Wednesday 28 Jul 2021 | 04:34 | SYDNEY
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US-China rivalries: What matters for ASEAN

An interesting discussion about how Australia should respond to US President Joe Biden’s call for closer alignment and cooperation among democratic states has featured in a recent series of articles on The Interpreter. Between them, Susannah Patton and Ashley Townshend,  Michael Green, Ben

Ukraine: Balancing China and the rest

Ukraine is attempting to improve its relations with China after the nation’s authorities, allegedly pressured by the United States, decided to halt the takeover of a local aircraft engine manufacturer by a Chinese company. Ukraine is typically seen as country inside a Western sphere of

Staying ahead in global tech leadership

On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, President Xi Jinping reiterated the longstanding Chinese goal of strengthening science and technology to help achieve national rejuvenation. China’s advances in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition have already

Australia right to back Biden on democracy

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent speech, “A world order that favours freedom”, has some foreign policy commentators worried that Australia is signing up to more misguided US democracy evangelism. Australian suspicion of American liberal internationalism has a long history. And it’s

Donald Rumsfeld: Defiance defined by Iraq

The countless observations about the quips of Donald Rumsfeld, who has died aged 88, should not obscure his central role in the catastrophe of the 2003 Iraq invasion. “Known unknowns” became the most famous, even serving as the title for an Errol Morris documentary. But Rumsfeld’s

North Korea: The long-awaited fallout of summit diplomacy

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un delivered an important speech last week during a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea – the first substantive response from Pyongyang on the prospects for United States-North Korea relations since the Biden administration completed its North Korea policy

Believing Biden

At the conclusion of US President Joe Biden’s one-week visit across the continent and to the United Kingdom, Europeans appear to believe in the need to push back against the authoritarian China of Xi Jinping – a faith evident despite their mutual economic interests with Beijing along with a fear

Maladies, remedies and optimising security

Last week, Peter Dutton gave his first speech as Minister for Defence. In his remarks and follow up Q&A, Dutton touched on the increasing risk of war “especially through miscalculation or misunderstanding”, the challenge of China, and the relationship with the United States as being “

An alliance of democracies is essential

Susannah Patton and Ashley Townshend argued in The Interpreter last week that the Morrison government should steer the Biden administration away from a coalition of world democracies since that would narrow Australian and American influence in the Indo-Pacific. An inflexible insistence that

China overtakes America in presidential diplomacy

Joe Biden is about to fly to the United Kingdom on his first foreign visit as US President. Biden will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall from 11–13 June, head to Belgium for summits with NATO and the European Union on 14–15 June, then meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland the

Biden’s agenda is anything but “normal”

When former US president Donald Trump headed south on Air Force One four months ago some members of the Washington press corps acknowledged that while a new administration was desperately needed to manage the public health crisis, they were going to miss the rush that was the Trump years. Trump’s

Moon’s last, best chance after Biden summit

US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first in-person summit in Washington last month, signing a lengthy joint statement that underscored the linchpin alliance forged in the battlefields of the Korean War and a shared vision governed by democratic norms, human

China’s never-ending Tibet paranoia

Beijing has long been anxious about the popularity of the Dalai Lama, and Tibet remains a principal source of international vulnerability for the Peoples Republic of China. After the Dalai Lama relinquished political responsibilities in 2011, the position of Sikyong, considered president of the

Biden-Putin summit: Managing expectations

The United States and Russia are both carefully managing down expectations of any dramatic breakthroughs when US President Joe Biden meets his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva on 16 June – their first face-to-face contact since Biden took office. This is understandable and sensible.

Is Southeast Asia ready for a US-China tech decoupling?

Recent developments suggest that both China and the United States are taking steps towards unravelling or “decoupling” their technology ecosystems. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the chips allowing everything from smartphones to cars to

“Flexible” is the new North Korea policy buzzword

South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a boost in his outreach to North Korea last week after talks with US President Joe Biden. Biden announced he would be open to a summit with North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un on the proviso that Kim would be willing to give up his nuclear weapons during a

Economic diplomacy: Patent politics and trade deal twists

Biden’s jab First it was new carbon emission cuts, and then a global minimum corporate tax. But it is hard to beat the Biden administration’s move to shaft the pharmaceutical industry lobby over vaccine patents for putting the US back at the heart of global public policy. The devil will be in

Biden’s North Korea plans come into view

The Biden administration recently announced it had completed its North Korea policy review. The White House, through several public statements in recent days, dropped crumbs of details about its approach towards the Kim Jong-un regime and its advancing nuclear weapons program. Depending on the

High hopes and hot air on climate change

Amid a very bad week for news about Covid-19, there was a long-awaited ray of hope about climate. Within an hour of US President Joe Biden’s opening to the Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate, there was new optimism – but no certainty – that catastrophic global climate change might be

Roosevelt’s lessons for nations across generations

On 23 April 1910, at the Sorbonne in Paris, recently retired 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech entitled “Citizenship in a Republic”. Though delivered 111 years ago, his speech holds valuable lessons that a democratic country such as Australia should heed

Sticks and carrots in Biden’s Russia strategy

The Biden administration’s recent comprehensive package of sanctions against Russian individuals and organisations is probably the clearest indication yet of a US decision to use sticks to moderate Moscow’s adventurism. But do these measures go far enough, and what will the US need to do next if

America and China: Imagining the worst

Book Review: Elliot Ackerman and James Stavridis, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War (Penguin 2021) The book begins with a clash in the South China Sea – an imagined conflict, this being a work of fiction, but the authors explain having felt compelled to write because, in the tradition of

Light at the beginning of the tunnel?

The world has had three months now – we are approaching the “100 days” – to observe the Joe Biden presidency. Have we learnt anything? Has anything changed for the outside world? Initial impressions are favourable. Twitter seems passé. Civility seems to be the order of the day. There

Iran-US-Israel: Boxing out of the shadows

Just as the negotiations between Tehran and Washington appear to be making some, albeit slow, progress over the United State rejoining the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, several incidents between Israel and Iran have again highlighted just how actively the two

The Quad (finally) delivers: Can it be sustained?

On 19 March, the leaders of four important democracies of the Indo-Pacific region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – held (virtually) their first-ever “Quad Summit.” This meeting at the leaders’ level of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was significant on two counts. It

Covid recovery, in Australia and the world

In much of the world, Covid-19 infections continue apace, but the global economy is rapidly recovering from last year’s slump. World trade volumes and industrial production were both higher in January than they have ever been, according to data collected by the Netherlands central bank. Releasing

Washington risks an unsustainable climate policy

A couple of months after the inauguration of the new Biden administration, the 18 March Alaska summit provided the first big test of US-China relations. While most of the talks between senior officials were in private, tense exchanges during opening remarks suggest bilateral ties won’t fast

America’s border crisis: Good intentions go south

Spare a thought for US Vice President Kamala Harris, just given carriage for the public-policy problem from hell: leading the White House response to a surge in migrants seeking to cross the United States’ southern border. The rapidly escalating immigration crisis will likely prove impossible to

An interim government would bring ruin to Afghanistan

The Afghan government is fighting for survival as external and internal actors exploit its weaknesses in preparation for a US exit. The latest US initiatives to bring “a responsible end” to the Afghan war will likely have the opposite effect, pushing the Afghan government closer to a knife’s

Unresolved questions in US-India relations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent visit to New Delhi was a chance for the United States and India to discuss the nature and depth of their strategic partnership – particularly against the backdrop of tensions with an aggressive China. Austin visited New Delhi soon after leaders

North Korea and Malaysia’s predictable diplomatic divorce

Last Friday, North Korea severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia. In turn Malaysia gave the North Koreans 48 hours to leave the country. By Sunday, the North Korean embassy was empty. The Malaysians did not have to worry about their embassy in Pyongyang, as it was already informally shut down in

The US and the Rules-Based Order: Testing the plan

US President Joe Biden this month issued an Interim National Security Guidance which will, in his words, “convey my vision for how America will engage the world”. He has directed departments and agencies “to align their actions with this guidance”. This document also provides some answers

The Quad gives a boost to India’s vaccine diplomacy

The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced

Troubles ahead for the US–South Korea alliance

The new Biden administration in Washington is reviewing its North Korea policy, a process that is expected to be completed next month. Pressure from experts is mounting for the administration to restart diplomacy with North Korea with more pragmatic goals, such as a shift away from complete

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