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13 May 2020

Food security: Tuck in but stay alert

With packets and cans back on supermarket shelves, it is easy to forget that only two months ago a food shortage seemed to top the national security agenda of many Australians. But now, as they can once again satisfy their apparent fondness for meals of rice and crushed tomatoes, the real food-security conundrum is emerging.

Australia is a …

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6 May 2020

COVID-19: China’s Wolf Warriors

In 2010, Zhao Lijian, then a low-level Chinese diplomat in Washington, joined Twitter. He was later reassigned to Islamabad, where he gained local notoriety for his bellicose put-downs of Pakistani critics of Beijing. His fame went global last July, when he responded to criticism of China’s mass internment of Uighurs with tweets highlighting racial …

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29 April 2020

COVID-19: Buying into US–China tension

In the United States, the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is quickly turning into a contest over who is toughest on China. The Trump team has launched a #BeijingBiden campaign, with a dedicated website – – attacking Biden for a “ruinous” forty-year quest to boost trade with China. In response, Biden’s …

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22 April 2020

COVID-19: Canberra confronts Beijing

On Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne abandoned her usual caution and lashed out at China, suggesting that Beijing may have deliberately blocked an Australian military aircraft from delivering aid to Vanuatu.

Payne was referring to an “absolutely regrettable” incident – as she put it – that occurred on 12 April. An A320 …

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15 April 2020

United States or China? Neither, thanks

For flag-wavers on each side of the United States–China divide, the COVID-19 pandemic is providing plenty of ammunition. Washington has focused on the Chinese cover-up during the early days of the outbreak. “I wish China would have told us how bad the situation was”, Donald Trump said late last month. Beijing, meanwhile, has targeted Washington’s …

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8 April 2020

COVID-19: Australia needs to step up

A note to readers:
Thank you to all who responded to the COVID-19 crisis by taking out a subscription to Australian Foreign Affairs. We were all touched by your support at this uncertain and difficult time. Now, more than ever, we believe Australia needs to think about its place in the world and to embrace clear, fresh approaches …

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1 April 2020

COVID-19 – neighbourhood watch

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has reported 136 deaths from COVID-19 but just 1528 cases, giving it one of the world’s highest fatality rates. President Joko Widodo has been resisting a nationwide shutdown, but schools and entertainment venues have been closed in Jakarta. Indonesian health experts say the fatality rate is …

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25 March 2020

Globalisation and COVID-19

Australia, which has spent decades trying to build bridges to Asia and beyond, is an island again. As COVID-19 spreads, Australia and countries around the world have been raising borders and fencing themselves in. Europe’s free movement of people has ended. The United States has closed itself off from Canada and Mexico. 

These measures …

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18 March 2020

The geopolitics of COVID-19

These are strange and difficult times. I hope you’re healthy and well.

COVID-19 is disrupting global economics, politics and societal functioning. As past crises have done, it will also cause lasting changes to the international order. Each week, we will try to track these shifts at AFA Weekly. Some will take time to unfold and understand; …

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11 March 2020

Coronavirus – a tale of four nations

The coronavirus has now been detected on all continents except Antarctica, and is expected to spread to all countries (it has already reached more than 100). It will have a lasting impact on international affairs, much as the global financial crisis did. The 2008 financial crisis undermined confidence in democracy and capitalism, prompted the first …

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