China's Rise and Australia–Japan–US Relations
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China's Rise and Australia–Japan–US Relations

Primacy and Leadership in East Asia

Edited by Michael Heazle and Andrew O’Neil

One of the most pressing policy challenges for Australia and Japan today is ensuring that China’s rise does not threaten the stability of the Asia-Pacific, while also avoiding triggering conflict with their largest trading partner. This book examines how Australian and Japanese perceptions of US primacy shape their respective views of the Asia-Pacific regional order, the robustness of Asia’s alliance system, and the future of Australia-Japan security cooperation.
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Chapter 8: Contesting visions of ‘primacy’: the Australian perception of US decline in the Asia-Pacific

Sheryn Lee


China’s rise has triggered a major debate in Australia about the decline of its US ally and the implications for Australia’s strategic position and options. ‘Declinists’ perceive US leadership to be in significant decline while China’s rise is assessed to continue largely unabated. This introduces both the prospect of not only some form of US-Sino power sharing arrangement, but also a need to rethink Australia’s strategic posture. ‘Sceptics’ consider arguments about American decline and China’s rise to be vastly exaggerated, arguing that Australia faces an ‘illusion’ of choice. The ANZUS alliance is the key pillar for organizing Australia’s force structure and capability requirements. Consequently, sceptics argue that Australia does not need to fundamentally reassess its strategic posture and options. The results of the survey of Australian perspectives demonstrate that the ‘moderate’ centrist position is most compelling. China’s power is growing but the US still has significant influence in the Asia-Pacific. This increases the potential for a multipolar Asia.

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