Ear to Asia Podcast Archive

Ear to Asia is a podcast series produced by Asia Institute. On this page you can find previous episodes of the podcast. In 2018 the series is hosted by Vice Chancellor's Fellow Ali Moore. Ali is a well-known broadcast journalist and presenter.

From Japan to Turkey, from China to Indonesia, and to many places in between, Ear to Asia talks with our researchers who focus on Asia - in all its diversity of peoples, societies and histories. If you'd like to feast your ears on in-depth conversations about the world’s most populous and dynamic region, we encourage you to subscribe to Ear to Asia.

You can find all episodes and subscribe on whooshka, Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher , or other podcast apps.

  • Episode 30: Liquid Ambition: China's Megaproject Bringing Water to a Parched North

    China's South-North Water Transfer Project, the world's largest-ever diversion scheme, is being rolled out to take water from the Yangtze River in the country's south to quench the thirst of its parched and populous north. Geographers Dr Sarah Rogers and Dr Min Jiang discuss the social, environmental and governance implications of China’s most ambitious engineering megaproject to date. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 30

  • Episode 29: Engineering Public Morality in China

    China’s social credit system is being rolled out and will by 2020 track the behaviour of all of its 1.4 billion citizens, doling out rewards and punishments to individuals and communities. Asia Institute China analysts Dr Fengshi Wu and Dr Delia Lin ponder whether the system will succeed in bringing unprecedented security and stability to Chinese society or condemn it to a dystopian future. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 29

  • Episode 28: Taking the pulse of democracy in Southeast Asia

    Given the notably mixed results of recent elections in the region, just how healthy is the practice of democracy in Southeast Asia? To distinguish the rhetoric from the political reality, we're joined by keen Southeast Asia political observers Professor Garry Rodan, Director of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University, and by Dr Avery Poole, Assistant Director of the Melbourne School of Government. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 28

  • Episode 27: In the pipeline: Bringing clean water to Timor-Leste

    Two decades after winning its independence from Indonesia, Timor-Leste is still grappling with delivering clean water and sanitation to its people, both in Dili and in rural areas. With first-hand accounts of the challenges as well as success stories, we're joined by Melbourne School of Government development specialist Dr Kate Neely and public health expert Naomi Francis from the Nossal Institute for Global Health. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 27

  • Episode 26: Manufacturing nationalism in China

    Is rising nationalism among citizens of China a natural result of the country's growing power, or is it being manufactured and stoked by a Chinese Communist Party only looking out for its own interests? In this episode of Ear to Asia, Asia Institute political scientists Dr Sow Keat Tok and Dr Delia Lin consider the origins and implications of a patriotism with Chinese characteristics.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 26

  • Episode 25: 20 years after Suharto, do human rights matter yet in Indonesia?

    Two decades after the fall of the authoritarian Suharto regime, is Indonesia finally taking its human rights record seriously? Historian Dr Kate McGregor and socio-legal researcher Dr Ken Setiawan gauge how well Indonesia has come to terms with its violent past, and whether commitments to reform and justice made after the strongman's exit are being met with real action. Presented by Peter Clarke.

    Music by audionautix.com

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 25

  • Episode 24: China's Xi Jinping: The man who would be Mao?

    China recently abolished term limits for its presidency, clearing the way for Xi Jinping to continue indefinitely - possibly for life - as boss of the People's Republic. Asia Institute's China watchers Dr Fengshi Wu and Dr Sow Keat Tok shed light on Xi Jinping's possible motives and strategy, and their implications for China and the world. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Music by audionautix.com

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 24

  • Episode 23: For an ageing China, will demography be destiny?

    China, after decades of economic growth and a draconian policy limiting families to only one child, now faces a rapidly ageing population, together with a declining workforce and too many men. Sociologist Martin Whyte and development economist Lauren Johnston look at what this demographic trajectory will mean for China's economy and the lives of the Chinese people. Presented by Peter Clarke.

    Music by audionautix.com

    Further Reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 23

  • Episode 22: Liberalism in the firing line as Indonesia prepares for elections

    As Indonesia gears up for important elections in 2018 and 2019, we talk with political observers Professor Vedi Hadiz and Dr Dave McRae to untangle the many strands of the island nation's political life and get a glimpse of how the tension between democracy and pluralism there may play out. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Music by audionautix.com

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 22

  • Episode 20: Unforgiven: Japan through the eyes of Korea and China

    Asia researchers Dr Jun Ohashi and Dr Jay Song consider the optics of Japan's relations with its neighbours, the Koreas and China, where decades-old memories of Japanese invasion and subjugation remain front and centre. What will it take for Japan to overcome its wartime history and regain the trust of these nations? Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 20

  • Episode 19: China's Belt and Road Initiative: Audacious global strategy or Sino overreach?

    Asia international relations experts Dr Sow Keat Tok and Dr Pradeep Taneja unravel the motivations and implications behind China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure update to the historic Silk Road that's set to redefine trade and geopolitics across 3 continents, 2 oceans and some 65 countries. Presented by Ali Moore.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 19

  • Episode 18: Deciding what's a language in Tibet

    Anthropologist Dr Gerald Roche outlines the surprisingly diverse language landscape of the Tibetan Plateau, and what factors - geographic, social and political - contribute to whether a language is supported or even recognised. He also explains why some languages in Tibet are becoming endangered and how new ones are starting to emerge.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 18

  • Episode 17: Maintaining Balinese cultural identity at home in the Netherlands

    On Ear to Asia, anthropologist Dr Ana Dragojlovic recounts the history of Dutch colonisation of Bali, and examines the experiences of migrants from Bali to the land of their former coloniser as they work hard to maintain their Balinese identity.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 17

  • Episode 16: Is "selectocracy" the secret to China's economic success?

    Development economist Professor Yang Yao of Peking University argues that China's "selectocracy", its system of appointing political leaders from the Chinese Communist Party and their civil service, has been the major driver of an economic miracle that’s lasted four decades and counting.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 16

  • Episode 15: The Purchasing Power of Piety in Indonesia

    Media expert Dr Inaya Rakhmani explains the connection between neoliberal capitalism and the increasing religious conservatism of Indonesia’s burgeoning Muslim middle class.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 15.

  • Episode 14: Mulla Sadra: The Persian Islamic thinker’s take on the nature of reality

    Philosopher Dr Muhammad Kamal talks about the writings of preeminent 16th century Muslim philosopher, Mulla Sadra, who grappled with concepts of change and constancy. Mulla Sadra, who lived and worked in Persia, sought to answer questions like “Is everything changing continuously?" and “Why do we continue to recognize people and objects as if there were unchanging identities attached to them?”


    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 14

  • Episode 13: Fleeing North Korea

    Human migration expert Dr Jiyoung Song talks about North Korean citizens who choose to leave their homeland, putting themselves and family members they leave behind at risk. She discusses their arduous journeys across China and Southeast Asia to reach South Korea or countries in the West, how they fare in their new homes, and how their reasons for fleeing have changed over time.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 13

  • Episode 12: China’s smouldering volcanoes of social discontent

    Veteran China watcher Prof Martin K. Whyte explains why Chinese citizens remain unfazed by the enormous income and wealth disparity created by market-oriented economic reforms that in less than 40 years have made China the world's second largest economy. He also outlines the sorts of social injustices that pose even greater threats to the stability of Chinese society.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 12

  • Episode 11: Celebrity Chef Adam Liaw on Life at the Intersection of Nearly Everything

    On this episode of Ear to Asia, celebrity chef, author and lawyer Adam Liaw gets behind the microphone to discuss his work, philosophy of life, his love affair with Japan, and how living at the intersection of cultures and nations have shaped him. We recorded this interview with Adam when he was visiting the University of Melbourne to celebrate a century of Japanese language education in Australia.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 11

  • Episode 10: Translation as Performance Art

    Professor John Minford is a specialist in translating Chinese literature into English. On this episode of Ear to Asia, John talks about the practice of translation and how to train others in the art. He shares with us the challenges and triumphs of rendering classic Chinese texts for contemporary Western readers.

    John Minford is primarily known for his translations of Chinese classics such as The Dream of the Red Chamber, and The Art of War - as well as their reading companion guides. In November 2016, he was awarded the inaugural Medal for Excellence in Translation by the Australian Academy of Humanities, for his translation of I Ching.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 10

  • Episode 9: Kuwait: Walking the Sunni-Shia Tightrope

    In 2015, a lone terrorist from an affiliate of Daesh or Islamic State (often referred to as ISIS) bombed a mosque in Kuwait City where the majority of where the majority of worshippers were from the Shia sect. While the overt motive for this act of terrorism was payback for Kuwait's opposition to Daesh, the attack introduced sectarian violence to a country where the Sunni majority and the rather large Shia minority co-existed in relative harmony.

    In the wake of the mosque bombing incident, the Kuwaiti government passed several anti-terrorism laws. But some observers like Human Rights Watch claim the laws are designed to suppress political dissent. So how effective are these laws at reducing the risk of terrorist attacks in Kuwait? Are such laws the way to maintaining social harmony in a multicultural, or at least, a bi-sectarian population?

    Dr Kylie Baxter, a specialist in middle-east and Islamic politics from Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne, answers the above and other questions about the fallout from the Arab Spring.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 9

  • Episode 8: Is it back to the drawing board for Indonesia’s education system?

    Despite having more than 3 million teachers, manageable class sizes, and spending on education that amounts to a whopping 20% of national and local budgets, Indonesia continues to seriously lag behind in educational outcomes on a range of international measures.

    Political economist Professor Andrew Rosser discusses the factors that prevent Indonesia from bringing its children up to par in the education stakes and concludes that significant shifts in Indonesia's politics and society are needed.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 8

  • Episode 7: Saving the songs of China's Yangtze delta

    Chinese literature expert Anne McLaren joins Ear to Asia host Clement Paligaru to discuss her research into the folk ecology of the lower Yangtze delta, including the folksongs of this fascinating region. And she explains how these vanishing oral traditions shed light into how people of a bygone era lived.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 7

  • Episode 6: All under heaven: China's often misunderstood approach to sovereignty

    Political scientist Dr Sow Keat Tok discusses China's unique view of territorial sovereignty, its creative approaches to sovereignty issues in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, and how it can come into conflict with conventional models of sovereignty originating in the West. Presented by Sen Lam.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 6

  • Episode 5: A tale of two diasporas: Indians in the global workforce

    Economist and demographer Professor Binod Khadria joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss the huge global movement of skilled and unskilled Indian workers in its surprising diversity, the conditions they work under in destination countries and their persistent ties to Mother India.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 5

  • Episode 4: Sexual citizenship and same-sex relationships in Japan

    Queer studies researcher Dr Claire Maree joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss the plight of people in same-sex relationships in Japan. Despite Japan having a reputation for tolerance of sexual minorities, rigid legal and social barriers are leading same-sex couples to seek creative workarounds to obtain a degree of recognition and rights.


    Read more about Dr Claire Maree.

  • Episode 3: Memories of '65: Young Indonesians go digital to shine a light on a massacre denied

    Dr Ken Setiawan, Indonesian civil rights specialist, explains how a new generation of Indonesians are using digital and social media platforms to keep the memory of the genocide of 1965-1966 alive as successive government administrations stall on uncovering the truth. Presented by Sen Lam.

    Read more about Dr Ken Setiawan.

  • Episode 2: Lost in translation? Foreigners on trial in Japan and the language divide

    Linguistics expert Dr Ikuko Nakane joins Ear to Asia host Sen Lam to discuss language and interpretation in criminal trials in Japan, and in particular how defendants who aren't native speakers of Japanese may be aided or disadvantaged by the language divide.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 2

    Read more about Dr Ikuko Nakane.

    Dr Ikuko Nakane's book: Languages and Identities in a Transitional Japan: From Internationalization to Globalization Routledge, 2015.

  • Episode 1: Modernity's Broken Promise and the Rise of a New Islamic Populism

    Veteran researcher of Indonesian politics Prof Vedi Hadiz examines the phenomenon of contemporary Islamic populism in Indonesia, Turkey and Egypt, how it fares at the ballot box and how it fits into western notions of democracy. Presented by Sen Lam.

    Further reading

    Download the transcript of Episode 1

    Read more about Professor Vedi Hadiz.

    Professor Vedi Hadiz' book: Islamic Populism in Indonesia and the Middle East Cambridge University Press, 2016.

  • Episode 0: Teaser

    About the hosts

    Sen Lam is a veteran journalist and broadcaster, with over thirty years' reporting experience in the Asian region. As a young newscaster, Sen hosted the nine o'clock news on Singapore television, before joining the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1988, where he remained for over twenty five years. Among other roles, Sen hosted the Asia Pacific program on ABC Radio Australia, Radio National and NewsRadio, before it ended in late 2014. Sen has since left the ABC and continues to write. He has reported from a variety of Asian countries, including Burma, East Timor, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. He was an inaugural member of the 2013 UNAIDS AsiaPacific media network formed in Bangkok. Sen is a proud alumnus of Lancaster University, UK.

    Clement Paligaru is an Asia Pacific specialist with over twenty years of cross-media experience. After graduating with a BEc (Hons) degree, Clement joined the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the mid 1990’s to host radio programs for international audiences, focussing on Australia and Asia. His roles have since spanned producing, reporting and presenting across ABC networks including Radio Australia, RN, NewsRadio, triple j, Australia Network and Australia Plus TV. Clement’s work has taken him to China, Indonesia, India and most Pacific countries. Most recently, he was Head Asia and Head of Multiplatform Content at ABC International. Clement is an alumnus of the Asialink Leaders Program. He enjoys occasional travel writing and has contributed to Lonely Planet Publications.