College Dean, Professor Michael Wesley launched a new book this week through the ANU Press.
The book, Global Allies: Comparing US Alliances in the 21st Century, explores the changing dynamics of global alliances in an era of declining American primacy. As the first-ever comparative study of US alliances in Europe and Asia, the book offers fresh insight into the future of global security dynamics from the perspectives of the allies themselves.
Readers can expect Global Allies to initiate bold and interesting discussions. At the launch, Professor Wesley spoke at length about the rise of China and its potential consequences for alliance systems in Asia.
“In the aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States dedicated itself to preventing the rise of another peer challenger to US power,” Professor Wesley explained.
“Starting with the George W. Bush administration, the idea was that China’s rise was inexorable, and that in this situation, the United States should try to ‘shape’ China’s rise. That is, to allow China to rise, and to welcome its rise, while dissuading it from challenging the US military supremacy,” he added.
He argued that multilateralism since the end of the Cold War has functioned as a tool of this strategy. Within a US-led liberal internationalist framework, a rising potential challenger to American primacy could be socialised to comply with American interests.
President Trump’s foreign policy approach is a radical departure from this long-term strategic view.
“This president believes that having a strategy is a bad strategy, because having a strategy and enunciating that strategy clearly gives everyone the opportunity to predict what you’re going to do, to know what you want, and therefore ultimately to exploit you at the deal table,” said Professor Wesley.
“So, for the three years ahead at least, we have a United States that does not support regional institutions and does not support the spirit of multilateralism,” he said.
But ironically, a change of tactic may be what the region needs.
“Even before Donald Trump came to power, there was significant evidence that this strategy of shaping China’s rise and deterring the rise of a competitor using these various sub-strategies had clearly failed,” Professor Wesley explained.
Instead, China has begun to create its own institutional framework aimed at socialising the regional order to Chinese primacy.
Now is the time for Australia to reconsider its alliances and adapt to a rapidly changing regional order. Failure to do so could leave Australia in the lurch as China’s rise continues in the coming decades.
Global Allies: Comparing US Alliances in the 21st Century is available for purchase here through ANU Press.
By CAP student correspondent Dot Mason.