Spying Chinese microchips give the West an electric shock

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The Times, Red Box, 9 October, 2018

Last week’s Bloomberg story that the Chinese military has been interfering in computer supply chains was like a bolt of lightning — and we are bound to hear the thunder rumble for some time yet. Around the world national security services will be scrambling to see if their own systems have been similarly compromised.

The fact that the infected parts made their way to CIA drones — presumably a highly-controlled procurement environment — means that the vulnerabilities were extremely well-hidden. Since they also allegedly went to online shopping firm, Amazon, China’s tiny chips are a giant Trojan horse wheeled directly into the international community’s trading gates and let loose. It is yet another example of how Beijing and Moscow are approaching the new Cold War against the west.

The question for governments like Britain that depend on Chinese-manufactured goods – is have they also been penetrated? Certainly, the prime minister’s concerns over letting China gain access to our nuclear sector in 2016 now seem justified. But what of our dependence on Chinese supply chains? All of our iPhones are made in China, and while the company’s press release sought to reassure us that none of their systems were compromised, it’s too soon to know for sure. All we know is that this is the beginning of a long investigation of Chinese-manufactured electronics. After all, If they could pull one over on the CIA . . .The story is not exactly new for the UK. In 2013, a report from the parliamentary intelligence and security committee warned that Chinese electronic giant Huawei’s provision of digital hardware to BT presented clear risks to British security. The report noted that while a compromise had been found while checking Huawei components at a centre in Oxfordshire, the amount of code involved would make it impossible to verify every bit of software. Now it seems the company might be in the running to help build Britain’s 5G network, despite having been blocked from providing digital infrastructure in the US, Australia, and India.

For those who don’t know, 5G entails a faster, tighter bundling of data that will massively improve the capabilities of the mobile internet, and in turn the use of artificial intelligence in transport, health, education, not to mention the development of “smart” cities. One reason that Huawei has been so instrumental in developing the technology is their championing of a Turkish code developer.Since 2008, when Dr Erdal Arikan invented polar codes, a number of countries have raced to develop the infrastructure indigenously. Not all are confident about the state’s role in rolling out this new technology: In the US, for example, the Trump administration rejected proposals for a “national effort” to develop 5G.

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In many ways, this has been an “I told you so, moment” for many security and tech experts. Chinese-owned technology has long been viewed with scepticism amid concerns over its close links with the state. George Osborne’s “golden era” of Chinese investment into the British economy — and the inclusion of its companies in sensitive parts of the UK infrastructure — is truly at an end. As Bloomberg reports, the US counterintelligence operation has found the Chinese government directly culpable, with individuals and two factories in China identified.

The impact is likely to be serious. It will destroy already-crumbling domestic support inside the US for halting the trade war — and will strike a fatal blow for Chinese electronics firms trying to enter the US market. Most of all, it will be a serious stain on the reputation of Chinese manufacturing firms and a major justification for the Trump administration’s insistence that manufacturing in critical industries needs to be brought home.

The next step in this saga is for the US intelligence community to share its findings with its closest intelligence allies. This primarily means Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK; but also NATO allies in Europe and treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Washington should also share the technical data with non-ally security partners like India, Singapore, and Vietnam.

The most difficult part will be setting up mechanisms to screen electronic parts coming into the UK – after all, what isn’t made in China these days? What is now up for discussion — no matter how improbable — is the exclusion of certain Chinese firms from the UK and a search for other partners to develop the next generation of digital infrastructure. To do otherwise and to bury one’s head in the sand would jeopardise our national security, our personal data, and, ultimately, our intelligence partnerships.

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What China could expect from a Global Britain

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The National Interest, with Rob Clark, 17 August, 2018

As India celebrates seventy-two years of Independence from the British Empire this week, a grand historical milestone for the ancient nation, it is notable to see the Royal Navy sailing in India’s waters once more—however this time it comes as an ally to India to sail together in an increasingly troubled world.

Pulled from its forty-two-year involvement in the European project, the United Kingdom has begun a major re-think of its global posture. What does Global Britain mean? Where might it best orient itself in relation to a growing Indo-Pacific region, where trade, rising powers, and naval grand strategies reveal a region that is increasingly a central part of the global economy and political center?

Stretching from the Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Strait, the Indian Ocean is vital to international trade and commerce, with 50 percent of the world’s maritime oil trade passing through every day. It is a global market that the United Kingdom cannot afford to ignore. The global significance of this region has seen many vested naval powers transit this ocean to maintain their own interests.

But rather than coming as an imperial trading power—as it once did—the Royal Navy is coming to the region under a liberal democratic trading nation. The United Kingdom seeks to uphold an open and inclusive rules-based order, an order where all have rights—not simply great powers. And this commitment is more than just rhetoric.

Over the past year, London has committed to three separate missions across the Indo-Pacific region. HMS Albion, Sutherland and Argyll have all made their way through the Indo-Pacific region this year to carry out sanctions enforcement against North Korea and to conduct freedom of navigation operations to counter the growing Chinese naval activity. These missions have revealed the role the Royal Navy will play in a Global Britain strategy.

The sudden and rapid rise of Mahanian strategies among Asia’s powers has seen sea lane security re-emerge as a major geopolitical issue after three generations of U.S. naval preponderance. The most active driver of change in the Indian Ocean has been the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Far from its traditional sphere of influence of the first island and second island chains, the Chinese navy has rapidly established itself as a naval power in the Indian Ocean, and beyond into theMediterranean Sea . Beijing has done this by developing blue-water capabilities and a port strategy that secures its Beijing’s trade routes and energy supply line from the Middle East.

The emergence of China’s blue-water navy and greater power projection has complimented China’s long-term grand strategy of becoming the Asian hegemon, an ambition not lost on India’s ruling elite. Beijing has sought to ensure that “all roads lead to China,” with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Maritime Silk Road projects. Furthermore, China has encroached upon the territory and neighborhood of the region’s fastest-growing power—India—developing economic dependencies with nearly all of New Delhi’s neighbors.

As powers that are dependent on Indian Ocean trade routes, liberal democracies like Britain and India (and others) will have to learn to manage relations with Beijing. This will include balancing some of China’s more predatory behaviors such as the debt diplomacy.

The Royal Navy and Indian Navy will also have to learn to operate in close proximity to the PLAN, which has rapidly up-scaled its presence in the Indian Ocean, with recent estimates indicating a presence of at least fourteen PLA Navy ships throughout August 2017, including SSN class nuclear-powered submarines, with that number rising throughout 2018. There have already been positive examples of recent UK-Sino naval cooperation, including the arrival of two PLA Navy frigates in London last year for a ‘goodwill’ visit. It is precisely from these exchanges that the Royal Navy—respected for its long traditions—can impart best practices and norms to the still-young PLAN. Possible areas of planned cooperation might take place in the anti-piracy missions and with humanitarian responses to natural disasters.

As the Indo-Pacific once again takes center stage in global politics, we will see China and India each attempting to stamp their influence on the international order. This does not have to be confrontational, of course. As part of a wider Anglo-American security alliance which helped construct the current global order, the UK has a vested stake in seeing that these changes abide by the current norms underpinning the rules-based international system. This includes respect for national sovereignty, freedom of navigation, and free trade.

As Global Britain approaches the Indian Ocean, it will work closely with all navies, including the Indian Navy and the PLAN. No doubt, it will work more closely with some more than others. And, of course, it will have to ensure that its resources match its ambition. Should Beijing’s quasi-imperial approach toward the Indian Ocean continue, the UK and other European powers will begin to lend their support to the India-Japan-US-Australia Quad.

Regardless of geopolitical trends, the Royal Navy will seek to support joint naval drills and uphold the maritime principle of freedom-of-navigation. Bolstered by its own bases in Duqm and Singapore, the Royal Navy will seek to cooperate with all, including the United States, Australia, Singapore, and India. Global Britain as a philosophy will promote a collaborative approach toward Beijing while aligning carefully with like-minded friends and allies


AUKMIN 2018: The Future of Global Britain?

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RUSI Commentary, with Milia Hau, 14 August, 2018

Britain and Australia face an uncertain strategic landscape. But there is much they can do together, as they deal with the two big powers which appear determined to change the current status quo: China and Russia.

The scene for the 10th annual Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN) earlier this summer was visually stunning. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne met with their British counterparts, Jeremy Hunt and Gavin Williamson, at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh for the AUKMIN meeting. While the visuals were good, it was clear that both liberal democracies came to these negotiations nurturing some very serious misgivings about their strategic environment.

For Australia, it has been an annus horriblis, as it has lurched from one diplomatic spat with Beijing to another, all of them driven by Canberra’s belief that Beijing has been meddling in its domestic affairs and waging an influence campaign among the Chinese diaspora, as well as Australia’s own political elite. For the UK – apart from the running sore of Brexit – the year has been dominated by the Skripal incident in Salisbury, which saw the use of a nerve agent on British soil, resulting in the expulsion of 23 diplomats, and a crackdown on Russian oligarch investments inside the City of London. As these two neo-authoritarian powers become increasingly bold, both London and Canberra have had to deal with a US that is seemingly less reliable, or perhaps more transactional.

It has been an odd time for Western liberal democracies, as they have slowly begun to react to the new geopolitical competition that has intensified in the wake of 2014, when China militarised islands in the South China Sea, and Russia invaded and occupied Ukrainian territory. As a result, the AUKMIN joint ministers’ statement resonated with concerns for the rules-based order with a noticeable emphasis on the Indo-Pacific ‘which is open, prosperous, and inclusive’.

While there is a sensible debate on how far the UK can extend its resources to the region, a Henry Jackson Society report sought to argue earlier this year that the Indo-Pacific presents economic opportunities as well as geopolitical challenges. The region accounts for 60% of the global population and accounts for nearly two-thirds of global economic growth; it is – according to the IMF – the world’s most dynamic region by a wide margin. The decision of the UK and Australia to strengthen their track 1.5 Asia Dialogue last year recognised these dynamics.

How Australia and the UK decide to interact in the Indo-Pacific will become an essential part of the Global Britain strategy. The two states already cooperate in the Five Powers Defence Arrangements and both have growing defence and intelligence ties to Japan. Additionally, they might develop other nodes of regional cooperation, such as a potential Australia–France–UK trilateral, or the already-existing US–Japan–India–Australia Quadrilateral.

While there are serious concerns about the UK’s budgetary capabilities – witness the searing disagreement between Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Prime Minister Theresa May about alleged proposed cuts to defence this past June – the Indo-Pacific region does at least present economic returns. The agreement by London and Canberra to pursue an ambitious bilateral free trade agreement once the UK has left the EU and its interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership are both opportunities, as is the budding defence industrial relationship. The recent revelation that the two signed a £20-billion deal for nine UK-designed warships might well be an indication of such returns.

As the region is set to lead global economic growth over the next 30 years, it makes sense for the UK to invest in capabilities and diplomatic reach in-region.

While distance still offsets the warmth found in the AUKMIN 2018, the fact is that working together can help both overcome this. The Royal Navy already has one base in Singapore. Perhaps basing rights might be exchanged between both navies; if successful, rights might even be extended reciprocally with the French, which have bases in New Caledonia and French Polynesia. In return, French and Australian marines may dock at British facilities in Singapore.

Another area that might be of mutual interest is that of the South Pacific. While it is a part of the world that few – if any – foreign secretaries think about, we could see this begin to change. Over the past few years, Beijing has been pouring money and developments into these tiny Pacific Island states. While development has traditionally been viewed as benign, the possibility of Chinese submarines docking at a recently built dock in Vanuatu – an island sitting on Australia’s shipping route to its ally, the US – has become a serious concern in Canberra this year. Britain’s decision to massively expand its economic and diplomatic footprint on Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Tonga will be warmly welcomed in Australia.

While it is true that the ‘tyranny of distance’ will keep the UK from becoming an Indo-Pacific regional power, Britain can become a significant player. There are multiple nodes of access available, including the Five Powers Defence Arrangements, the Commonwealth and the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing structure. One excellent bit of news from the AUKMIN Ministerial statement is the prospect that London and Canberra will begin coordinatingmuch more closely on foreign direct investment into sensitive digital infrastructure, hopefully avoiding another debacle similar to that which occurred when London allowed the sale of a British data cloud centre to a Chinese consortium in 2017, causing the Australian Department of Defence to remove its data from the company.

Looking into the future, we see that the traditional picture of a US-led Western alliance confronted by Russian and Chinese authoritarianism has returned to mainstream global politics. Only this time, it is not always clear that the US will be as willing to ‘bear any burden’. This requires those great powers and middle powers to band together all the more tightly.


What Kim Jong-un really wants hasn’t changed

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The Interpreter, with Jimmy Amedeo, 7 August, 2018

The news that US and North Korean generals met for talks for the first time in nine years to discuss the possible repatriation of 200 American soldiers lost during the Korean War was a step in the right direction. While it’s true it has the appearance of giving North Korea added leverage over the US in future negotiations, this is not, in itself, cause for concern.

First, such meetings institutionalise bilateral meetings more than brief interactions, such as that between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho at Singapore at the weekend, and help build working-level relations and trust. And there is much trust to build.

The ultimate question is whether Kim intends to really give up his weapons in exchange for a lifting of sanctions and an opening of the North’s economy to foreign investment, or whether he intends to have his cake and eat it too.

Second, the fact that North Korea is seeking to bolster its leverage could be read as a sign that it is serious about the upcoming negotiations.

Yet it is too soon to say whether Pyongyang is sincere in its stated intention of denuclearisation, or simply intent on getting optimum returns from empty promises. Understanding North Korea is in itself a cottage industry. However, there are a number of indications that understanding what Kim Jong-un wants is not so difficult after all.

If we look back over the past few years, there are strong signs of change to North Korea’s motivations. On 31 March 2013, Kim Jong-un announced the Byungjin policy, which set two national goals – to pursue a powerful nuclear deterrent, and create a vibrant economy. Five years later, in April, Kim was able to declare “victory” on nuclear deterrence – confident in his ability to reach targets on the continental US – and announce a shift in focus towards economic growth.

In 2015, North Korean media reported that Kim could not sleep for worry over his country’s poverty. In 2016, he announced his new “Five-Year Plan”. His emphasis on economic growth was repeated in his 2018 New Year’s Speech, when he highlighted ten industries he wanted to see expand: electric-power, metallurgy, chemical production, machine-building, natural resources, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, and technology.

Kim has also expressed his desire for economic growth outside of North Korea. In the Panmunjom Declaration, he called for steps “to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation”. In Singapore, he remarked on the city’s “social and economic development”, noting its cleanliness and beauty. Both the remarks and the KCNA-filmed documentary  – showcasing the Singapore skyline, luxurious settings, and universal access to electricity, all unheard of in North Korea – were shown to North Koreans at home.

China has doubtless been pleased. President Xi Jinping said during his third meeting with Kim in Beijing:

We are happy to see that the DPRK made a major decision to shift the focus to economic construction, and the development of the DPRK’s socialist cause has entered a new stage in history … Comrade Chairman has made positive efforts for realising denuclearisation and maintaining peace on the Peninsula.

Xi’s praise to the young Chairman is highly relevant. After all, Xi might have been the catalyst for these changes.

The Chinese leaders seemingly successful attempts to build a technological surveillance state, while harnessing capital to strengthen the state and the military, might have persuaded Kim that reform needn’t mean giving up control. No doubt, Xi’s decision to scrap term limits in February had as much impact in Pyongyang as it did in the West.

Historically, North Korea’s leaders have criticised China’s post-Mao leaders for going soft. Now it looked as though the People’s Republic of China had pulled off a miracle: harnessing capitalism to fortify authoritarian rule.

As a result, Kim might feel that opening up North Korea economically is not only viable, but necessary. Rason and Sinuiju, special economic zones in North Korea, could become the next Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The main question is whether Kim wishes to get sanctions lifted, encourage foreign investment, and keep the first part of his Byungjin policy.

To some extent, the Trump administration still has options. Despite the recent loosening of sanctions by Moscow and Beijing, Pyongyang still craves recognition and investment from the US and its allies.

This is the leverage Trump needs. Pyongyang wants something he has. The conditions seem perfect for a “grand bargain”. The ultimate question is whether Kim intends to really give up his weapons in exchange for a lifting of sanctions and an opening of the North’s economy to foreign investment, or whether he intends to have his cake and eat it too.

So far, it is difficult to tell. Pyongyang’s current strategy seems to offer symbolic gains instead of denuclearisation – returning of remains, and site visits – in order to get the Trump administration to declare victory and loosen economic restrictions. It has also done a bait-and-switch with a peace treaty as the path to denuclearisation. The peace treaty option has traditionally had drawbacks from the US and South Korean side, as it would disband the UN mission in South Korea and perhaps lead to a bring-the-boys-home sentiment arising inside the US.

If Washington is able to exploit Kim’s desires for economic development, it could negotiate a denuclearised Korean Peninsula, partially stabilising the region, bolstering international norms, and removing at least one source of US–China friction. But if Trump is easily waylaid by Kim’s tactics, and allows Kim to win economic benefits without verifiably removing all of his nuclear capabilities, then once more we will see why policy wonks call the country the “impossible state”.


The Daily Mail, Rachel Millard, July 25, 2018

Dr John Hemmings, director of the Asia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think-tank, said: “Authoritarian powers like China and Russia have sought to buy and steal sensitive technologies in the West… this White Paper looks like a step in the right direction.”


Our companies have been wide open to foreign espionage for too long – now that is changing

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The Telegraph, 24 July, 2018

Today’s news that the Government is enhancing its powers to protect national security from hostile foreign actors by blocking corporate investments, mergers and acquisitions looks like madness. Can we really afford to be turning away investment at a time like this, with Brexit on the horizon??

Yet not only is this change long overdue, it will actually help with inward investment – quite the opposite to what its critics allege.

Though it may seem pernickety to some, the debate on investment screening has rattled all through Whitehall and the City since the summer of 2016 when the Prime Minister sought to review the nuclear power plant deal agreed for Hinckley Point with Paris and Beijing by her predecessor.

Among those tasked with protecting Britain, the fact that George Osborne had rejected a proposal put forward by Ed Davey – then Energy Secretary in the coalition government – for extra safeguards, without explanation, set alarm bells ringing. This worsened after an engineer working with the Chinese partner on the project (CGNP) was indicted by the US government for nuclear espionage.

Despite this, Downing Street was forced to submit to Chinese pressure after the China business lobby and Chinese Embassy filled British newspapers with stories. Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, wrote that British openness and mutual trust were keys to future collaboration, hinting that Chinese investments to the Northern Power House would be at risk. The “Golden Share” solution ultimately devised by the Government did little to hide the fact that an authoritarian power had just successfully pressured a British prime minister into accepting foreign intrusion into a sensitive part of Britain’s energy infrastructure.

While much of this sounds rather alarmist, the fact is that nearly every advanced economy has implemented new investment screening measures over the past few years. Germany passed new legislation in July 2017, which sought to check foreign direct investment into key sensitive areas such as telecommunications, cloud computing, IT, and critical infrastructures, while a similar EU screening mechanism was passed this past June.

Likewise, the new White Paper advises scrutiny on areas such as cloud computing, AI, quantum, and other high-tech areas. Notably, it recognises that the war-fighting technologies of tomorrow may not even be known yet, therefore giving the Government space to constantly check new technologies coming from the high-tech industry.

The overall reason has been the Chinese policy known as Made in China: 2025. This policy has become a major point of contention between China and the West, particularly the Trump administration. In a US government report, released in March, the US alleged that the policy is a form of mercantilism, designed to transfer the most advanced Western technologies to Chinese “national champions”, state-subsidized firms, which can then make them at cheaper prices.

To top it all off, once Chinese firms are able to master these technologies, their foreign competitors find themselves being pushed out of the Chinese market, the victims of trumped-up corruption charges, tax changes, or anti-trust investigations. According to Merics, a German think tank, the policy “aims for substitution: China seeks to gradually replace foreign with Chinese technology at home – and prepare the ground for Chinese technology companies entering international markets.”

In a report published by the Henry Jackson Society last year, we noted how Chinese investment has changed in scope and character over the past few years. Previously, Chinese investment had been dominated by private companies seeking raw resources and commodities from the developing world. From 2015, however, investment into the Western economies surged by 44 per cent, much of it into infrastructure and high-technology.

Worryingly, much of this shift in foreign direct investment was led by Chinese state-owned enterprises, with Rhodium Group – a consultancy firm – noting that they accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the value of all deals in late 2017. Problematically, while China was busy buying up companies like British cloud computing giant Global Switch or aerospace firm Northern Aerospace, it was barring British investors from those same areas.

The Government was absolutely right to get this White Paperimplemented in the meantime. The UK cannot afford to stop inward-bound investment; but nor can it afford to allow British businesses to fall prey to malicious investment, designed to extract and supplant British industry and design.

Nor can Britain’s security services allow any foreign power – particularly one that is building an Orwellian secret state at home – to embed itself into Britain’s digital infrastructure. The high level of intrusion that China’s citizens must bear at home must not become the lot of Britons at home.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the UK’s new White Paper will actually help with inbound investment by giving the security aspect a process and transparent standards. To give China due credit, the whole Hinkley Point debacle could have been avoided if there had been a process by which screening could take place – instead of fighting in the court of public opinion.


Explaining the Japan–Australia security relationship: it’s complicated…

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International Affairs Blog, with Tomohiko Satake, 13 July, 2018

During the Cold War, Japan defined its security policy by the Yoshida Doctrine — maintaining a low profile security posture while relying on the United States for protection based on the US–Japan Security Treaty. There was little appetite within Japan’s government or military for military-to-military relationships with other regional states. Yet the past three decades have seen a steady diversification of Japanese security partnerships, including with South Korea, Australia and India as well as with some ASEAN and European countries. Notably, these relationships were not meant to replace the still-dominant security reliance on the US–Japan alliance, but instead were part of a strategy — carried out in tandem with the US — which saw the two states moving away from its strict bilateralism to what Michael J. Green calls ‘federated capabilities’.

The case of Japan and Australia — a ‘quasi-alliance’?

In our recent article for International Affairs, we looked specifically at this rapid diversification of Japanese security partnerships from the perspective of Japan–Australia security cooperation in both the bilateral and multilateral contexts, including the US and China. First of all, it was apparent that while some referred to Japan–Australia relations as ‘quasi-alliances’, they were not, in fact, alliances at all, but merely examples of what Thomas Wilkins called‘alignment’. While these groupings have systematically set about developing ‘alliance-like’ characteristics — such as military interoperability, strategic consultations and institutionalized intelligence-sharing — they have carefully avoided the primary ingredient of alliances: defence guarantees.

We asked why political leaders in Tokyo and Canberra went to the trouble of developing such complex security relationships — one need only look at the general security of information agreement (GSOMIA) and the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA), for example — while simultaneously avoiding the primary benefit of a formal alliance commitment to each other? Neo-realist theory would have us believe that as authoritarian China rose in the region and expanded its military hard power capabilities across the maritime space and trade routes of both states, Australia and Japan would either balance Beijing’s ambitions or bandwagon behind them. However, the actual record is more complex and sees political leaders adopting elements of both strategies. At times, Australia and Japan developed very close ties and seemed on the verge of committing to the relationship — as when Prime Minister John Howard offered Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a security treaty in 2007 or when, in 2015, both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Abe began promoting a submarine deal in strategic terms, labelling theirs a ‘special relationship’. Subsequently, however, caution seemed to reassert itself in both cases and domestic factors inside both countries halted further progress.

Drawing from Tomohiko Satake’s 2011 article on the origins of the trilateral relationship between the US, Japan and Australia and from John Hemmings’ doctoral research, we developed a model for explaining this apparent discrepancy. Faced, for example, with a triple security dilemma, that pits them between (1) a security dilemma with China, (2) an abandonment/entrapment dilemma with each other and (3) a quite separate abandonment/entrapment dilemma with their mutual ally, the United States, Japanese and Australian foreign policy elites simply cannot tell what the optimum policy choice is. What we found, through interviews and by analysing government policy documents, was how bureaucratic coalitions within Canberra or Tokyo would push for given policies, prioritizing one or another of these three drivers. This meant that in some cases the two would align more closely — such as when a pro-alliance group prioritizing the danger of abandonment was in control of the tools of foreign policy — only to pull back after new bureaucratic coalitions, which promoted policies that engage with China and emphasized the dangers of entrapment, took power. This was apparent, for example, after the 2008 election in Australia which saw Kevin Rudd replace John Howard as prime minister, as Australia unilaterally withdrew from the US–India–Japan–Australia Quadrilateral (QUAD) and warned against closer defence engagement with Japan.

What does this mean for the future?

This model explains both the specific pattern of Japan–Australia security ties as well as the historically atypical alignment policies that are rising across the region, in which states begin implementing multipronged strategies to pair balancing with engagement. We see these states building evermore institutionalized security relations, while continuing to closely monitor their relations with Beijing. In academia, this dual-approach has become known as ‘hedging’. As we look to the future, instability and threats to the rules-based order are discussed not only in terms of Chinese assertive behaviour, but also in terms of the Trump administration’s challenge to the liberal international order. Given these circumstances, we must also ask whether our model will see even more non-committal alignments — particularly between medium-sized regional states — or whether China will be able to successfully restrain states from forming balancing alliances. Examples of these alignment patterns are to be found in the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, created in 2002; in the creation of an Australia–India–Japan trilateral in 2015; and in the revival of the QUAD in 2017.

One interesting implication of our research is that, while abandonment concerns regarding the US engagement in Asia significantly encouraged Tokyo to seek closer ties with India, India itself has been less motivated by abandonment issues. Instead, internal debates in Delhi are more concerned with the risk of becoming entrapped between the United States and a rising China. This, combined with a fear of provoking a security dilemma and India’s longstanding ‘non-alignment’ foreign policy approach, has compelled some factions inside the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to eschew strong commitment to the QUAD. As we can see, this ‘commitment dilemma’ explains why all of these groupings see an ebb and flow of defence institutionalization, despite the fact that all share concerns about China’s intentions and growing military capabilities.

Should the US–China rivalry intensify, we might expect to see bureaucratic coalitions inside all four countries debate the prioritization of alliance commitments versus the prioritization of their relationship with China. Much of this has a mercurial dynamic, meaning that if any player decreases its security commitment to the QUAD, one will see a reaction from the others. If the Trump administration cannot sustain strong and consistent commitment to regional security, one might see a worrying shift in balancing behaviours by other QUAD members, with some reaching out to Beijing. The future of the QUAD therefore not only depends on Chinese assertiveness, but also on the appearance of US resolve to the defence of its smaller allies and partners. No doubt, this debate is occurring now at the domestic level.

Jeremy S. Maxie

Energy & Political Risk Consultant

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James Strong

Junior academic working on British foreign policy

Justice in Conflict

On the challenges of pursuing justice

Dr Andrew Delatolla

International Relations