Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 20:50 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 20:50 | SYDNEY

Things I have changed my mind about this year


Rory Medcalf


23 December 2008 14:08

Nuclear disarmament: A year ago I was unconvinced there was much room for action in advancing the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament agenda, and said so. Huge obstacles remain, including the worsening of US-Russia relations due to the Georgia conflict. But the influence of 'realist idealists' such as Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn on an Obama Administration gives some modest reason to think that a renewed push for nuclear arms control measures — beginning, perhaps, with the US ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty — is worth the effort.

Australia-India relations and uranium: A year ago I had real concerns that the Rudd Government could damage the Australia-India relationship, due to its refusal of uranium sales to India and perceptions in India that Rudd was tilting closer to China. It is now clear that both countries are maturely putting the uranium issue to one side — for the moment — and looking to develop the relationship in other areas, including what they can do together on the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament front.

This doesn't mean the uranium issue won't return to the foreground some years hence, or that Australia's position will never change again. On China, meanwhile, it seems Australia and India are increasingly finding a common perspective: economic dependence mixed with strategic uncertainty.

China's soft power: A year ago I would not have expected the international push-back against China's growing influence to have grown as far or as fast as it has. Mistrust of China's strategic intentions and concerns over its actions in Tibet appear to be growing in many places — including Europe, Southeast Asia and Australia — in the very year the Olympic coming out party was meant to affirm a harmonious society in a harmonious world.

I was surprised in particular by the rather sudden drop in Australians' warm feelings toward China, as reflected in the Lowy Institute's opinion poll.  It will be a shame, and a lost opportunity for cooperation, if the world over-corrects: no longer trusting China more than it ought, but instead fearing it more than it need.

And yes, the financial crisis, now becoming a global economic crisis, reminds every self-respecting strategic analyst never to say never when it comes to possible strategic shocks.