral Research Felllow, Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway)
  • Dr Gerald Roche (Research Fellow, Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University)

Download a digital copy of the La Trobe Asia Brief #3 [PDF 1 MB] or contact us to request a free printed copy.

La Trobe Asia Brief # 2

Australia-China Relations: Finding the elusive balance

The relationship with China is of critical importance to Australia. It is also increasingly complex, being influenced by economics, domestic factors and strategic forces.

Yet it is a relationship with underlying tension. China and Australia sometimes find themselves on different sides of the table in some bilateral issues, and disagreements over foreign investment in Australia, influence, and the interests of allied countries might prevent further successful co-operation or interaction.

This increasingly complex topic is explored through a series of opinion pieces, published with a creative commons license, examining the Australia-China relationship by eight, highly-respected experts with diverse views from both Australia and China.

The second La Trobe Asia Brief makes a timely and valuable contribution to Australia’s sometimes polarised China debate, and should serve as a valuable resource for policymakers, scholars and members of the public.


  • Emeritus Professor Hugh White (Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University)
  • Dr Rebecca Strating (Senior Lecturer, Politics, La Trobe University)
  • Professor Chen Hong (Director, Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University)
  • Dr Euan Graham (Executive Director, La Trobe Asia, La Trobe University)
  • Dr Hu Dan (Deputy Director, Australian Studies Centre, Beijing Foreign Studies University)
  • Professor Nick Bisley (Head of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University)
  • Rowan Callick (Journalist, author, advisory board member, La Trobe Asia)
  • Professor John Fitzgerald (Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of Technology)

Download a digital copy of the La Trobe Asia Brief #2 [PDF 3.8MB] or contact us to request a free printed copy.

La Trobe Asia Brief # 1

Cooperation in Contested Asia: How Japan and Australia can shape the region's changing security dynamic

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.

This La Trobe Asia Brief explains how Australia and Japan can work collaboratively to advance their shared interests in a dynamic regional order. It is based on discussions held at an experts’ workshop that was convened in Fukuoka, Japan, co-hosted by La Trobe University and Kyushu University and generously supported by the Australia-Japan Foundation.

In managing this increasingly unsettled security environment, this policy brief recommends Australia and Japan should:

  • Coordinate their dual hedging strategy to help bind the US to the region while simultaneously planning for a reduced and less reliable long term US role;
  • Form interest-driven minilateral coalitions to advance the capacity of regional powers to shape their security environment;
  • Work together in institutional forums, both new and old, to advance their shared interests. In particular, they should coordinate their engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI);
  • Diversify their diplomatic and economic relations to become less dependent on the two dominant powers;
  • Ensure their ‘rules-based order’ discourse matches their policy reality.
  • Associate Professor Nobuhiro Aizawa (Department of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)
  • Professor Nick Bisley (Head of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University)
  • Associate Professor Chisako Masuo (Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)
  • Dr Rebecca Strating (Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy, La Trobe University)

Download a digital copy of the La Trobe Asia Brief #1 [PDF 1.75MB] or contact us to request a free printed copy.