Although a substantive movement has developed aiming to contain China – AUKUS being only the most recent example, adding to the reconstituted Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, as well as a newly-launched Indo-Pacific strategy by the European Union – these efforts are each standalone. Their primary focus is the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. In this regard, these efforts suffer two major limitations: they are fragmented and lack a substantive economic dimension.
A long-awaited report released last week in the United States by the Biden administration recommends a new legal pathway for humanitarian protection for people facing serious threats to their life because of climate change. The US has a compelling national interest to strengthen protection for people displaced by the impacts of climate change, it notes. The White House report also recognises that migration is not only “an important form of adaptation to the impacts of climate change”, but sometimes “an essential response”. It acknowledges that permanent, and not just temporary, pathways are needed.
The Australian government’s decision to finance Telstra’s takeover of the Pacific’s biggest telecommunications provider, Digicel, via a $1.33 billion loan from Export Finance Australia, is the clearest indication yet that competing with China is changing government-firm relations in Australia in profound and potentially lasting ways.
Australia has long been one of the world’s staunchest exponents of the doctrine of “free market” liberalism, manifesting in governmental support for trade liberalisation and market competition. Whereas other countries have paid lip-service to these ideas but continued to support national firms at home and abroad in various tacit ways, the Australian government has generally let Australian firms operate internationally with very little government guidance and support.
Local observers of international affairs may have missed the Non-Aligned Movement’s 60th anniversary commemorative summit earlier this month. A Cold War relic, NAM, as it is typically known, held a two-day special meeting in Belgrade, Serbia. The guest list boasted Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, along with delegations from more than 100 countries and several regional institutions.
An article this week in The Interpreter argued that, in the wake of AUKUS, Europeans should embrace the decline of NATO, “break free” of reliance on the US and, instead, seek their own “strategic autonomy”. While Emilian Kavalski and Nicholas Smith’s piece is unusually frank about the consequences of pursuing such autonomy, the path they advocate is not only unlikely to be taken but is also distinctly undesirable.
Diplomacy is messy. Officials, politicians and (dare I say) think-tank analysts relish the highfalutin talk of rules, treaties, norms, values and principles. But, more often than not, it all comes down to realpolitik and the art of possible.
A case in point is the unprecedented decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to uninvite Min Aung Hlaing, the general who leads Myanmar’s junta, from its upcoming annual summits.
China has singled out several Australian industries with economic sanctions since May last year, imposing hefty tariffs on Australian barley and wine exports, while throwing up barriers to other products including timber, lobster and coal. Beijing’s action has largely been seen as a response to Canberra’s calls for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19.
With the exception of India, the common thread linking the United States’ Indo-Pacific and broader China strategy so far has been the rallying of long-standing US allies.
Early summits with President Moon Jae-in and former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga are starting to bear results. South Korea is slowly starting to step up its regional engagement. Japan is getting increasingly serious about defending Taiwan.
The legal fallout from Islamic State’s short but bloody existence is both complex and enduring. For those Westerners who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the jihadist project, which ended with the fall of Baghouz in southeastern Syria in March 2019, justice has taken different forms. Many were killed by Syrian or Iraqi government forces, in air strikes carried out by their own country or that of an ally, or by armed groups supported by the West. Those men and women that survived the five years of conflict have been variously detained, tried in foreign jurisdictions, had their citizenship stripped and been left to languish in identity limbo, or been deported and tried at home.