China’s claims in the South China Sea conflict with the territorial rights of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. China’s actions – including the large-scale construction of artificial islands and their subsequent militarisation - have infringed on the sovereign rights of claimant states such as the Philippines as declared by binding international law. Nonetheless, with the apparent assumption that ‘might makes right’, Beijing completely flouted the binding July 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling. Following the weak response by the West to Russia’s forced annexation of Crimea and associated use of force in the Ukraine, what precedents are being set and what is the future of the international order?
In contrast to China and Russia and with the realisation that only through a rules-based order can there be a stable and secure future, both India and Australia have long supported the primacy of treaty-based international law as the foundation of a rules based order. However, more needs to be done. As examined in the seminar, the unity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is in disarray, ASEAN’s extra regional institutions are not capable of meaningfully deterring China from further coercive action or breaches of international law, and the entire region (including the United States which is omnipresent across Asia) failed to prevent China from building the artificial islands in the first place. While there are no simple solutions, these alarming developments do demonstrate the need for stronger dialogue and cooperation between regional like-minded ‘stabiliser’ (i.e. rules based) states. The seminar concludes by addressing just how far India and Australia can advance their bilateral cooperation and the potential areas where they could collaborate in the founding of new avenues for multilateral dialogue (and, eventually), cooperation to respond to future geo-strategic developments.
About the Speaker
Christopher Roberts is currently in New Delhi as a Leader’s Fellow at the Australia-India Institute and he is also an Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales within the Australian Defence Force Academy campus. He specialises in the politics and security of the Indo-Pacific including great and middle power dynamics, the South China Sea, ASEAN, the drivers and constraints to international collaboration and competition, and the pre-conditions to peace and post-conflict resolution. Christopher lived in Japan and Singapore for five years and has nearly two decades of field experience throughout Asia including all the ASEAN nations plus Japan, South Korea, and China. Christopher has completed over fifty publications including books (2 sole authored and 2 edited), journal articles, chapters, conference papers, commentaries, and reports. These works have also addressed the politics, security, and foreign policy approaches of Myanmar, Brunei, Laos, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Australia.
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