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Episode 68: Natasha Kassam on Preparing for a China-Led World

26 Feb 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
A row of Chinese flags on a fence. Source: Chris

Natasha Kassam joins the podcast this week to discuss the nature of China’s intentions for the global order and the consequences of its actions.

Natasha, of the Lowy Institute, and Darren face interrogation from Allan arising from their co-authored essay, published this week in Australian Foreign Affairs (Issue 11) entitled “Future Shock: How to Prepare for a China-led World”. The questions the essay tries to answer are: what would China’s leadership of the international order look like, what does this mean for Australia, and what (if anything) can Australia do to protect its interests?

What follows is a genuinely substantive and complex discussion about the nature of China’s intentions for the global order and the consequences of its actions. Does China—or more accurately the Chinese Community Party—really need the liberal dimensions of the order “suppressed or eliminated,” as Natasha and Darren argue? If so, which parts? The issue of transparency is central to their argument, and the domains of public health and human rights are key examples. Nevertheless, is China’s challenge to the order that different from that of any other rising power, or Donald Trump for that matter? And which actions represent genuine challenges, versus a more traditional assertion of interests, such as Joe Biden’s recent claim that America’s democratic values are “the grounding wire of… our global power”? And finally, what can Australia do?

The China debate in Australia has become increasingly fraught and acrimonious in recent years and, as always, this episode represents an effort to hash out complex and truly difficult issues by providing all three participants the time and space to contextualise (and caveat) their views.

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with audio editing today and, as he departs, more generally for outstanding work during his time with us, as well as Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

Australian Foreign Affairs, Issue 11, “The march of autocracy” (2021):

Natasha Kassam and Darren Lim “How China is remaking the world in its vision”, The Conversation, 22 February 2021 (extract of AFA essay):

Kai Kupferschmidt, “ ‘Politics was always in the room.’ WHO mission chief reflects on China trip seeking COVID-19’s origin” Science, 14 February 2021:

Mara Hvistendahl, “How Oracle sells repression in China”, The Intercept, 18 February 2021:

Marise Payne, “Australia and the world in the time of Covid-19” Speech at the National Security College, ANU, 16 June 2020:

António Guterres, “Secretary-General Guterres calls for a global reset, ‘to recover better, guided by human rights’”, Speech to the Human Rights Council, 22 February 2021:

Jon Emont, “How China Persuaded One Muslim Nation to Keep Silent on Xinjiang Camps”, Wall Street Journal, 11 December 2019:

Joe Biden, “Remarks on America’s place in the world” US State Department HQ, 4 February 2021: