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Episode 61: Short- and Long-Term Questions for Australian Foreign Policy

29 Dec 2020
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
Close-up shot of a sunset over Hong Kong, including the city, mountains and bay area. Source: Yinan Chan

Also discussed in this episode of the Australia in the World podcast: Australia-China bilateral relations, the “Chinese Government” vs. “the CCP” distinction, the aftermath of the US election, and the impact of the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

This is a podcast published earlier this year and selected by our committee of commissioning editors as one of the best of 2020.

Feeling particularly reflective as the US electoral process inches toward a conclusion, Allan and Darren chat about what they see as the short- and long-term challenges facing Australian foreign policy. In the short term, the bilateral relationship with China looms largest. Allan makes that case that the Prime Minister (or Foreign Minister) should make a speech clearly outlining Australia’s position, while Darren wonders whether the PM has already said what he wants to say. And what specific diplomatic moves available to the government? Darren offers some thoughts on whether the ongoing trade disruptions are simply coercion, or whether other geoeconomic or industry policy motives may be a factor. The two also debate the distinction between “the Chinese government” and “the CCP”, and compare it to distinguishing the Trump administration from the United States as a whole.

The other major short-term issue discussed is cooperation with Australia’s regional partners, Southeast Asia in particular. The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) may offer an opportunity for Australia to develop deeper ties, though Darren raises whether shared security interests are a necessary condition for really substantive cooperation. He also speculates on whether Australia’s experience with economic coercion and protecting against foreign interference could be a useful source of advice, while Allan counters that Asian nations have been grappling with these questions for decades, even centuries! Allan also previews PM Morrison’s trip to Japan this week.

Looking to the longer term, Allan and Darren describe a range of possible futures, the kinds of investment strategies Australia could pursue now to prepare for future challenges, and potential risks to a long-term strategy.

We thank AIIA intern Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant Links

PM Lee Hsien Loong gave the keynote address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue Opening Dinner on 31 May 2019 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore:

Lee Hsien Loong, “The Endangered Asian Century: America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation”, Foreign Affairs, July/August 2020:

Stephen Dziedzic, “Scott Morrison unveils Government plans to reassert Australia’s influence in South-East Asia”, ABC News, 14 November 2020:

Joe Biden, “Why American must lead again: Rescuing U.S. Foreign Policy After Trump”, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020:

Government of Victoria, “Victorian Pledge For Institute Of Infectious Disease”, 13 November 2020:

Tim Alberta, “Elissa Slotkin Braces for a Democratic Civil War”, 13 November 2020:

David French, Divided we fall: America’s secession threat and how to restore our nation”, Pan Macmillan Australia:

Ezra Klein podcast interview with Evan Osnos, “Joe Biden, explained”, 7 November 2020:

Little Red Podcast, “Xi Dada and Daddy: Power, the Party and the President”, 2 November 2020:!podcast

“P.E. with Joe”, Monday 23 March 2020: