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Episode 67: The Myanmar Coup & Australia-NZ-China Diplomacy

06 Feb 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
Aung San Suu Kyi. Source: sadi richards

Also discussed in this episode: Xi Jinping’s World Economic Forum speech and the Australia-Malaysia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

This week’s episode begins with the advice New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor attempted to offer Australia on how to manage bilateral relations with China. Was it helpful, and regardless does Australia have something to learn from the way New Zealand conducts its diplomacy and foreign policy? And what explains the starkly different trajectories of the bilateral relationships Canberra and Wellington have with Beijing?

The military has taken power in Myanmar—again—and Allan offers a sorrowful perspective on the state of the country to which he was first posted as a young diplomat. Meanwhile, Darren wonders what the Biden administration will do, and wonders whether there is merit in the US looking to support some key Southeast Asian governments in their response, rather than necessarily attempting to lead at a time when their own democratic credentials are diminished. Is “ASEAN solidarity” still in the interests of all of its member states?

Regular podcast listeners will know how much stock Allan and Darren place on speeches, and this week they focus on the speech given by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum. How is reading and analysing a speech from a Chinese leader different to that of an Australian PM or US president? What were the notable takeaways from this speech, and who was its primary audience?

Finally, Australia has a brand new Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Malaysia. Perhaps an example of “fresh thinking” in Australian foreign policy?

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

Relevant Links

Weizhen Tan, “Nationalism ‘is not the way forward’: New Zealand minister calls for more trade relationships” CNBC, 27 January 2021:

“New Zealand’s Foreign Minister speaks on how New Zealand tackled the pandemic”, ABC 7:30 report, 28 January 2021:

Marise Payne, “Statement on Myanmar”, 1 February 2021:

Economist Intelligence Unit, “Democracy Index 2020: In sickness and in health?”:

Xi Jinping, “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light up Humanity’s Way Forward”, Speech to the World Economic Forum, 26 January 2021:

Cobus van Staden, “What did Xi Jinping Really Say at Davos?”, China Africa Project, 26 January 2021:

“Joint Statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and Malaysia”, 27 January 2021:

John Blaxland, “Behind the Australia-Thailand strategic partnership”, East Asia Forum, 27 January 2021:

Sinica podcast, “A new U.S. strategy in East Asia, from the Quincy Institute”, 21 January 2021:

Robert Atkinson and Michael Lind, “National Developmentalism: From Forgotten Tradition to New Consensus”, American Affairs Volume III, Number 2 (Summer 2019):