Australian senator and Labor opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, cited the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans- Pacific Partnership as primary contributors to what she refers to as a “breakdown in world order”.
She believes Britain’s decision to exit the EU was more than just a symptom of economic and social malaise. Instead “Brexit” was a clear rejection of Europe’s rule-making system.
As for the United States’ decision to walk away from the TPP; a leftover policy from the Obama administration, Wong shares her opinion that it represented the administration’s pivot from globalization and toward nationalism:
“The decision to walk away from the TPP was a rejection of the economic globalization that has become such a distinguishing feature of the international rules-based order.
“That is serious enough in itself. But perhaps more serious is the ongoing reappraisal of the way that the US sees itself in the conduct of global affairs.”
Trump has referred to his ideology on nationalism as “Principled Realism”
Wong who gave a speech at Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy also plans to put into question China’s ambitious “One Belt One Road” or Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) role in ensuring global economic stability.
She described BRI as a game-changer:
“BRI is an expression of strategic power; linking a new community of nations as both contributors to and beneficiaries to China’s remarkable growth.”
However, Wong has doubts on whether BRI would achieve its long-term goals of economic and political alignment while ensuring stability in the region.
China has been aggressively pursuing its maritime and military objectives in the Western Philippine Sea. It has gone as far as to disregard a United Nations ruling granting full territorial rights to the Philippines.
The Philippines filed the claim under the administration of then-President Benigno S. Aquino. But China seems to have found an ally with new President Rodrigo Duterte who has set aside the ruling and allowed Beijing to build military structures in the disputed islands.
Duterte is known to have strong ties with communist groups in the Philippines. He even proposed sending his political party, PDP-Laban to China to “learn communist ideology”.
On the South China Sea dispute, Wong suggests for ASEAN countries to engage China in a peaceful discussion with representatives from Japan, Russia and the US present in the negotiations.
In early January, Australia’s international development minister Concetta Fierravanti- Wells called out China for setting up “white elephant” structures in many Pacific nations.