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Australia charts a flawed foreign policy course

12 8 3

CANBERRA – Australia’s 2017 white paper on foreign policy sketches the global geopolitical transition with remarkable precision and elegance. The document is exceptionally strong on principles, rules and norms as the foundation of world order. The word “rules” is used 70 times, “norms” 22 times, “principles” 15 times and “international law” 26 times.

The paper documents how a connected world is becoming more competitive and contested, reshaping the world order and putting global rules and institutions under strain. These present opportunities alongside threats. The most consequential challenge for Australia is the growing power, wealth and influence of China enabling it to contest U.S. primacy.

Australia’s response is to restate the fundamental importance of the U.S. alliance as the core of strategic and defense planning, and encourage a strong U.S. security and economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. Canberra will look to stronger bilateral engagement with China but also to enhanced engagement with the regional democracies of Japan, India, Indonesia and South Korea.

However, the paper suffers from three conceptual flaws that have direct relevance to Japan’s foreign policy. It ignores the emerging split between the geopolitical balance of power and the normative center of gravity; fails to connect changing geopolitical equations to the evolving normative structure; and artificially conflates the Pacific and Indian ocean regions. It betrays a transactional approach to foreign policy, not a commitment to a norm-based security order.

International politics used to be a struggle for power. Now it is a struggle for the ascendancy of competing normative architectures for world order conducted on two axes. The first axis consists of........

© The Japan Times