For their first episode in 2022, Allan and Darren look back over the past 12 months, starting with the international landscape and then focusing on Australia. First up, what big lesson did 2021 teach them? Interestingly, both focus on the United States in their answers--but how much is domestic dysfunction in the US actually affecting Biden’s foreign policy? Second, did the world’s experience with COVID-19 over the past year affect any of the major trends in international affairs? While at the end of 2020 there seemed to be a clear dividing line between ‘competent’ and ‘incompetent’ government responses, that distinction appears far less clear a year later. Third, what other notable trends emerged or crystallised across the year? For Allan, signs of a reversal of the long period called “the great convergence” are quite concerning, while for Darren the big picture structural trends are mostly unchanged. 

The same questions are asked about Australia. Allan (cheekily?) describes 2021 as Australia’s response to a ‘fear of abandonment’, while Darren is interested in how the change in US administration affected foreign policy rhetoric from the Morrison government. Looking forward to 2022, both Allan and Darren offer both expectations and hopes for the coming year, internationally and for Australia. Both expect that 2022 will be a calmer and more stable year--how quickly might they be proven wrong?

On that cheerful note, a happy new year to all!

Relevant links

COVID-19: Make it the Last Pandemic by The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response, May 2021:

Anne Applebaum, “The kleptocrats next door”, The Atlantic, 8 December 2021:

Colin Kahl and Thomas Wright, Aftershocks: Pandemic Politics and the End of the Old International Order (St Martin’s Press, 2021):

Anthea Roberts and Nicolas Lamp, Six Faces of Globalization: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Why It Matters (Harvard University Press, 2021):

In their final episode for 2021, Allan and Darren kick things off by discussing President Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”. Having debated the merits of democracy as a foreign policy organising principle in Episode 77, they now ask: was the actual summit a net positive, despite controversies prior to and during proceedings? It seems clear Beijing was displeased, but Allan and Darren partially disagree on whether a “competition of systems” is the right frame to understand these dynamics. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken rolled out the Biden administration’s much-anticipated Indo-Pacific Strategy – but was there much there?

Next up, PM Scott Morrison hosted South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, the first visit of a foreign leader to Australia since borders closed. Was this a significant visit, and was it more about geopolitics, or economics? How much scope is there for cooperation between Australia and South Korea?

Third, Australia does appear to be participating in a political boycott of the Beijing Olympics, but PM Morrison’s announcement of this decision was rather unorthodox. What’s going on, and can such boycotts be effective? Darren is interested in how the case of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is elevating public visibility of human rights issues, creating extra pressure on Beijing, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as the February games approach.

Finally, both the Olympic boycott and, prior to that, the momentous AUKUS decision were not announced to the public with speeches or formal statements. Is this a growing trend in the public articulation of Australian foreign policy? Does it matter?

Best wishes for the holiday season to all, we’ll be back in 2022!

Relevant links

US Department of State, “Summit for Democracy”:

“Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy is not all that democratic”, The Economist, 6 December 2021:

Humeyra Pamuk and Michael Martina, David Brunnstrom, “The curious case of a map and a disappearing Taiwan minister at U.S. democracy summit”, Reuters, 13 December 2021:

Scott Morrison, “Virtual address: Summit for democracy”, 11 December 2021:

Jessica Brandt, tweet regarding Hamilton 2.0 dashboard data on Chinese mentions of democracy summit, 13 December 2021:

Mareike Ohlberg and Bonnie Glaser, “Why China Is Freaking Out Over Biden’s Democracy Summit”, Foreign Policy, 10 December 2021:

National Security Podcast, “How the Chinese Communist Party sees China’s place in the world”, 9 December 2021:

Xi Jinping, “What's the fundamental reason for China's growing strength? in Governance of China:

Lowy Institute Poll, “Democracy”:

Secretary Blinken’s Remarks on a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, Fact Sheet, US Department of State, 13 December 2021:

PM Morrison and President Moon, Joint Press Conference transcript, 13 December 2021:

Stephen Dziedzic, “Is South Korean President Moon Jae-in's visit more about geopolitics or commerce?”, ABC News, 14 December 2021:

Scott Morrison, Press Conference, Penshurst NSW, 8 December 2021:

Li Yuan, “Its Human Rights Record in Question, China Turns to an Old Friend”, New York Times, 14 December 2021:

“Beijing Winter Olympics boycott is insignificant, says Macron”, BBC News, 9 December 2021:

Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use it, Penguin:

Olivia Rodrigo, Good 4 U:

Sufjan Stevens, Once in Royal David’s City:

This week Allan and Darren open their discussion with the Biden-Xi virtual meeting. It went for a long time, the atmosphere seemed cordial – is this enough for (some) optimism about the trajectory of US-China relations? Allan thinks so, while Darren cannot resist the temptation to offer an IR theory perspective and explain that the game theoretic concept of “deadlock” might best capture the bulk of US-China relations at present.

Next, Allan and Darren analyse two recent speeches from Australian political leaders. To begin, in an interview Defence Minister Peter Dutton described as “inconceivable” that Australia would not support the US in an action to defend Taiwan, doubling down on this position in a speech to the National Press Club. In between, Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong critiqued the Dutton position in a speech at the ANU. What is the logic of Dutton’s explicit language? Does it affect strategic dynamics? While the government is often outspoken about China, ministers also regularly pass up the chance to say more – how is the choice to speak out calculated? Meanwhile, Darren sees a national security politics "minefield" in efforts to critique governments as being too hawkish, but both he and Allan judge that Wong's speech was able to do it effectively, while introducing several other interesting ideas as well.

The next topic is the COP26 meeting in Glasgow. Allan’s assessment of the outcome is mixed, while Darren focuses on how difficult multilateral negotiations must be, especially because negotiators enter with high ambitions that may never be achieved because of the need for compromise. He thus understands why the conference president Alok Sharma shed tears of disappointment, but understands that a willingness to be disappointed, but nevertheless keep going, is essential.

Finally, Australia is deploying police and troops to Solomon Islands given unfolding unrest. Allan provides the historical context to this decision (the RAMSI mission) while Darren wonders whether the China angle is meaningful.

Relevant links

The White House, Readout of President Biden’s Virtual Meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China, 16 November 2021:

Vincent Ni, “Biden-Xi summit highlights tensions – and desire for cooperation” The Guardian, 16 Nov 2021:

Lily Kuo, “China lauds Biden-Xi summit as start of more equal relationship, despite lack of real progress”, Washington Post, 16 November 2021:

Troy Bramston, “Taiwan defence a must: Dutton”, The Australian, 13 November 2021:

Penny Wong, “Expanding Australia’s Power and Influence: Speech to the National Security College”, Australian National University, Canberra, 23 November 2021:

Peter Dutton, National Press Club Address, Canberra, ACT, 26 November 2021:

Mark Thirlwell, “An initial assessment of COP26’, Australian Institute of Company Directors, 17 November 2021:

“COP26: Alok Sharma fights back tears as Glasgow Climate Pact agreed”, BBC Video, 13 November 2021:

Alexander Downer, “Solomon Islands intervention is always about the China factor”, Australian Financial Review, 28 November 2021:

Ed Cavanough, “Behind the scenes in the Solomons, local leader has leveraged China issue to his advantage”, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 2021:

Tess Newton Cain, “As Australia deploys troops and police, what now for Solomon Islands?”, The Conversation, 26 November 2021:

The Velvet Underground (Trailer):

“Introducing ‘Plain English with Derek Thompson’” (podcast):

Allan and Darren cannot resist focusing on the escalated and seemingly personal spat between Australian PM Scott Morrison and French President Emmanuel Macron over Australia’s cancellation of the French submarine contract, then followed by the launch of AUKUS. During Morrison's recent international trip, Macron called him a liar, to which the Australian side responded by leaking details of private text messages the French president had sent the PM just days prior to the announcement. In Morrison’s words: “claims were made, claims were refuted”.

Who is in the right/wrong here? Stepping back, what is the role of honesty and integrity, or truth and trust, in international diplomacy? How much does it matter?

Along the way, Darren finds the temptation to develop a potted academic theory of a “Morrison doctrine” too strong to pass up. Let the debate begin!

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

Relevant links

Cameron Stewart, “How Biden threw PM under the bus”, The Australian, 2 November 2021:

Samantha Maiden, “Who is really lying in Scott Morrison, Emmanuel Macron’s French submarine feud”, Daily Telegraph, 2 November 2021:  

Phillip Coorey, “‘I don’t like losing’: Macron ‘knew’ the subs contract was in peril”, Australian Financial Review, 1 November 2021:   

Stephen Dziedzic and Georgia Hitch “French ambassador says leaking of text messages between Scott Morrison and Emmanuel Macron 'unprecedented new low'”, ABC News, 3 November 2021:  

Jake Evans, “Scott Morrison refuses to apologise to President Emmanuel Macron after claims PM lied about submarine deal”, ABC News, 3 November 2021:

Diplomacy by Harold Nicolson (Goodreads page):

Marise Payne “Inaugural Australia-France 2+2 Ministerial Consultations”, 30 August 2021:

Daniel Hurst, “Scrapping submarines deal broke trust, Macron tells Australian PM”, The Guardian, 28 October 2021:

Andrew Tillett, “Defence admits it is looking at back-up plan for French subs deal”, Australian Financial Review, 2 June 2021:

Paul Kelly, “Morrison had to hurt France to get AUKUS subs deal”, The Australian, 3 November 2021:

Andrew Probyn, “Scott Morrison rejects French President's criticism over handling of scrapped submarine project”, ABC News, 1 November 2021:

Ben Herscovitch, “Beijing to Canberra and Back” (newsletter):

Adam Tooze, “Chartbook” (newsletter):

Heather Cox Richardson, “Letters from an American” (newsletter):

Bill Bishop, “Sinocism” (newsletter):

Andrew Daily “The Weekly Dish” (newsletter):

American Purpose (newsletter):

Rohit, “Why do we dislike rules so much”, Strange Loop Cannon (newsletter), 7 September 2021:

In the second half of their conversation arising out of the US National Intelligence Council publication “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, Allan and Darren, along with guests Heather Smith and Katherine Mansted, turn to remaining sections.

Section 2 of the report concerns “emerging dynamics”, and asks how the structural forces outlined in the first section (and discussed in Part 1)—demographics, economics, technology and the environment—interact with other factors at three levels of analysis. Katherine speaks to the level of individuals and society, Heather to the level of the state, and Allan to the level of the international system.

The major theme of this section is greater debate and contestation, and the consequences for the cohesiveness of societies and the resilience of states. The report’s authors see growing pessimism around the world regarding the future, and greater distrust of leaders and institutions. They foresee a growing imbalance between public demands and governments’ ability to deliver on those demands.

Section 3 concludes the report by looking at possible scenarios for the world in 2040. The report’s authors stress these are not intended to be predictions, but to present a broad spectrum of possibilities that explore how various combinations of structural forces and emerging dynamics, along with other uncertainties, could play out. Each discussant offers their take on which of the five scenarios described is most resonant: (i) Renaissance of Democracies; (ii) A World Adrift; (iii) Competitive Coexistence; (iv) Separate Silos; and (v) Tragedy and Mobilisation.

As Katherine astutely observes in her concluding thoughts, it is right and proper to maintain a clear distinction between intelligence and policy. Nevertheless, a publication such as this will leave many wanting more—more actionable and more persuasive policy insights. Navigating a way through the dark clouds on the horizon is not however the role of the intelligence community... but someone will have to do it.

Heather Smith is a Professor at the ANU’s National Security College, following a distinguished career in the Australian public service including serving as Deputy Director-General of ONA, Deputy Secretary of DFAT, and Secretary of the Departments of Communications and of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Katherine Mansted is a Senior Fellow in the Practice of National Security at the ANU’s National Security College, and also the Director of Cyber Intelligence at CyberCX.

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

Relevant links

“Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, a publication of the National Intelligence Council, March 2021:

In a double episode recorded on Thursday 14 October, Allan and Darren welcome the ANU National Security College's Heather Smith and Katherine Mansted to talk about the future. The basis of their discussion is the publication “Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, which was released by the US National Intelligence Council in March. This is the 7th edition of Global Trends, which has been published every four years since 1997. As explained in the document’s Foreword:

Global Trends is designed to provide an analytic framework for policymakers early in each  administration as they craft national security strategy and navigate an uncertain future. The goal is not to offer a specific prediction of the world in 2040; instead, our intent is to help policymakers and citizens see what may lie beyond the horizon and prepare for an array of possible futures”.

Part 1 begins with Allan and Heather describing the context for Global Trends and why it is a worthwhile exercise, while Katherine and Darren offer initial thoughts from the perspective of those outside of government on what the publication represents and how they would go about doing a equivalent futures exercise themselves.

The report has three sections--“Structural Forces”, “Emerging Dynamics” and “Future Scenarios”--which are used to organise the rest of the conversation. The remainder of Part 1 covers four “Structural Forces”: demographics and human development, environment, economics and technology. These were identified by the authors on the basis that they will be foundational in shaping future dynamics and are relatively universal in scope, while also having sufficient data available now to make projections with some confidence. Heather tackles demographics and economics, Katherine addresses technology and Darren offers some thoughts on the environment.

In Part 2 to come, the conversation will turn to the second and third sections of the report: “emerging dynamics” and “future scenarios”.

Heather Smith is a Professor at the ANU’s National Security College, following a distinguished career in the Australian public service including serving as Deputy Director-General of ONA, Deputy Secretary of DFAT, and Secretary of the Departments of Communications and of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Katherine Mansted is a Senior Fellow in the Practice of National Security at the ANU’s National Security College, and also the Director of Cyber Intelligence at CyberCX.

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

Relevant links

“Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World”, a publication of the National Intelligence Council, March 2021:

This week Allan and Darren begin by resuming their discussion of AUKUS. With the decision now a few weeks old, have their minds changed? How are they seeing the debate evolving? What have been some of the more interesting contributions? For Darren, interventions by former Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating are particularly notable, and Allan has plenty to say on both.

Second, the two turn to the first in-person leaders meeting of the Quad. What is its significance? What should one make of the (over 2000 word) communique? Are things headed in a positive direction? Third, an area where both agree US leadership has been lacking is in trade, which makes China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) all the more interesting. Is this a serious application? How should Canberra approach it, given the ongoing campaign of economic coercion? Meanwhile, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai gave a speech on US-China relations this week—does that offer clues as to the Biden administration’s plans for China, or economic leadership generally in the region? Finally, with Beijing upping its aerial incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), both Allan and Darren offer some preliminary comments on what will certainly remain an issue in the months and years ahead.

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

Relevant links

Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic ; Twitter) on FM Payne’s response to criticism on AUKUS, 1 October 2021:

Deep State Radio (Podcast), “Biden’s multi-tiered China policy is a far cry from Trump’s”, 4 October 2021:

Zachary Basu and Jonathan Swan, “Inside Biden's full-court press with France”, Axios, 6 October 2021:

Malcolm Turnbull, Address to the National Press Club, 29 September 2021:

Paul Keating, “A relic of a bygone age? I might be, but I’m not a defeatist”, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2021:

Peter Khalil, “Why my hero Keating is wrong on China and our national security”, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 2021:

Paul Keating, “China’s responsibilities”, Speech to the 21st Century Council, Beijing, 3 November 2013:

Quad Leaders' Summit Communique, 24 September 2021:

Fact Sheet: Quad Leaders’ Summit, The White House, 24 September 2021:

“Australia to oppose China’s bid to join trade pact until it halts strikes against exports”, The Guardian, 18 September 2021:

“A Conversation with Ambassador Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative”, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 4 October 2021:

“9/11 Inside the President’s War Room” (TV Show):

Amia Srinivasan, “Does anyone have the right to sex?”, London Review of Books, 22 March 2018:

Lidija Haas, “A Woman and a Philosopher: An Interview with Amia Srinivasan”, The Paris Review, 22 September 2021:

Conversations with Tyler (podcast), “Amia Srinivasan on utopian feminism”, 22 September 2021:  

The announcement of a new trilateral security partnership, AUKUS (Australia, UK and US), is a major event in the history of Australian foreign policy. Australia is planning to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, scrapping a contract with the French to build conventional subs in the process. AUKUS also plans to engage in new forms of security cooperation in other technology domains. This decision is both momentous and controversial.

In this episode, Allan and Darren debate the merits of AUKUS, with Darren attempting to lay out a (theoretical) case in favour, while Allan offers his critique. The conversation is the strongest disagreement they’ve had in the history of the podcast, which makes for a lively debate! Hopefully the first of many in the months ahead as further details emerge and implementation begins.

The logic and consequences of AUKUS speak to the biggest questions of Australian foreign policy, and this discussion helps reveal clear points of disagreement in how Allan and Darren assess Australia’s strategic landscape.

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

Relevant links

Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS, 16 September 2021:

Allan Gyngell, “Australia signs up to the Anglosphere”, Australian Financial Review, 17 September 2021:

Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim, “Successful deterrence: Why AUKUS is good news for Taiwan”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September 2021:

William Gale and Darrell West, “Is the US headed for another Civil War?”, Brookings Institution, 16 September 2021:

Hugh White, How to defend Australia (La Trobe University Press, 2019):

Oriana Skylar Mastro, “The Taiwan Temptation: Why Beijing Might Resort to Force”, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2021:

Rory Medcalf, “Australia crosses a strategic Rubicon”, Australian Financial Review, 16 September 2021:

Editorial Board, “What to make of China’s drive towards ‘common prosperity’”, East Asia Forum, 20 September 2021:

Kevin Rudd, “Xi Jinping’s pivot to the state”, Address to the Asia Society, New York, 8 September 2021:

Sinica Podcast, “What’s the deal with the Red New Deal?”, 16 September 2021:

The Ezra Klein Show, Interview with Annie Murphy Paul, New York Times, 20 July 2021:

The Ezra Klein Show, Interview with L.M. Sacasas, New York Times, 3 August 2021:

Allan and Darren begin this episode reviewing the frenzied two-week evacuation from Afghanistan. A logistical success or further evidence of a terrible failure? Do the events of the evacuation, which included an ISIS-K suicide bombing and a drone strike that killed civilians, in addition to the over 100,000 evacuated, change their assessment of the merits of withdrawal? What are Australia’s obligations into the future? What will China’s role be?

The Australia-US alliance celebrates its 70th anniversary this week. Having recently updated his book on the history Australian foreign policy, Fear of Abandonment, how is Allan thinking about the role the alliance should be playing in Australian foreign policy today? Darren tries to inject some needed (in his view) international relations theory into public debates on the merits of the alliance. Moreover, Darren (along with co-authors Zack Cooper and Ashley Feng) has published a new report for the United States Studies Centre on the topic of geoeconomics and the alliance, and he explains its motivation and previews the argument. Allan wonders whether we need to hear more from the economics discipline in geoeconomic policy discussions, given that the stakes extend well beyond Australia’s current focus—China’s economic coercion. Darren notes that recent speeches from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Defence Minister Peter Dutton highlight how economics and security are more deeply intertwined than ever.

Given a spate of recent bilateral meetings and a big international trip now underway for the Foreign and Defence Ministers, Allan and Darren discuss Australia’s diplomatic objectives for the rest of the year. Finally, on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they each reflect on their personal memories of the event and what its enduring significance is for Australia in the world.

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

Relevant links

Ezra Klein, “Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem”, New York Times, 26 August 2021:

“Joint Statement on Afghanistan Evacuation Travel Assurances”, 30 August 2021:

Marise Payne, “Transcript Statement to the Senate: Afghanistan”, 23 August 2021:

Simon Jackman, “At 70, most see US alliance as foundation of our security”, United States Studies Centre, 30 August 2021:

UPCOMING EVENT, “Fear of Abandonment: Australia in the World - an update”, Australian Institute of International Affairs, 23 September 2021:

Darren Lim, Zack Cooper and Ashley Feng, “Trust and diversify: A geoeconomic strategy for the Australia-US alliance”, United States Studies Centre, 2 September 2021:

Josh Frydenberg, “Building Resilience and the Return of Strategic Competition”, Keynote Address to the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, 6 September 2021:

Peter Dutton, “Address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia”, 8 September 2021:

Marise Payne and Peter Dutton, “Joint visit to Indonesia, India, the Republic of Korea, and the United States”, Joint Media Release, 8 September 2021:

Benjamin Herscovitch, “Australia’s growing anti-coercion coalition”, Beijing to Canberra and Bank (Newsletter), 30 August 2021:

Rebecca Ananian-Welsh and Keiran Hardy, “Before 9/11, Australia had no counter-terrorism laws, now we have 92 — but are we safer?”, The Conversation, 8 September 2021:

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers, Penguin Australia:

This second half of the discussion begins with Australia-Indonesia relations. How does Indonesia see Australia? How much do the views expressed by President Widodo in a speech to the Australian Parliament reflect broader opinions among Indonesia’s elite? Darren chimes in with a ‘cheeky’ question about the Australian public’s attitudes towards Indonesia—would it be preferable for the bilateral relationship to be as high profile in the media and public consciousness as that with China or the United States?  And how can Australia increase its engagement with Indonesia? Is a “step up”—our approach in the South Pacific—the correct frame?

The conversation turns outward. Allan asks Gary what he has concluded about ASEAN’s capability “to carry the weight the rest of the world is putting on it”. And specifically, has the regional organisation’s performance during the recent and ongoing Myanmar crisis surprised him? Allan then highlights a recent monograph published by the AIIA and authored by Michael Bliss, and for which Gary wrote the Afterword, about Australia’s most recent term of the UN Security Council and our legacy. What is Gary’s advice to the Australian government about how we can best contribute to the continuation of an effective multilateral system?

Finally, Darren ends by asking Gary to reflect upon his entire career by asking whether there are any distinctively Australian characteristics that cause success or failure in Australian foreign policy.

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

Relevant links

Joko Widodo, “Address by the President of the Republic of Indonesia”, Parliament of Australia, 10 February 2020:

Michael Bliss (Afterword by Gary Quinlan), An Enduring Contribution? Australia's Term on the United Nations Security Council (2013-2014), Australian Institute of International Affairs, Diplomatic History Series | 2, Canberra, 2021:

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