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18 December

With Jonathan Pearlman

Australian Foreign Affairs Annual Index – 2019 Edition

Days Scott Morrison spent in the United States in 2019: 8
Days he spent in Indonesia: 2 
Days he spent in Vanuatu: 2
Days he spent in China: 0
Days he spent in India: 0

Number of people in Australia who speak Mandarin at home: 596,711
Number of fluent Mandarin speakers in Australia who are not of Chinese ancestry: 130

Cost of Australia’s twelve new submarines when announced in 2016: A$50 billion 
Estimated cost as of November 2019: A$80 billion
Total cost of six Collins-class submarines: A$5.1 billion 
Proposed cost when the program was announced in 1987: A$2.8 billion 

Number of times “foreign interference” appears in the 2003 Foreign Policy White Paper: 0
Number of times “foreign interference” appears in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper: 9
Number of times “United Kingdom” appears in the 2003 Foreign Policy White Paper: 43
Number of times “United Kingdom” appears in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper: 10

Number of countries that recognise Taiwan rather than China: 15
Number of these that are located in the Pacific: 4
Amount that Solomon Islands politicians were allegedly offered by China to switch from recognising Taiwan: SBD$1 million  
Number of days after Solomon Islands switched to China that Kiribati switched: 4

Year in which high-speed rail was first proposed for Australia: 1981
Number of very fast trains built in China since 1981: 2800
Kilometres of high-speed rail track built in China since 1981: 29,000 kilometres 

Population of Palau: 21,265 
Planned date of Australian embassy opening in Palau: 2021
Flight time (including stopovers) from Canberra to Palau: 20–30 hours

Date of deal to hold a referendum in Bougainville: 30 August 2001
Date of referendum: 23 November 2019
Percentage of people in Bougainville who voted for independence: 98 per cent
Percentage of people in Australia who support a republic: 48 per cent

Poverty rate in Pakistan: 24 per cent
Amount by which Australian aid to Pakistan fell last year: A$20 million

Number of aircraft carriers operated by the United States: 24
Number of aircraft carriers operated by the rest of the world: 24

GDP per capita in mainland China: US$7,755 
GDP per capita in Hong Kong: US$38,785 
Number of years before China gains full control of Hong Kong: 28
Length of the current protests in Hong Kong: 192 days

Researcher: Lachlan McIntosh
Click here to view sources

All the best for 2020

Dear reader,

This is our last AFA Weekly for the year. We’ll return on Wednesday, 22 January 2020. Thank you for joining us each week. It has been a pleasure bringing you the latest developments and ideas from around Australia and the world, and presenting insights that – we hope – help to make sense of the breathless news cycle.

We began the second year of AFA Weekly discussing Scott Morrison’s visit to Vanuatu and Fiji – marking the start of his Pacific “step-up” – and went on to cover the escalating protests in Hong Kong, the changing nature of Australia’s US alliance, and China’s growing influence in the region and its increasing authoritarianism at home.

Other events and themes that shaped Australia’s world in 2019: Jokowi’s election win in Indonesia, Bougainville’s independence referendum, the US–China trade war and Morrison’s visit to Washington. This was the year in which a visiting US secretary of state, asked about Australia being caught between the US and China, said: “Look, you can sell your soul for a pile of soybeans, or you can protect your people ... We think it’s possible to achieve both.” We’ll see.

Next year, we will watch closely as Taiwan votes, the United States votes, and New Zealand votes. Morrison will visit India (but awaits an invitation to Beijing), Boris Johnson will try to get Brexit done, and the Hong Kong protests will, it seems, continue

This year we also launched Next Voices, an opportunity to discover Australia’s newest and best foreign-policy commentators. After receiving submissions from around the world, we published nine compelling, insightful essays. I encourage you to read them. Congratulations again to all the winners and finalists. Thankfully, we can report that foreign-policy writing in Australia has an exciting future.

I look forward to keeping an eye on 2020. Please keep the feedback coming – and if you enjoy AFA Weekly, please share it with others who might enjoy it too.

All the best for the festive season. Happy new year.

Jonathan Pearlman, Editor


India’s Citizenship Amendment Bill – a descent into theocracy

“The idea of a modern India … built on the notion of liberty and equality, has been upended. The new laws have given state-sanctioned legitimacy to the hard-line BJP belief that India is a Hindu civilisation and that the myriad minorities that make up the population migrated from elsewhere.” Edmond RoyThe Interpreter (Lowy Institute)

Bougainville voted yes to becoming the world’s newest nation. Now begins the gold rush

“PNG Prime Minister James Marape has offered economic control but stopped well short of committing to independence for Bougainville. Economically, the most obvious income stream for the resource-rich area is mining, but that would involve revisiting the issues that started the bloody conflict in the region.” Natalie Whiting, ABC News

The sustainability challenge of China’s BRI

“In the Maldives, Malaysia and Pakistan changes of government led to the cancellation of BRI projects. The breakdown of BRI programs in countries from Venezuela to Malaysia, coupled with China’s economic slowdown and the trade war with the United States, raises serious doubts about BRI’s long-term survivability.” Yong Deng, East Asia Forum


Beyond the trade war

“Deal or no deal in the coming days, it is clear that the United States needs a fundamentally different approach to economic competition with China – one that bolsters US technological and financial power while countering Beijing’s malign activities directly.” Ely Ratner, Elizabeth Rosenberg & Paul ScharreForeign Affairs

What China’s involvement in Myanmar says about Asia’s changing regional order

“Myanmar identifies China as an attractive development partner because Beijing tends to separate economic engagement from human rights considerations ... Western countries call for the United Nations to hold Myanmar’s military accountable for human rights violations.” Leif-Eric Easley & Sea Young KimAustralian Outlook (AIIA)

Free from Australian Foreign Affairs

Peak Japan, book review by Greg Earl

“Despite its reputation for a ‘see no evil’ consensus approach to public policy, Japan has arguably analysed its condition and outlook more exhaustively than any country in the world. Yet ‘the national trajectory remains largely unaltered’, Glosserman tells us.” Greg Earl, HERE



Let’s get this done and move forward.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister (United Kingdom)

Looking forward to the stability this brings.

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister (Australia)

Scotland cannot be imprisoned within the United Kingdom against its will.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland (United Kingdom)

Sources: Twitter, Twitter, BBC News

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