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Issues & Insights Vol. 23, SR4 – A History of Shared Values, A Future of Shared Strategic Interests: US-Australia Relations in the Indo-Pacific

  • Craig Kafura

    Assistant Director, Public Opinion & Foreign Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

  • Rick Umback

    Ph.D. Graduate from the Australian National University's School of Politics and International Relations

  • Rose Rodgers

    DC-based Political-Military Analyst

  • Thom Dixon

    Multidisciplinary PhD Student at Macquarie University

Written By

  • Rob York Director for Regional Affairs


US-Australia Relations in the Indo-Pacific

About this Volume

Authors of this volume participated in the inaugural U.S.- Australia Next-Generation Leaders Initiative, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State through the U.S. Embassy in Canberra. With backgrounds from academia, public policy, civil society, and industry, the cohort brings rich insights on the past, present, and future of the U.S.-Australia relations. This program was conducted from February 2021 – September 2021.

Click here to download the full report.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1:Americans and Australians in the Pacific Century | Craig Kafura
Chapter 2:“Substantial and Fruitful Benefits”: State Governments as Vectors of CCP Influence in Australia | Rick Umback 
Chapter 3:Economic Mate-ship: US-Australian Policy Alignment to Counter PRC Economic Coercion | Rose Rodgers
Chapter 4:Evolving the US-Australia Alliance: An Agenda for Cyberbiosecurity Engagement | Thom Dixon

The United States and Australia have been treaty allies for more than 70 years. This bond endured throughout the Cold War and the War on Terror, and it increasingly looks as though they will be close partners throughout the great power competition with the People’s Republic of China. The two partner countries were among the earliest critics of the PRC’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, have shared concerns over Chinese investment and its impact on their national security, and what growing PRC influence means for them the future of democracy in the Indo-Pacific.

The two countries were early and enthusiastic members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which includes fellow Indo-Pacific democracies Japan and India, and which has moved to address pressing regional challenges such as pandemic response and climate change. Plus, with 2021’s announcement of the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) pact Canberra proved its willingness to defy not only Beijing, but also other democracies—especially in Europe—to build out its capacity to defend itself and counter the PRC’s growing regional power.

The contributions to this volume each address the nature, not only of the alliance, but the challenges it will face in the years to come. Craig Kafula of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs notes that public polling in both countries reveals overwhelming agreement on most subjects related to the alliance and its forthcoming challenges, but also differences of opinion that will have to be navigated. Rick Umback of Australian National University’s School of Politics and International Relations examines the growth of PRC influence over local governments and Australia, and the ramifications this has for other liberal democracies in the Indo-Pacific.

Rose Rodgers at the Center for Naval Analyses says the AUKUS has not limited, but actually increased the need for scrutiny of PRC investment in critical and emerging technologies, and other means of screening technological investments. Moving away from what the alliance means for relations with the PRC, Thom Dixon examines the field of cyberbiosecurity—the intersection of cybersecurity and biosecurity—and how US-Australian cooperation in this field is essential to meet two of the great challenges of this age: climate change and pandemic response.

Taken together these analyses—brought to you by the next generation of American-Australian analysts—richly detail the nature of the challenges the allies face, and offer recommendations on how to meet them over the next 70 years of their partnership.

About the Authors

Thom Dixon is undertaking a multidisciplinary PhD at Macquarie University in international relations and synthetic biology. He is a member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology. In 2018, he completed a Non-resident WSD-Handa Fellowship with the Pacific Forum on synthetic biology and Australian foreign policy. Thom is an alumni of the 2017 EU-Australia Leadership Forum and the 2021 US-Australia Next-Generation Leadership Initiative. He is the Vice President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs in NSW and the Manager, National Security and Defence at Macquarie University. His research focuses on the convergence of the life sciences with the information sciences and how international relations can better enable the global bioeconomy.

Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council he coordinates research on public and elite opinion on a wide variety of foreign policy and international affairs issues, with a particular focus on Asia. Since joining the Council in 2011, Craig has authored or coauthored dozens of reports and briefs on public opinion and foreign policy. His writing has appeared in a variety of outlets including Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, and The Diplomat, and he is the coauthor of “Foreign Policy Beliefs Among Leaders and the Public” for The Domestic Sources of American Foreign Policy, 7th edition. Craig holds an MA in political science from Columbia University and a BA in political science from Yale University.

Rose Rodgers is a DC-based political-military analyst. Her research focuses on PRC strategic forces, export controls, nuclear nonproliferation, and arms control. Rose has a Masters in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She studied Mandarin at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China as a Boren Fellow.

Rick Umback holds a Ph.D. from the Australian National University’s School of Politics and International Relations. His research interests cover the intersection of technology, industry, public policy, politics, and strategic affairs. He is currently employed in the public sector and has previously worked in academia and Parliament.

Photo: Aboard the USS Wasp (LHD 1) at the Port of Brisbane, Army Maj. Gen. Roger Noble, deputy chief of Joint Operations (left) and Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 (right) begin the closing ceremony for Exercise Talisman Sabre fon July 27, 2019 from U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicolas A. Cloward.