The Foreign Minister seems blithely confident about America's willingness to lead in Asia

Source: AFR/Chris Zappone

Bishop's doctrine of denial is no foreign policy future

22 March 2017

Julie Bishop is anxious about Asia. She worries about intensifying economic competition as too many workers in rising economies chase too few consumers elsewhere.

And she worries about intensifying strategic competition as the region’s emerging great powers seek to expand their spheres of influence and protect their growing interests.

But fortunately she thinks she has the answers to these problems, as she tried to explain in a major address to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Singapore on Monday night.

Her text is not a model of the speechwriter’s craft, but it does offer a glimpse of our Foreign Minister’s view of the world and Australia’s place in it as she prepares the government’s new foreign policy white paper.

Perhaps we might call it the Bishop doctrine – her solution to managing all this rising economic and strategic competition in Asia.

As she set it out this week it has three elements: the rules-based international order, American power and democracy. It seems these are the foundations on which she believes Australia’s foreign policy is to be built.

Few of us would doubt that these things are good in themselves: who wouldn’t want a region full of democratic countries living peacefully together under rules upheld by US power? The question is whether there is any reason to believe that this model of Asia’s future will work.

Let’s start with the idea of a rules-based order. This has loomed large in Canberra’s foreign policy pronouncements since its debut in last year’s Defence White Paper. But what exactly does it mean? Which rules are we talking about?

To read the full article by Hugh White, visit the Australian Financial Review

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