China’s current strategies of economic and military coercion and territorial “salami-slicing” are causing other countries to view it as a predator and untrustworthy and they are aligning and coalescing in an effort to balance and, if required, counter its predatory behaviour. The result is a situation that could easily get out of hand and lead to conflict.
Indonesia may see the worst of the pandemic in 2021 and Australia should closely watch how Jakarta’s relationship with Beijing develops. The fate of the hardline Front Pembela Islam may also be decided, which could have a significant impact on the broader community.
It is probable that President-elect Joseph Biden will take the oath of President of the US on 20 January; whether he will be recognised as such by half of that country’s voters remains to be seen.
The launch of the Mekong Dam Monitor is likely to place further pressure on Beijing to provide timely, accurate and robust hydrological data on water levels and dam operations on the Mekong River.
Despite serious current issues, Australia’s export reliance on China as a key destination for commodity exports will continue, but concurrent initiatives to broaden and grow the export base have to be pursued. While Australia has an unequivocal global advantage in resources and human capital, a 50-year strategy with practicable, achievable pathways to achieving a broader and deeper export base should still be developed.
Covid-19 and Food Security in the Pacific: Considerable Challenges with an Opportunity to “Build Back Better”
While the health implications of Covid-19 in the South Pacific have been limited, the economic consequences of the pandemic have been severe. The loss of tourism revenue and remittances from overseas have reduced incomes and household spending. The economic downturn has limited economic access to food supplies, which has weakened food security. Efforts to “build back better” in the wake of the pandemic could focus on agricultural development, with significant benefits for regional food security.