Chapter 9 Australia’s Role and Actions in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategic Framework
Since the end of the Cold War, many Western democracies and even academics have been optimistic about the phenomenon of China’s rise, most believing that bringing China into the global economy would lead to a peaceful evolution of China, which would lead to political reforms toward Western democracies and make it a “responsible stakeholder” in international security. But since the advent of the Donald Trump era, this long-standing Western narrative of coexistence has been replaced by a near-zero-sum adversarial mindset that is no longer the norm in U.S. diplomacy. While the global economic and trade links to the Chinese market have become inseparable, the growing U.S.-China rivalry has created a fundamental security imperative for U.S. ally Australia to choose between democracy and autocracy.
Australia has been the most loyal traditional security ally of the United States in the Pacific. Under the 1951 ANZUS Treaty framework, Australia’s defense strategy is virtually tied to U.S. Pacific security policy, and it has volunteered to serve as the “deputy sheriff” of the United States in the Pacific. For this reason, Washington has a deep respect and affection for Canberra. Geographically located between the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the southern hemisphere, Australia had the concept of the Indo-Pacific region long before the U.S. proposed the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Australia even linked the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean for the first time in 2012 and called it the “strategic arc”.
Australia’s “strategic arc” of the Indo-Pacific concept stems from Australia’s sense of insecurity and anxiety about its geopolitical location. To ensure national security, Australia has to face challenges from the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, but this is not enough to support Australia’s national security in terms of its relatively limited defense forces. Therefore, the proposed U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy meets Australia’s geo-security needs and strategic vision and strengthens the complementary military and security alliance between the U.S. and Australia.3 The question this paper will explore is, given the continuation of the former Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy and its continued resistance to China, what should be Australia’s role in the current Indo-Pacific strategic framework? What should Australia do?
 Andrew Taffer, “Washington Still Wants China to Be a Responsible Stakeholder,” Foreign Policy, December 29, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/29/washington-china-responsible-stakeholder/.
 Australian Government, Australia in The Asian Century (Canberra: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2012), https://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/2013/docs/australia_in_the_asian_century_white_paper.pdf.
 Huang Enhao, “Chapter 7: Australia’s South China Sea Policy and Actions,” edited by Zhong Zhidong, South China Sea Security from Multiple Perspectives (Taipei: Wu Nan Publishing House, December 2020), p. 211.