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Weekend catch-up: Westminster, Li in Australia, India’s nuclear doctrine and more

Why Japan and Taiwan should strengthen ties, what Merkel can offer Trump, the role of values in Australian foreign policy and more.

Photo:Getty Images/Bloomberg
Photo:Getty Images/Bloomberg
Published 25 Mar 2017 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

This week saw four people die and seven critically injured in a terrorist attack in Westminster, London. Islamist Khalid Masood killed two people when he ran over a crowd of pedestrians at Westminster bridge, before killing two after entering the parliamentary complex armed with knives. One attack is one too many, but there's nothing to suggest the UK change its counter-terrorism approach, wrote David Wells:

The UK is rightly acknowledged as a world leader in the fight against terrorism. As the impressive tally of arrests and disrupted plots indicate, the 'pursue' element of the UK's strategy is working well. Similarly, yesterday's response shows that UK authorities are resourced and ready to respond to attacks of this nature.

This week Chinese Premier Li Keqiang landed for a week-long visit to Australia and New Zealand. Dominic Meagher wrote on what to expect from Li's visit…

Li is highly likely to have a successful and lauded trip that presents China as a reliable trading partner with exciting investment opportunities. His message about China and Australia being in a 'common circle of friends' should be warmly received.

…as did Merriden Varrall:

Overall, we can expect to see a reassuring and unthreatening tone throughout Li's Australia visit. As happened after President Xi's speech to Parliament in November 2014, commentators will speculate as to whether this responsible cosmopolitan tone represents fundamental changes in China towards something more familiar to us. There is no doubt that China is changing, but we should not presume that China will evolve along lines readily recognisable to us either in the short or long term – China's future direction will certainly be one 'with Chinese characteristics'.

Chinese policymakers value internal security over one-upping the US, wrote Varrall and Frances Kitt:

China sees the current world order as an ideological package that it had no say in creating, but, as Gowan notes, while China has a strong antipathy to certain elements, there are some aspects of the current order that it would like to continue.

In China, the National People's Congress' message of general competence has become too predictable – Xi needs to articulate amore compelling vision for domestic reform, argued Kerry Brown:

The worry is that this year called for something more than just asserting constantly that all is well. Unfortunately, no such compelling voice came through. Perhaps this will come at the Congress later this year – we will just have to wait and see. But one thing we can be sure of is that hearing China's voice has never been more necessary to the outside world.

In Timor-Leste's presidential elections, Francisco ‘Lu Olo' Guterres achieved a comfortable victory in the first round, meaning that a run-off won't be required. Michael Leach explains:

While the presidency has a formal role in the formation of government, and holds a partial veto over legislation, executive power lies overwhelmingly with the prime ministership, making the parliamentary elections the more important poll. The likely presidential result suggests the welcome prospect of a reinvigorated parliamentary opposition force, yet it also hints at the real possibility of a 'business as usual' outcome from the July elections.

Crispin Rovere on how the foreign policy establishment continues to misinterpret US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's actions:

Such comments embody the substantive vacuity that has dominated failed foreign policy for the last two decades and demonstrate the fixation on protocol that was explicitly rejected by American voters last November. The fact that language preferred by China is being used is no more a ‘diplomatic victory' than a dinner host providing a vanilla desert when a guest may have chosen caramel.

Last week US President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Marcus Colla on Merkel's mission in DC:

As a representative not only of Germany, but of fellow NATO members and the EU, Merkel sought to prove to the US that it needs its friends. But as a fellow world leader, her goal was to prove that Trump personally will need them too. One short visit will not achieve this. But then again, patience is her forte.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Trump's approach to the Asia Pacific, it's the perfect time for Japan and Taiwan to strengthen ties, argued J Michael Cole:

The options for rapprochement between Taiwan and Japan make sense both in the context of high uncertainty and the possibility of a more limited role for the US in the region. It would also make sense if the United States continued its role as the principal security guarantor in the region, which despite the current uncertainty isn't completely impossible.

Shashank Joshi on an Indian nuclear doctrine in flux:

For nearly 15 years, India's stated nuclear doctrine has been to shun first use, emphasise massive retaliation over flexible and limited nuclear responses, and look to counter-value rather than counterforce targets. The whirl of debate around each of these three precepts is indicative of the fluid, elusive nature of nuclear strategy, as well as a more uncertain security environment and growing confidence in Indian capabilities.

What role should values play in the formulation of Australian foreign policy? John McCarthy:

Differences in values are an argument for improved dialogue with China, not against it. Nor should common values with the United States be used to support the case for unalloyed support for the US policies, where these policies are not in Australia's overall interest. Political courage will be important here. That, too, is a value with which mainstream Australians like to identify.

Michael Heazle critiqued Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's value-laden Fullerton Lecture in Singapore:

Julie Bishop's recent speech in Singapore was out of date and stale. Her remarks exhibited two major and ongoing flaws in the government's foreign policy thinking. The first is the persistent lack of substance in the Turnbull government's response to both China's challenge to the status quo and uncertainty over US engagement the region, as illustrated by the Foreign Minister's 'strategic holding pattern' metaphor. The second is the lack of understanding of the mixed reception some 'liberal' values and norms receive in the region, and why their invocation can be more divisive than unifying when used carelessly.

And finally, Bloomberg's Seb Henbest on what the world has learned from South Australia's power dilemma:

South Australia has become a global case study for what can go wrong when energy policy fails to keep pace with changes in technology and commodity markets.

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