Australia’s diplomatic course between China and the United States
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One feature of the Australian government’s 2017 foreign policy white paper was the balance struck between tough talk on China’s challenge to US hegemony in Asia and the message that regional military modernisation posed no threat to Australia. Despite the dysfunction roiling Australian politics since then, that judgement still holds.
Both the government and the opposition are showing signs of finding a strategic path through this era of sturm und drang.
They know that keeping faith with the American alliance requires scepticism towards aspects of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, and that the United States is being tested in Asia as never before. They know too that, despite Trump’s warmth towards Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the recent G20 summit (where he channelled Vietnam-era rhetoric by saying that ‘we will be with Australia and you all the way’), America’s words do not convey the gravitas of old. Accordingly, political leaders in Canberra have rediscovered the tradition of asserting, where necessary, greater self-reliance within the alliance.