Biden’s top foreign policy challenge: avoiding a cold war with China

The Biden administration faces a host of difficult problems, but in foreign policy its thorniest will be its relations with the People’s Republic of China. How the new administration handles issues of trade, security, and human rights will either allow both countries to hammer out a working relationship or pull the U.S. into an expensive — and unwinnable — cold war. But there are a number of moves both countries could make to avoid this.

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China-Australia relations: it’s not as simple as ABC

There are many commentators with strong and legitimate concerns about China. The relationship between Australia and China is a very important one and it warrants being debated openly and vigorously. But when those with privileged access to the public square confuse name calling and assertion with rational argument, it is important to point this out. The recent ABC article As Australia’s relationship with China deteriorates beyond repair, we need to find new trade partners is a case in point.

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Economic diplomacy in the era of great powers (Linda Yueh)

The inability of the major powers to set new global rules has had a detrimental impact on an international system under significant strain. Linda Yueh argues for a new approach to economic diplomacy that considers not just economic considerations, but also broader foreign policy aims, greater transparency, and a pluralistic approach to global rules to strengthen the multilateral system.

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Southeast Asian diplomacy: consistency is not always a virtue (AIIA)

As a contiguous big country, China is always going to enjoy significant influence in Southeast Asia. But for precisely the same reasons, China is also always going to evoke anxieties. Countries on China’s periphery will therefore not allow themselves to be hemmed into an exclusive relationship no matter how dependent they are on China. Having lived in the midst of great power competition for centuries, the strategic instinct of Southeast Asia is not to align with any major power across all domains.

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The Trump Administration’s China policy experiment (Brookings)

The Trump administration’s China policies are explored clearly and succinctly in this working paper by the Brookings Institution’s Ryan Hass. While Hass describes the approach to China over the past four years as a Trump Administration (failed) experiment, he leaves no doubt that the nature and trajectory of US-China relations has now been reset, irrespective of who is the next president.

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The UN at 75: a real declaration of intent, or multilateral virtue signalling?

An atmosphere of unreality is building in advance of the virtual meeting of world leaders on 21 September 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN). Nothing demonstrates this more than the proposed draft declaration. Rather than reaffirming the UN’s centrality, the draft declaration’s faux earnestness jars amid the current international reality. Additionally, it ignores the biggest challenge to multilateralism.

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Out of shape: Australia’s lack of strategic influence

It seems clear from recent surveys that the Australian government is overestimating its influence in ‘the immediate region’ and underestimating the capacity of the ASEAN states, in particular, to recognise their own strategic interests. The strategic objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update rest on the assumptions that Australia will be able to ‘shape’ strategic perceptions in the region, and that this can best be done while acting in close association with the US. Are the foundations of Australia’s strategic logic sound?

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Why is ‘values’ the new buzzword in Australian foreign policy? (Benjamin Reilly)

In international affairs, words are bullets, according to an old diplomatic saying. If so, Australia in recent years has begun firing new ammunition. ‘Values’, a word seldom used in the past, has now assumed a central place in our foreign policy rhetoric. Speeches, press conferences and policy statements vibrate with the V-word. If values are now the coin of our foreign policy realm, we will have to start walking the talk.

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Demystifying Australia’s South China Sea stance (Sam Bateman)

Despite Australia and the United States having no direct interest in continental shelf claims in the South China Sea, both have recently joined the debate. Both appear to have sought maximum publicity for their submissions – which have been reported as providing the basis for confronting and false media headlines, such as ‘Australia says China’s claims to disputed islands are ‘invalid’ and are not consistent with UN convention on law of the sea’. In fact there is nothing new in the Australian or US statements despite suggestions that they reflect new aggressive stances against China, and it is not clear why Australia and the United States made statements at this particular point in time other than to add another dimension to the intensifying rivalry with China.

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Australia-China July monthly wrap up | On being ‘very different countries’ – AUSMIN and China’s rise (Australia-China Relations Institute)

ACRI’s Elena Collinson and James Laurenceson present a useful summary and analysis of major developments in July 2020. The authors’ observations about Australia-China and Australia-US trade issues are a welcome contribution to an area often long on rhetoric and short on analysis. Professor James Curran sees reason for optimism in an assessment of the state of the Australia-China relationship in light of the comments of Australian ministers Payne and Reynolds at the AUSMIN 2020 talks in Washington. But has Australia done enough to distance itself from the US’s confrontational stance with China? Or will Australia-China high-level channels of communication “continue to stagnate”?

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The weaponisation of the US financial system (Jacque Delors Centre)

Author: Edward Knudsen | Jacque Delors Centre | 4 June 2020 In order to fulfil its ambition to become a credible geopolitical player and to defend its interests and values abroad, it is critical for the EU to be able to withstand extraterritorial sanctions Edward Knudsen argues that European economic autonomy depends on displacing the US from the central role in international finance and recommends a strategy for strengthening the euro as an international currency.

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