Thawley backs a ‘G2’ but is China ready or willing to lead?


Australia’s top public servant gave his views on Australia’s relations with China and the United States at the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum, held at the ANU this week. Views reportedly endorsed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier today.

Four questions formed the basis for an interesting panel session at the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum in Canberra yesterday and “like a good bureaucrat”, as he put it, the Australian Government’s most senior public servant answered all of them simply and directly.

Does the contemporary world need leadership, from the US or anyone else?

“I think the answer is blindingly obvious; yes,” said Michael Thawley, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and a former ambassador to the United States.

Thawley had to tread more carefully than the other panel members: a jovial Bob Carr with the weight of office gone from his shoulders, and Rand Corporation senior fellow Richard Solomon, who was the US State Department’s deputy secretary for East Asia and the Pacific and later ambassador to the Philippines during the late ’80s and early ’90s.

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  • tony kevin

    Well summarised discussion by Stephen Easton. I was impressed by two points in particular from my old colleague Michael Thawley:
    That US power and influence are now spread thinly around the world:
    and that China is waiting for the global correlation of forces to change, not yet ready to claim global.co-leadership with or in place of US, but not ready to Take second place to US as the global leader and rules-maker either.

    What Thawley neglected was to fit the third superpower into all this. I mean of course Russia. The present dynamic between US and Moscow is is increasingly dangerous to world peace as the Pentagon just reported. I agree, both sides are dusting off their nuclear deterrents. Where I differ. from the Washington analysis is on who started and is feeding it. I believe the evidence indicates that Washington and its clients in NATO started it, several years ago, and that Russia has been reacting in self- defence since around four years ago (in Georgia and in Ukraine ) . Russia did not start the Ukraine civil war – the US and its proxies in Kiev did. A small unimportant conflict? So was Sarajevo in 1914. Russua sensibly is getting closer to China now, and China is reciprocating warmly . China came out of the 70th anniversary of WW2 in Moscow smelling like roses. I won’t say what the US and NATO ( and us) came out smelling of.

    It’s not a two power world.