US-Japan alliance: experts point to America’s strategic reliance on Japan in Asia

Richard Armitage and Joseph Nye, long time pillars of the Washington national security policy elite, are the lead authors of a new report from CSIS on the US-Japan alliance, with a suggested “new agenda for the challenges and opportunities on the horizon”. It is deeply refreshing to see them acknowledge, albeit somewhat wistfully, that there is no going back to US hegemony. To exercise influence the US will have to partner with other states.

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Strategic capitalism, strategic autonomy and Australia

The Biden administration will be unable to avoid continuing America’s fierce competition with China. It also will find that, like-minded and democratic or not, most states will have distinct national interests and will seek to act autonomously, dancing between the feet of the battling giants, trying to extract or leverage the best price for their allegiance and alignment in the Chinese-US competition. With a deep past investment in the US hegemony, Australia is awkwardly placed as this new age of strategic capitalism unfolds.

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No power in the Lowy Asia Power Index 2020

The Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index 2020 is a substantial undertaking that purports to map “out the existing distribution of power as it stands today, and tracks shifts in the balance of power over time” by ranking “26 countries and territories in terms of their capacity to shape their external environment”. However, a misunderstanding of the concept of power, and some underlying subjectivity and biases, undermines its usefulness.

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US State Department approves a further $2.37 billion in potential arms sales to Taiwan

The US State Department is reported to have approved the potential sale of 100 Boeing-made Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems to Taiwan, at a cost of up to US $2.37 billion. The move comes days after the State Department approved the potential sale of three other weapons systems to Taiwan, as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China in the runup to the November presidential election.

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China and Germany heading for superpower status as U.S. influence wanes, says Putin

In comments made on 23 October 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin is reported to have suggested that the role of the United States had waned, along with that of Britain and France, while Beijing and Berlin – in terms of political and economic weight – were heading for superpower status. He reportedly said that Washington could no longer lay claim to exceptionalism and questioned why it would want to.

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On Korean War 70th anniversary, President Xi affirms that China is ready to defend its sovereignty

Speaking on the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, China’s President Xi Jinping is reported to have said that victory in the 1950-53 conflict was a reminder that his nation would “never sit back and watch any damage to our national sovereignty… and we will never allow any force to invade or divide the sacred territory of the motherland.”

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Divided we stand: Democrats and Republicans diverge on US foreign policy (Chicago Council)

Based on the results of its 2020 Survey of American Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy, this Report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs provides insight into the potential differences in US foreign policy settings depending on the outcome of the presidential election. The Report finds that there are profound differences between Democrats and Republicans on which foreign policy issues matter most today. And that they are even more sharply divided on how the United States should deal with these issues and engage the rest of the world.

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Point of no return: the 2020 election and the crisis of American foreign policy (Thomas Wright)

A victory for the incumbent will represent crossing a “tipping point”, beyond which “alliances may come to an end, the global economy could close, and democracy could go into rapid retreat”, Thomas Wright writes in a comprehensive analysis of the likely future foreign policy direction under either a Joe Biden or Donald Trump presidency. This is an important and informative analysis by a well-credentialled and intelligent observer of the contending camps struggling over foreign policy in the US.

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The US role in the world: a new normal

President Trump has pursued a different vision of the US’s role in the world – one which has had an undeniable impact on relations with allies and competitors alike, and has reshaped perceptions of the US as a global actor. A robust debate over its future global role has ensued. US allies like Australia should be paying close attention, because whether or not Trump wins re-election, the US will not be able to resume some quasi-mythical past role, and the world will need to adjust to a new normal.

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Global order in the shadow of coronavirus: China, Russia and the West (Lowy)

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on the state of global governance. Faced with the greatest emergency since the Second World War, nations have regressed into narrow self-interest. The concept of a rules-based international order has been stripped of meaning, while liberalism faces its greatest crisis in decades. In this Lowy Institute publication, the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI)’s Bobo Lo argues that it’s time to rethink global governance and its priorities.

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Is China heading towards revolutionary revisionism? (Michael Clarke)

Xi Jinping’s Leninist calculus has contributed to China exhibiting both reformist and positionalist forms of revisionism simultaneously, both of which contain pathways toward revolutionary revisionism. The combination of reformist and positionalist forms of revisionism has significant implications for thinking about the future trajectory of Sino-US competition.

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Sino-US competition: the importance of disaggregating China’s revisionism (Michael Clarke)

Revisionism as a strategy in international politics, and China’s revisionism in particular, however is not the “all-or-nothing” proposition portrayed by US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. A more accurate understanding of the factors that have driven Beijing’s transition between different types of revisionist behaviour suggests that rhetoric such as Pompeo’s will merely reinforce China’s move toward more problematic revisionist behaviours.

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An alliance of democracies: with the US or for the US? (Sven Biscop)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for an “a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies”. By bringing together its European and Asian allies under American leadership, the US hopes to bring them into line with its own China strategy. But an “alliance of democracies” would not really be an alliance with the US – it would be an alliance for the US, to further the American interest, to which the interests of its allies would inevitably end up being subordinated.

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Putin

Forward to the past? New-old theatres of Russia’s International Projection (ISPI)

Under President Putin Russian foreign policy is more energetic than at anytime since the end of the Soviet Union. In Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, Russia’s influence has grown. While the US has declared Russia a strategic adversary, its behaviour and policies are of even deeper direct relevance to Europe. Understanding Russia’s motivations is of growing importance.

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Strategic rivalry between United States and China: causes, trajectories, and implications (SWP)

An insightful paper that seeks a strategy for Europe ‘to escape the bipolar logic that demands it choose between the American and Chinese economic/technological spheres’. The recommendations for Europe should resonate equally in Australia – a country already caught up in the global competition for influence, and likely to be subject to ‘increased pressure from Washington on its allies to take a clear position on the sharpening US-China conflict and clearly side with the United States’.

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