Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 20:44 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 20:44 | SYDNEY

Things I have changed my mind about this year


Malcolm Cook

16 December 2008 15:17

  1. Australia’s Asia engagement under Rudd: At the beginning of 2008, I was worried that our new government was getting the balance of relationships between Japan and China seriously wrong, with too much focus on strengthening our relations with China and little or no attention on Japan. After Rudd’s speech at Beijing University, his bilateral visit to Japan, government comments on Chinese military spending and the toning down of the rhetoric on whaling, my worries have significantly diminished, but not disappeared. 
  2. The success of Bush’s Asia policy: Like John Howard, I thought the Bush Administration had got the balance between engaging with China and maintaining or enhancing relations with traditional allies and partners just about right. However, the apparent death of both the Korea-US FTA and meaningful Six-Party Talks has changed my mind about the US approach on the second part of this balance. I felt particularly for the pro-US president, Lee Myung-bak, who came to power with a goal of aligning ROK and US policy more closely by strong and politically costly support for US beef exports to South Korea and taking a firmer line with Pyongyang, only to see the Korea-US FTA stall in Congress and the Six-Party Talks become 'softer' on North Korea.
  3. Agency vs structure: When it comes to focusing on the role of individuals in international relations or global structures and material forces, I have always strongly opted for the latter. This year, though, I have become more convinced that the role of individuals matters much more than I had thought. This has been partially driven by the change in power here from Howard to Rudd, the change in power in Taiwan from Chen to Ma, reflections on Abe’s failure to continue to Koizumi era, and the looming change in the US from Bush to Obama. It also comes from a deeper appreciation of how things like the Australia-Japan Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation and the Australia-US FTA only came about due to the commitment, position and network of a particular set of public servants (not only political leaders) on both sides.