This week’s episode tracks PM Scott Morrison’s recent travels. We begin in Perth prior to his leaving the country with what Allan considers to be a major foreign policy speech. Why? Where Allan sees a definite break from decades of Australian foreign policy, Darren sees a speech responding to shifting political winds, especially with a new occupant in the White House.

From Perth the PM flew to Singapore to meet with his counterpart PM Lee Hsien Loong. Lee offered some advice to Australia in its management of relations with China, which Allan wonders might signal a growing gap between Australia and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, Darren tries to reconcile Lee’s advice with comments made that same week by Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

The PM then arrived in the UK for the G7 summit. Was it important that he was invited? And what did Allan and Darren make of the communique? What is most interesting perhaps is the apparent return to prominence of the G7, which had for more than a decade taken a backseat to the G20. As Allan says, this is likely because of who is not at the meeting, rather than who is. Scott Morrison then wrapped up his trip with the announcement of a free trade agreement with the UK (did it deliver much?) and getting solid support from President Macron in his bilateral with the French leader.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: australia.world.pod [at] gmail.com We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for her help audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.   

Relevant links

Scott Morrison, “Address to the Perth USAsia Centre”, Perth, 9 June 2021: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/address-perth-usasia-centre-perth-wa

Daniel Hurst, “Peter Dutton flags more US troops on Australian soil citing potential China conflict”, The Guardian, 10 June 2021: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jun/10/peter-dutton-flags-more-us-troops-on-australian-soil-citing-potential-china-conflict

Scott Morrison and Lee Hsien Loong, Press Conference Transcript, The Istana, Singapore, 11 June 2021: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/press-conference-istana-singapore

2021 G7 Leaders' communiqué: Our shared agenda for global action to build back better, 13 June 2021: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/06/13/2021-g7-leaders-communique/

Fact Sheet: President Biden and G7 Leaders Launch Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership, The White House, 12 June 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/06/12/fact-sheet-president-biden-and-g7-leaders-launch-build-back-better-world-b3w-partnership/

“G7 summit: China says small groups do not rule the world”, BBC News, 13 June 2021: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57458822

Jeff Wilson (@JDWilson08), twitter thread on the Australia-UK free trade agreement, 16 June 2021: https://twitter.com/JDWilson08/status/1404958048561496070

Andrew Tillett, “UK trade deal ‘rights a historic wrong’”, Australian Financial Review, 16 June 2021: https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/uk-trade-deal-rights-a-historic-wrong-20210616-p581ey

Martin Wolf, “The US should spurn the false promise of protectionism”, Financial Times, 15 June 2021: https://www.ft.com/content/4edc2c5a-298f-4edd-81b7-5b94b7b23b93

“French President Emmanuel Macron backs Australia amid trade conflict with China”, ABC News, 16 June 2021: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-16/french-president-emmanuel-macron-support-china-australia-trade/100220484

“Ninth Japan-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations”, 9 June 2021: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/ninth-japan-australia-22-foreign-and-defence-ministerial-consultations

Peter Dutton, “Address to Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference, Canberra”, 10 June 2021: https://www.minister.defence.gov.au/minister/peter-dutton/speeches/address-australian-strategic-policy-institute-conference-canberra

Making Sense podcast, “Are we alone in the universe? A conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson”, Episode #252, 10 June 2021: https://samharris.org/podcasts/252-alone-universe/

“Jon Stewart On Vaccine Science And The Wuhan Lab Theory”, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 15 June 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSfejgwbDQ8

“‘They Are Going To Kill Us All’ - Jon Stewart Declares His Love For Scientists” (video) The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, 15 June 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtTvXZ5lby8

Thomas Wright, “Joe Biden worries that China might win”, The Atlantic, 9 June 2021: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/06/joe-biden-foreign-policy/619130/

Benjamin Herscovitch, “Beijing to Canberra and Back” (newsletter): https://beijing2canberra.substack.com/

After some time away from the news, Allan and Darren have a lot to catch up on. This episode begins with PM Scott Morrison’s visit to New Zealand to meet his counterpart Jacinda Ardern. Allan provides his readout of the meeting, in which the leaders sought to affirm their shared interests and seemingly quash commentary that there are growing divisions in the relationship. Second on the list is an emerging constitutional crisis in Samoa, where a very close election result ended up in the courts, with the defeated incumbent not accepting the results. Is there anything Canberra can do? Third, the Australian government has announced the closure of its embassy in Kabul due to security concerns, perhaps no surprise given the ongoing troop withdrawals as the West tries to exit a 20-year war. But will the closure have a meaningful impact on Australian foreign policy?

Fourth, Darren offers his thoughts on the remarkable story in Belarus, where the government successfully forced a commercial airline flying between two European capitals to land so that it could arrest a dissident on board. Finally, Darren cannot resist but bring up the “lab leak hypothesis”, which is the possibility that COVID-19 leaked (accidentally) out of a lab in Wuhan, rather than jumping to humans from animals. Darren tries to set out why this hypothesis has transformed from fringe conspiracy theory to mainstream debate, one which the Biden Administration has publicly instructed its intelligence agencies to report on in the weeks ahead. How credible is the theory? Does it matter whether it’s correct? This is a deep rabbit hole and if listeners want follow Darren down it, some introductory links are in the show notes below.

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: australia.world.pod [at] gmail.com We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for his help audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Joint statement: Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison, 31 May 2021: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/joint-statement-prime-ministers-jacinda-ardern-and-scott-morrison

PM Ardern and PM Morrison, Press Conference Transcript, Queenstown NZ, 31 May 2021: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/press-conference-queenstown-new-zealand

Marise Payne, Tweet on Samoa election, 24 May 2021: https://twitter.com/marisepayne/status/1396596376973185031?s=21

ABC News (Interview), “Samoa faces crisis after new PM sworn in outside parliament in a tent”, 25 May 2021: https://youtu.be/o3eyOOtheUM

Marise Payne, “Statement on visit to Afghanistan”, 10 May 2021: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/statement-visit-afghanistan

 

Scott Morrison and Marise Payne, “Statement on the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan”, 25 May 2021: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/statement-australian-embassy-afghanistan

Nicolas Wade, “Origin of COVID — Following the clues”, Medium, 3 May 2021: https://nicholaswade.medium.com/origin-of-covid-following-the-clues-6f03564c038

Donald McNeil Jr, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Lab-Leak Theory*, Medium, 17 May 2021: https://donaldgmcneiljr1954.medium.com/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-lab-leak-theory-f4f88446b04d

Katherine Eban, “The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins”, Vanity Fair, 3 June 2021: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-lab-leak-theory-inside-the-fight-to-uncover-covid-19s-origins

Daniel Engber, “If the lab leak theory is right, what’s next?”, The Atlantic, 27 May 2021: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/05/chinese-lab-leak-hypothesis-coronavirus/619000/

Tyler Cowen, “Why the lab leak theory matters” [with link to Ross Douthat Column], Marginal Revolution, 30 May 2021: https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/05/why-the-lab-leak-theory-matters.html

David Brophy, China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering, Latrobe University Press: https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/china-panic

Tony Blair, “Without total change Labour will die” , The New Statesman, 11 May 2021: https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2021/05/tony-blair-without-total-change-labour-will-die

Darren Lim and Nathan Attrill, “Australian debate of the China question: The COVID-19 case”, Forthcoming, Australian Journal of International Affairs, available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=3856586

In the second half of this double episode with China expert Linda Jakobson, the conversation takes a broader focus. Allan begins with Taiwan, which has been in the headlines lately: how should we think about the dangers? What would it take for Beijing to use military force to resolve the situation?

The bulk of the episode is about the Australia-China relationship. How does Linda interpret the decline in bilateral relations—how much is it Australia’s ‘fault’ and how much is it China’s? What is the pathway forward? Linda offers her view, and then Darren and Allan provide their own assessments. Has China made up its mind about Australia? Finally, how can the West influence China and shape its choices? Is the deterrence/engagement binary a useful frame for thinking about the options?

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: australia.world.pod [at] gmail.com We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for help with research and audio editing, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Linda Jakobson,  “Why should Australia be concerned about… rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait?”, China Matters Explores February 2021, https://chinamatters.org.au/policy-brief/policy-brief-february-2021/

Linda Jakobson, ”What do we do when Beijing turns heat up on Taiwan?” Australian Financial Review, 9 February 2021: https://chinamatters.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/09.02.21-Linda-Jakobson-What-do-we-do-when-Beijing-turns-up-heat-on-Taiwan.pdf

Asialink podcast, “John Howard Reflects on the China Challenge and Trump's Legacy”, 15 Nov 2020: https://asialink.unimelb.edu.au/insights/asialink-milestones-john-howard-reflects-on-the-china-challenge-and-the-trump-legacy

Elliott Zaagman, “A rare test for China diplomacy”, Lowy Interpreter, 18 May 2021: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/rare-test-china-diplomacy

Allan and Darren welcome Linda Jakobson to the podcast. Linda is a leading China expert, and a vital voice in Australia’s own China debate. The conversation spans almost 100 minutes and will be released in two parts. At a time when the bilateral relationship is at a fresh low, this double episode offers genuine substance and depth on how one should understand China, diagnose the deterioration in Australia-China relations, and chart a pathway forward.

Linda is the founding director (and currently deputy chair) of the not-for-profit China Matters, an independent Australian policy institute (Allan sits on its Board of Directors). Linda lived and worked for over 20 years in China, including as the Beijing-based Director of the China and Global Security Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). She moved to Australia in 2011 to serve as Program Director (East Asia) at the Lowy Institute, and in 2015 she founded China Matters and was its first CEO until 2019.

The focus in Part 1 is China itself. However, the conversation begins with Linda’s own personal story. Being Finnish, Allan wonders what Finland’s experience neighbouring a major power can teach Australia, while Darren asks whether Linda sees similarities between Finland’s approach and strategies in the region – are there “Finlands” in Asia?

Turning to China itself, how has Linda’s understanding of China changed? And who is “China” when asking this question? Linda answers the question from different perspectives. Is China exceptional in what it wants?

The conversation turns to domestic politics. What is the range of views inside the country on the direction China is taking? To what extent is there pushback against Xi Jinping’s approach, and what could be the mechanisms through which change comes? How big is China’s political elite, anyway? And how can observers even answer these questions, given the increasingly closed nature of the Chinese system. Is “Pekingology” going to resemble Kremlinology?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the conversation!

As always, we invite our listeners to email us at this address: australia.world.pod [at] gmail.com We welcome feedback, requests and suggestions. You can also contact Darren on twitter @limdarrenj

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for help with research and audio editing, and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Linda’s biography: http://lindajakobson.com/?page_id=74

Linda Jakobson, “What does China want? Xi Jinping and the path to greatness”, Australian Foreign Affairs, Issue 1, 18 Oct 2017:  https://chinamatters.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/What-does-China-want-Linda-Jakobson-Australian-Foreign-Affairs-Issue-1.pdf

Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim, “How China is remaking the world in its vision”. Extract from chapter in Australian Foreign Affairs, The Conversation, 22 Feb 2021:

https://theconversation.com/how-china-is-remaking-the-world-in-its-vision-155377

Melissa Conley Tyler and Julian Dusting, “What should Australia do about…its foreign interference and espionage laws?” China Matters Explores, May 2021: https://chinamatters.org.au/policy-brief/policy-brief-may-2021/

Nick Bisley, “China drops the mask on its global ambition”, The Lowy Interpreter, 22 Apr 2021: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-drops-mask-its-global-ambition

Max Suich, “China confrontation: What were we thinking?” Australian Financial Review, 28 May 2021, https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/china-confrontation-what-were-we-thinking-20210429-p57njs

Max Suich, “How Australia got badly out in front on China,” Australian Financial Review, 27 May 2021, https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/how-australia-got-badly-out-in-front-on-china-20210428-p57n8x

Victor Shih and Young Yang, “The Make-up of the CCP Elite”, China Data Lab, 19 May 2021: chinadatalab.ucsd.edu/viz-blog/the-makeup-of-the-ccp-elite/

With President Joe Biden announcing the forthcoming withdrawal of ground troops from Afghanistan, the West’s 20 year war in Afghanistan is drawing to a close. Allan and Darren open this week’s podcast with a discussion of whether this is the right decision, and what lessons we should take from this decades-long conflict. The episode then turns to a busy week in bilateral relations with China for both New Zealand and Australia. Kiwi Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta gave her first major speech on China, and followed it with some controversial comments (in Australia, at least) about the expansion of the remit of the Five Eyes intelligence grouping. Meanwhile, the Australian government used purpose-built legislation to cancel two memoranda of understanding between the Victorian state government and the Chinese government on the Belt and Road Initiative – to Beijing’s predictable displeasure. Does this past week reveal a split in the two countries’ approach to China? What is the logic of each approach? Finally, Japan’s Prime Minister Suga met with Joe Biden at the White House, with China front and centre of the discussion—what are the major takeaways?

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for research and audio editing, and thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

“Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan”, 14 April 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/04/14/remarks-by-president-biden-on-the-way-forward-in-afghanistan/

Scott Morrison, Press Conference, Stirling Community Centre, WA, 15 April 2021: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/press-conference-stirling-community-centre-wa

Nanaia Mahuta, “He Taniwha He Tipua, He Tipua He Taniwha - The Dragon and the Taniwha”, Speech to the NZ China Council, 19 April 2021: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/%E2%80%9Che-taniwha-he-tipua-he-tipua-he-taniwha-dragon-and-taniwha%E2%80%9D

Jane Patterson, “New Zealand, Australia foreign ministers discuss China, Five Eyes, 501 deportees”, Radio NZ, 23 April 2021: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/441073/new-zealand-australia-foreign-ministers-discuss-china-five-eyes-501-deportees

(Youtube Video) “'Beautiful to see': New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the travel bubble | ABC News” [Ardern’s comments on Five Eyes], 20 April 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c1S2pIDKH8

Andrew Tillett, “Dumped foreign deals were never used”, Australian Financial Review, 22 April 2021: https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/dumped-foreign-deals-were-never-used-20210422-p57lhm

U.S.- Japan Joint Leaders’ Statement: “U.S. – JAPAN GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR A NEW ERA”, 16 April 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/16/u-s-japan-joint-leaders-statement-u-s-japan-global-partnership-for-a-new-era/

(Youtube video) “How New is the New Era? 2021 Annual Reischauer Lecture with Rana Mitter, Part 1”, 7 April 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3bi9N2NY6E

Adam Tooze, “The gatekeeper”, London Review of Books, 22 April 2021: https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v43/n08/adam-tooze/the-gatekeeper

Ezra Klein, “Four ways of looking at the radicalism of Joe Biden”, 8 April 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/opinion/biden-jobs-infrastructure-economy.html

C. Lee Shea, “The longest telegram: A visionary blueprint for the comprehensive grand strategy against China we need”, War on the Rocks, 1 April 2021: https://warontherocks.com/2021/04/the-longest-telegram-a-visionary-blueprint-for-the-comprehensive-grand-strategy-against-china-we-need/

The primary focus of this week’s episode is the terrible situation in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw, the country’s military, cements its coup with increasing levels of violence. Allan’s first posting was to the country and so he leads off with a personal reflection of great sorrow. Turning to analysis, what was the cause of the conflict and to what extent did the country’s civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, play a role? Is the military sufficiently powerful that it will inevitably be a major player in Myanmar’s political future, analogous to the Taliban in Afghanistan or the Assad regime in Syria? Does Myanmar need a Nehru-like figure?

Turning to the international dimension, what are the policy challenges facing Washington, Beijing and New Delhi? Is this an opportunity for China to display regional security leadership, and what is the place of sovereignty in this discussion? Is this an existential crisis for ASEAN? Darren is intrigued by elite debates on the issue within Singapore, which leads to a wider discussion of ASEAN’s balancing act between maintaining unity and upholding the principle of non-interference, versus newer interests in shaping the emerging regional order. Turning to Australia—what are our interests and can we somehow play a positive force? Allan raises a curious question regarding whether the Australian government’s policy is to recognise only states, or whether it can recognise specific governments, as it did with Venezuela in 2019.

The discussion then moves to Papua New Guinea and its devastating Covid-19 outbreak. Darren describes some of the factors that distinguish this particular humanitarian crisis, and asks Allan what the balance is for Australia between moral imperative and strategic interest. Darren wonders whether pandemic disinformation on social media might be a spark to begin a discussion of broader social responsibility for companies like Facebook.

Finally, Peter Dutton is the new Defence Minister. Darren asks Allan to reflect on the unique challenges of the portfolio, and why so many of Dutton’s predecessors seem to have had limited success.  

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for research and audio editing, and thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

List of insurgent groups in Myanmar, Wikipedia (Accessed 14 April 2021): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_insurgent_groups_in_Myanmar

Bilahari Kausikan, “ASEAN's alibi diplomacy must be allowed to take effect in Myanmar”, Nikkei Asia, 3 April 2021: https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/ASEAN-s-alibi-diplomacy-must-be-allowed-to-take-effect-in-Myanmar

Tweet from James Crabtree (@jamescrabtree) on Tommy Koh’s facebook post, 7 April 2021: https://twitter.com/jamescrabtree/status/1379671051144097798

Gareth Evans, “The Responsibility to Protect the People of Myanmar”, Australian Outlook, 8 April 2021: https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/the-responsibility-to-protect-the-people-of-myanmar/

Donald Rothwell, “The barely-noticed momentous change to Australian foreign policy”, Lowy Interpreter, 14 February 2019: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/barely-noticed-momentous-change-australian-foreign-policy

Health Minister Hon. Jelta Wong on the Covid crisis in Papua New Guinea | Aus-PNG Network Event, Lowy Institute, 1 April 2021: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/news-and-media/multimedia/video/health-minister-hon-jelta-wong-covid-crisis-papua-new-guinea-aus-png

Tweet by Andrew Davies (@defence_wonk) on Peter Duton to Defenec, 24 March 2021: https://twitter.com/defence_wonk/status/1374688464386453507 

Peter Dutton, “Joint training Exercise in the Indian Ocean”, Media release, 5 April 2021: https://www.minister.defence.gov.au/minister/peter-dutton/media-releases/joint-training-exercise-indian-ocean

The Bureau (TV Series), SBS On Demand: https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/program/the-bureau

Darren Lim, “Geoeconomics and National Security”, ANU Course: https://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/2021/course/nspo8032

“Happy birthday to Albert Hirschman” (twitter thread by @oliverwkim), 7 April 2021: https://twitter.com/oliverwkim/status/1379898030220959746

Whereas the previous episode looked at the early weeks of the Biden administration, this week Allan and Darren examine the new trajectory of US-China relations. A theatrical public session grabbed the headlines when senior officials met in Alaska, but the readouts from the closed door meetings were more positive. What should we take away from the public drama?

Within a few days of that first meeting, the atmosphere became tenser with the EU joining the US, UK and Canada in sanctioning certain Chinese officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing was furious, and retaliated with sanctions against EU and UK individuals and entities, including academic researchers and think tanks (after recording, Chinese sanctions were also announced on individuals in the US and Canada). Was this a reciprocal response, or were the Chinese escalating?

With ratification of an investment agreement between the EU and China before the European Parliament, the sanctions dispute may end up demonstrating how the “adversarial” dimensions of the China’s relationship with the West can spill over and undermine a “collaborative” enterprise, to use Secretary Blinken’s formulation. And given China’s disdain and vitriol towards any criticism of its human rights record, what can the West hope to achieve in this domain?

While Australia did not impose its own sanctions, it supported the effort in a joint statement with New Zealand. Allan and Darren mull over Australia’s own dilemma regarding human rights and China, as well as other news on the relationship. Australia’s Ambassador in Beijing, Graham Fletcher, made some very pointed comments to an Australian business audience, describing the trade disruptions as “vindictive”. Meanwhile, Canberra received support from an unexpected source, the Secretary General of NATO, former Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg, who said China “had behaved very badly against Australia”.

As the podcast draws to a close, Allan and Darren consider the outcomes from the Quad leaders’ meeting, which for Darren are a useful indication of the type of international cooperation that could become the norm in the future. Finally, with former Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann winning his campaign to be elected the next Secretary General of the OECD, Allan discusses the behind-the-scenes effort that would have gone into the campaign, and the significance of his success for Australia.

We thank AIIA intern Dominique Yap for research and audio editing today, and thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

“How it happened: Transcript of the US-China opening remarks in Alaska”, Nikkei Asia, 19 March 2021: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/US-China-tensions/How-it-happened-Transcript-of-the-US-China-opening-remarks-in-Alaska

Xinhua Commentary, “Dialogue, win-win are right choices for China-U.S. relations”, 21 March 2021: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-03/21/c_139824328.htm  

Thomas Wright, “The U.S. and China Finally Get Real With Each Other”, The Atlantic, 21 March 2021: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/03/the-us-and-china-finally-get-real-with-each-other/618345/  

Richard Maude, “Australia’s China Debate – Where to Now? Asia Society , 25 March 2021: https://asiasociety.org/australia/australias-china-debate-where-now

“EU imposes further sanctions over serious violations of human rights around the world”, Press release, 22 March 2021: https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/03/22/eu-imposes-further-sanctions-over-serious-violations-of-human-rights-around-the-world/

“Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Announces Sanctions on Relevant EU Entities and Personnel”, 22 March 2021: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/2535_665405/t1863106.shtml

Bill Bishop, “Xi in Fujian; Xinjiang cotton mess; Yuan Peng on PRC-EU relations”, Sinocism, 26 March 2021: https://sinocism.com/p/xi-in-fujian-xinjiang-cotton-mess

Stephen Dziedzic, “Australia's ambassador to China says Beijing's trade behaviour is 'vindictive'”, ABC News, 26 March 2021: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-26/australian-ambassador-to-china-says-trade-behaviour-vindictive/100030700

Latika Bourke, “‘Behaving very badly’: NATO boss has Australia’s back on China ‘bullying’”, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 March 2021: https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/behaving-very-badly-nato-boss-has-australia-s-back-on-china-bullying-20210324-p57dgp.html

“Quad leaders’ joint statement: ‘The spirit of the Quad’”, 13 March 2021: https://www.pm.gov.au/media/quad-leaders-joint-statement-spirit-quad

The Dismal Science podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-dismal-science/id1214066345

“Patrick Deneen says liberalism has failed. Is he right? | The Ezra Klein Show”, 1 October 2018: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tuG4kqKCd8

The major focus this episode is the early weeks of the Biden administration, which has raced out of the blocks with numerous foreign policy actions, and some have been controversial. Nevertheless, how does it feel to have things (roughly) back to normal again? Putting the news of the day to one side, Allan and Darren direct their attention to two speeches, one given by President Biden, and the other by Secretary of State Blinken, which chart a course for US foreign policy. What will it mean for the US to lead again? Is a “foreign policy for the American people” simply “America First with better manners”? Darren sees parallels with PM Morrison’s concept of “negative globalism”, and he does not see this as a terrible thing! And all the new administration’s emphasis on democratic renewal, what would a realistic plan in this domain look like – is one even possible?

The White House also realised an interim national security strategic guidance entitled “Renewing America’s Advantages”. At an impressive 7,000 words in length, it presents much more detail on how the Biden team sees the world. Darren wonders however at the inherent contradictions in its objectives, while Allan notices—tucked right at back of the document—a remarkable, even radical, vision for reforming the basic structure of national security policymaking in Washington. Canberra should take notice.

Next, with the inaugural Quad leaders meeting happening later that day, Allan and Darren both offer their thoughts about the grouping and what it can become into the future.

Finally, the Pacific Islands Forum is on life-support following the announcement that its five Micronesian members intended to withdraw following a dispute over the election of a new Secretary General. Why does this matter for Australia and what is to be done?

We welcome our new AIIA intern Dominique Yap and thank her for research and audio editing today. Thanks also to Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World, US State Department Headquarters, 4 February 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/

Anthony Blinken, “A Foreign Policy for the American People”, Speech, Washington DC, 3 March 2021: https://www.state.gov/a-foreign-policy-for-the-american-people/

Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, “Renewing America’s Advantages”, March 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/NSC-1v2.pdf

Sinica podcast, “Getting Chinese politics wrong, with Jude Blanchette”, 4 March 2021: https://supchina.com/podcast/getting-chinese-politics-wrong-with-jude-blanchette/

Tweet thread from Darren explaining the formation of his Clubhouse group, The IDC: The Interdepartmental Committee: https://twitter.com/limdarrenj/status/1367578015815901185?s=20

Natasha Kassam of the Lowy Institute joins the podcast this week, to join Darren in facing interrogation from Allan arising from their co-authored essay, published this week in Australian Foreign Affairs (Issue 11) entitled “Future Shock: How to Prepare for a China-led World”. The questions the essay tries to answer are: what would China’s leadership of the international order look like, what does this mean for Australia, and what (if anything) can Australia do to protect its interests?

What follows is a genuinely substantive and complex discussion about the nature of China’s intentions for the global order and the consequences of its actions. Does China—or more accurately the Chinese Community Party—really need the liberal dimensions of the order “suppressed or eliminated”, as Natasha and Darren argue? If so, which parts? The issue of transparency is central to their argument, and the domains of public health and human rights are key examples. Nevertheless, is China’s challenge to the order that different from that of any other rising power, or Donald Trump for that matter? And which actions represent genuine challenges, versus a more traditional assertion of interests, such as Joe Biden’s recent claim that America’s democratic values are “the grounding wire of… our global power”? And finally, what can Australia do?

The China debate in Australia has become increasingly fraught and acrimonious in recent years and, as always, this episode represents an effort to hash out complex and truly difficult issues by providing all three participants the time and space to contextualise (and caveat) their views.

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with audio editing today and, as he departs, more generally for outstanding work during his time with us, as well as Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Australian Foreign Affairs, Issue 11, “The march of autocracy” (2021): https://www.australianforeignaffairs.com/essay/2021/02/the-march-of-autocracy

Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim “How China is remaking the world in its vision”, The Conversation, 22 February 2021 (extract of AFA essay): https://theconversation.com/how-china-is-remaking-the-world-in-its-vision-155377

Kai Kupferschmidt, “ ‘Politics was always in the room.’ WHO mission chief reflects on China trip seeking COVID-19’s origin” Science, 14 February 2021: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/politics-was-always-room-who-mission-chief-reflects-china-trip-seeking-covid-19-s

Mara Hvistendahl, “How Oracle sells repression in China”, The Intercept, 18 February 2021: https://theintercept.com/2021/02/18/oracle-china-police-surveillance/

Marise Payne, “Australia and the world in the time of Covid-19” Speech at the National Security College, ANU, 16 June 2020: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/speech/australia-and-world-time-covid-19

António Guterres, “Secretary-General Guterres calls for a global reset, ‘to recover better, guided by human rights’”, Speech to the Human Rights Council, 22 February 2021: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26769

Jon Emont, “How China Persuaded One Muslim Nation to Keep Silent on Xinjiang Camps”, Wall Street Journal, 11 December 2019: https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-china-persuaded-one-muslim-nation-to-keep-silent-on-xinjiang-camps-11576090976

Joe Biden, “Remarks on America’s place in the world” US State Department HQ, 4 February 2021: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/

This week's episode begins with the advice New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor attempted to offer Australia on how to manage bilateral relations with China. Was it helpful, and regardless does Australia have something to learn from the way New Zealand conducts its diplomacy and foreign policy? And what explains the starkly different trajectories of the bilateral relationships Canberra and Wellington have with Beijing?

The military has taken power in Myanmar—again—and Allan offers a sorrowful perspective on the state of the country to which he was first posted as a young diplomat. Meanwhile, Darren wonders what the Biden administration will do, and wonders whether there is merit in the US looking to support some key Southeast Asian governments in their response, rather than necessarily attempting to lead at a time when their own democratic credentials are diminished. Is "ASEAN solidarity" still in the interests of all of its member states? 

Regular podcast listeners will know how much stock Allan and Darren place on speeches, and this week they focus on the speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum. How is reading and analysing a speech from a Chinese leader different to that of an Australian PM or US president? What were the notable takeaways from this speech, and who was its primary audience?

Finally, Australia has a brand new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Malaysia. Perhaps an example of “fresh thinking” in Australian foreign policy?

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Weizhen Tan, “Nationalism ‘is not the way forward’: New Zealand minister calls for more trade relationships” CNBC, 27 January 2021: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/27/new-zealand-trade-minister-on-trade-deal-with-china-china-australia-tensions.html

“New Zealand’s Foreign Minister speaks on how New Zealand tackled the pandemic”, ABC 7:30 report, 28 January 2021: https://www.abc.net.au/7.30/pause-in-travel-bubble-with-new-zealand-extended/13100700

Marise Payne, “Statement on Myanmar”, 1 February 2021: https://www.foreignminister.gov.au/minister/marise-payne/media-release/statement-myanmar

Economist Intelligence Unit, “Democracy Index 2020: In sickness and in health?”: https://www.eiu.com/n/campaigns/democracy-index-2020/

Xi Jinping, “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity's Way Forward”, Speech to the World Economic Forum, 26 January 2021: https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-25/Full-text-Xi-Jinping-s-speech-at-the-virtual-Davos-Agenda-event-Xln4hwjO2Q/index.html

Cobus van Staden, “What did Xi Jinping Really Say at Davos?”, China Africa Project, 26 January 2021: https://mailchi.mp/0f0b40daa599/what-did-xi-jinping-really-say-at-davos?e=832ad9dc70

“Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and Malaysia”, 27 January 2021: https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/malaysia/joint-statement-comprehensive-strategic-partnership-between-australia-and-malaysia

John Blaxland, “Behind the Australia-Thailand strategic partnership”, East Asia Forum, 27 January 2021: https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/01/27/behind-the-australia-thailand-strategic-partnership/

Sinica podcast, “A new U.S. strategy in East Asia, from the Quincy Institute”, 21 January 2021: https://supchina.com/podcast/a-new-u-s-strategy-in-east-asia-from-the-quincy-institute/

Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind, “National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus”, American Affairs Volume III, Number 2 (Summer 2019): https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/05/national-developmentalism-from-forgotten-tradition-to-new-consensus/

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