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15 December

With Jonathan Pearlman

Australian Foreign Affairs Annual Index – 2021 Edition

Number of submarines in Chinese fleet: 79
Number in US fleet: 68
Number in Australian fleet: 6

Estimated cost in February 2019 of procuring twelve diesel submarines from France: A$50 billion
Estimated cost in September 2021 (when Australia cancelled the deal): A$90 billion
Estimated cost of procuring twelve nuclear submarines from the United States/United Kingdom: A$100+ billion

US military spending in 2021: US$778 billion
Estimated spending for 2030: US$932 billion
China’s military spending in 2021: US$252 billion (est.)
Estimated spending for 2030: US$559 billion

Date that Australian troops were first deployed to Solomon Islands under RAMSI: 24 July 2003
Date that deployment ended: 30 June 2017
Number of Australians deployed from 2003 to 2017: 8900
Date that Australia sent a new deployment: 25 November 2021
Number of Australians deployed: 100+

COVID-19 vaccination rate in Australia (for overall population): 76 per cent
Rate in Fiji: 67 per cent
Rate in Papua New Guinea: 2.5 per cent

Number of nations that recognise Taiwan: 13
Number of nations that recognised Taiwan in 2017: 21
Most recent nation to withdraw diplomatic recognition of Taiwan: Nicaragua (on 9 December 2021)

Australian aid budget in 2020–21: A$4 billion
Amount Australia is spending to assist Telstra’s purchase of Digicel Pacific: $1.9 Billion

Number of overseas trips made by Scott Morrison in 2021: 4
Number made by Joe Biden: 2
Number made by Xi Jinping: 0

Researcher: Lachlan McIntosh
Click here to view sources


All the best for 2022

Dear reader,

This is our last AFA Weekly for the year. We’ll return on 3 February 2022.

Thank you for joining us each week. It has been a pleasure bringing you the latest developments and ideas from Australia and around the world.

We began the year with the military coup in Myanmar, a reminder that democracy in Asia is increasingly under pressure. And we ended the year with Joe Biden’s democracy summit, revealing the delicate balance the United States faces as it tries to promote democratic values while competing with China for regional influence. Other topics that dominated the year included AUKUS, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Quad and Australia’s changing aid priorities.

Thank you to Greg Earl for highlighting the pressing developments around the region each week and then sharply analysing the consequences for Australia. And thank you to our production editor, Kate Hatch, our digital manager, Amy Rudder, our subscriptions coordinator, Sam Perazzo, and our intern, Lachlan McIntosh, for their invaluable contributions and for making sure AFA Weekly lands in your inbox at precisely 3 p.m. each Wednesday.

We look forward to keeping an eye on the events of 2022, including the Australian federal election. Our next issue of the AFA journal – AFA14: The Taiwan Choice: Showdown in Asia – is out in February. It will provide crucial insights into Xi Jinping’s plans for Taiwan, the prospect of a war and the ways in which the tensions over Taiwan are set to reshape Asia.

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


Weekly round-up

Why isn’t Australia putting diplomacy first?

“In absolute terms, DFAT will be smaller in 2022 than it was fifteen years earlier … There is a sense that the machinery of diplomacy is not being consulted on major foreign policy decisions or having ‘heft’ in policy debates.” Melissa Conley Tyler, The Interpreter (Lowy Institute)

In Asia, China’s long game beats America’s short game

“If Beijing focuses on ASEAN and the RCEP and Washington focuses on Australia and AUKUS, Beijing will win. Here’s why. The big game is economic, not military.” Kishore Mahbubani, Foreign Policy

South Korea’s and Australia’s shared future is about a lot more than armoured vehicles

“The relationship between Australia and South Korea has been one with latent potential for at least a couple of decades, seeming to need something that could turn that latency into real cooperation.” Michael Shoebridge, The Strategist (ASPI)


The future of democracy and rise of authoritarianism in Asia

“The road to democracy is not straightforward, and democratic backsliding remains a constant threat. Political leaders in countries like India, the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan might have already restarted the clock by putting in peril not just democracy but the stability of party politics in the near future.” Don S. Lee & Fernando Casal Bértoa, East Asia Forum

New Caledonia votes to stay with France, but it’s a hollow victory that will only ratchet up tensions

“The referendum is likely to be seen as a failure, a capture of the vote by settlers without the meaningful participation of the Indigenous Kanak people … In the Kanak strongholds of Canala and Hiènghene on the main island of Grande Terre, less than 2 per cent of the population cast a vote.” David Robie, The Conversation


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