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16 December

With Jonathan Pearlman

Australian Foreign Affairs Annual Index – 2020 Edition

COVID-19 cases in Australia on 23 March 2020 (lockdown day): 1709
Total cases in Australia as of 14 December 2020: 28,048
Cases in the United States on 23 March 2020: 35,206
Total cases in the United States as of 14 December 2020: 16,518,420

Number of entities on Australia’s foreign influence register: 153
Proportion of entities from China: 24 per cent
Proportion of entities from United States: 20 per cent
Number of former Australian public servants on the register: 19

Persons charged under Australia’s new foreign interference laws: 1

Australian exports to China (2018–19): A$153.2 billion
Value of exports currently subject to Chinese sanctions: A$19.4 billion  

Proportion of Australians who viewed China positively in 2017: 68 per cent
Proportion who view China positively today: 15 per cent

Aid budget in 2010: A$3.8 billion
Aid budget in 2020: A$4 billion
Aid to the Pacific in 2010: A$1 billion
Aid to the Pacific in 2020: A$1.4 billion

Number of Australian diplomatic posts worldwide: 118
In the Indo-Pacific: 52  
Number of Chinese diplomatic posts worldwide: 276 
In the Indo-Pacific: 72

Vote for independence in New Caledonia referendum in 2018: 43 per cent
Vote for independence in 2020: 47 per cent
Date of next referendum: 2022

Median age in China in 2010: 35
Median age in China in 2020: 38.4
Median age in the United States in 2010: 37.2
Median age in the United States in 2020: 38.1
Median age in India in 2010: 25.1
Median age in India in 2020: 28.4

Researcher: Lachlan McIntosh
Click here to view sources


All the best for 2021

Dear reader,

This is our last AFA Weekly for the year. We’ll return on Wednesday, 3 February 2020, just in time to examine Joe Biden’s first days as US president.

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, especially during a year that has been so challenging.

We began 2020 by examining Beijing’s worrying response to a new virus emerging from Wuhan. Last week, in our final regular column of the year, we were still exploring the consequences of the virus as we looked at Asia’s successful handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other issues that dominated 2020 included the US election, Hong Kong’s national security law, Canberra’s evolving ties with the Pacific and growing tensions in the Australia–China relationship.

I’m delighted that Greg Earl joined the AFA Weekly team this year. He has drawn on his experience and contacts across the Asia-Pacific region to provide crucial insights each week into how the world is changing, and how Australia should respond. He will continue to do so next year, as Australia faces new challenges and opportunities presented by the incoming Biden administration, the vaccination rollout, the Glasgow climate talks and the impasse with Beijing.

We look forward to keeping an eye on 2021. Please keep the feedback coming – 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


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Do politicians really make “excellent envoys”?

“From a career diplomat’s perspective, it’s particularly depressing seeing politicians take the plum jobs after a term lording over efficiency dividends, and seeing the department plummet towards becoming a glorified travel agency.” Jeffrey Robertson,THE INTERPRETER (LOWY INSTITUTE)

Can China afford its global ambitions?

“With an official government deficit running at about 5 per cent of GDP (and expanding) even before the coronavirus hit, [China] is likely to be a lot less generous with international handouts from now on.” Salvatore Babones, AUSTRALIAN OUTLOOK (AIIA)

What Biden’s win means for China

“Beijing realises that Joe Biden in the White House does not necessarily mean a change in the American strategy towards China.” Eerishika Pankaj, THE GEOPOLITICS


Australia, China and other aid donors must realise there’s a better way to help the Pacific

“The Pacific is on track for a collision between its fundamental development needs and the rapidly evolving state of its geopolitical relationships. In just the past few years alone, China has overtaken the United States to become the third-largest donor in the region.” Hilda Heine & Thom Woodroofe, SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST

Britain tilts towards the Indo-Pacific

“If the Indo-Pacific is to be kept ‘free and open’, semi-external powers like the United Kingdom will need to be involved.” James Rogers, THE STRATEGIST (ASPI)

Free from Australian Foreign Affairs

The Road, book review by Sophie Chao

“From January to July 2020, more than sixty-five West Papuans were detained, put on trial and jailed for up to seventeen years. Their crimes? Protesting against racism and raising a flag. West Papuans’ attempts to salvage their dignity as humans and their self-determination as a people has led to indictments of ‘treason’, ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘incitement’.” Sophie Chao, HERE




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Episode 2 of The AFA Podcast is out now.

Spying in the age of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing new challenges facing the world of intelligence. Which countries were equipped to quickly track data from Wuhan and beyond? How is spycraft adapting to the digital era? And how are agencies preparing for a return to great power competition?

Join Jonathan Pearlman and guests Danielle Cave and Andrew Davies from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Background reading:

Danielle Cave, “Data Driven” in AFA9 HERE

Andrew Davies, “Mission Impossible” in AFA9 HERE

Listening to The AFA Podcast is easy. Episodes are published on our website, or you can subscribe in your favourite podcast app.


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