David Brophy reviews 'Without America: Australia in the New Asia' (Quarterly Essay 68) by Hugh White

For upward of a decade, Hugh White has been sounding a warning: that Australia’s long-standing policy of relying on the United States as guarantor of our security in Asia was approaching its use-by date. As a conspicuous relic of European colonial expansion, Australia has always viewed with trepidation the idea that our region’s centre of political gravity might one day tilt back towards China. Where would a country like ours find itself when the historic tide of Western dominance receded? This is a question that many Australians find discomfiting. White deserves credit for his tireless, and mostly thankless, efforts to force it into public view.

In an earlier Quarterly Essay, White outlined the inherent contradiction in our foreign policy – a staunch ally of the United States that relies on China for its economic prosperity – but argued that we might yet find a way out of the predicament, by acting as go-between to negotiate an Asia–Pacific condominium between China and the United States. Power Shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing (QE 39, 2010) came on the heels of a series of events that led some to describe 2009 as an annus horribilis in Australia’s relations with China. With hindsight, those now look like happier days. White’s optimism about the possibility of resolving the contradiction in our stance was only outdone by his critics’  brash dismissal of the very existence of any such contradiction; the illusion that ‘we don’t have to choose’ could still be maintained.

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Published in March 2018, no. 399

Comments (2)

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    Australian Book Review was indeed pleased to make David Brophy’s important review essay widely available. The response has been phenomenal. But ABR is subject to the same commercial exigencies as other media organisations. We have a paywall because we have writers and bills to pay, etc. Each month we make a handful of reviews freely available. Subscribing to ABR (as so many people do) is inexpensive – as little as $40 for ABR Online or $80 for the print edition.

    Tuesday, 20 March 2018 13:08 posted by Australian Book Review
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    I am puzzled as to why this review has been truncated, then followed by encouragement to subscribe to your organisation for the remainder, compared to the withering review, in full, by the same critic on Clive Hamilton's "Silent Invasion". My thought, from one who believes Mr Hamilton is more on the money than Mr Brophy, is that someone wanted the negative review of "Silent Invasion" to be given maximum exposure. That someone runs the risk of being selective, and traduces the import of your review facility.

    Monday, 19 March 2018 15:33 posted by John Bell

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