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9 September 2020

Virtual diplomacy

The fifty-third foreign ministers’ summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) starts today via video conference, highlighting an emerging diplomatic reality: regional leaders’ summits are unlikely to be conducted face-to-face this year. 

During the pandemic, virtual meetings have provided Scott Morrison and foreign minister …

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2 September 2020

The China freeze deepens

China’s deputy ambassador to Australia, Wang Xining, delivered an ambiguous speech about Australia–China relations to the National Press Club last week. While Wang made positive comments about the relationship, describing it as “longstanding and weight-carrying”, he also expressed Beijing’s dissatisfaction with Canberra’s proposed inquiry …

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26 August 2020

Vaccine diplomacy

In the past week, senior Chinese and Japanese diplomats have brushed aside travel constraints in an effort to woo key allies, often with so-called “vaccine diplomacy”, or offers of aid to deal with the pandemic and its aftermath.

Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi has visited several countries across the Asia-Pacific, and defence …

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19 August 2020

Allies in conflict

The leaders of Japan and South Korea both marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Pacific War at the weekend. Their speeches underlined the intractable nature of the stand-off between the two Western allies. These are Australia’s second-and fourth-largest trading partners, and the impasse between them is again threatening to unsettle …

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12 August 2020

TikTok or not?

While addressing a US security conference last week, Scott Morrison announced that Australia would not join the Trump administration in banning TikTok. He said an intelligence agency review had concluded the popular Chinese-owned video-sharing platform was not misusing Australian citizens’ data.

Morrison’s decision stands in contrast to …

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5 August 2020

Trump’s China Card

Every year for the past fifteen years, the Pew Research Center has surveyed Americans about their views on China. Attitudes fluctuated, but no strong trends were discernible until the election of Donald Trump. In 2016, prior to his election, 47 per cent of Americans held an unfavourable view of China and 44 per cent a favourable one. In the most …

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29 July 2020

Uncle Sam needs us

Australia’s official advice to all would-be travellers abroad is blunt: “Do not go overseas.” But Australian foreign minister Marise Payne and defence minister Linda Reynolds decided not to heed their own government’s warning, which is posted on the Smartraveller website. Instead, the pair travelled to Washington this week for the annual …

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22 July 2020

Morrison kneecaps DFAT

On 1 July, Scott Morrison unveiled a new defence strategy for Australia. The government’s A$270 billion plan and its intention to develop a more offensive military force have proved contentious, but there was little to disagree with in its justification for the strategy: increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific region are heightening the risk of …

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15 July 2020

Spy vs Spy

On 23 August 2018, the Turnbull government released a media statement that revealed Canberra would not allow Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei to participate in Australia’s 5G mobile network. It mentioned …

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8 July 2020

Morrison’s defence fantasy

Military strategy is the art of deciding how to use armed force to achieve strategic objectives. It is not one of Australia’s strengths. The federal government spends tens of billions annually on submarines, major warships and fighter aircraft that are only useful in major wars, and it pays little attention to how it would use them in a conflict.

That’s …

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