Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 25, 2018

A new journal: Australian Foreign Affairs #1 (2017) The Big Picture and #2 (2018) Trump in Asia edited by Jonathan Pearlman

I’ve been meaning to mention a new journal from Schwarz Publishing…

Schwarz Publishing brings us Black Inc titles (including some of the best NF reviewed on this blog) and (under the name Schwarz Media) also Quarterly Essay (featured regularly on this blog), The Saturday Paper (which has a cryptic crossword I can sometimes solve as well as a more considered analysis of the news than anywhere else) and The Monthly (which I read every now and again).  Late last year saw the launch of Australian Foreign Affairs, with a distinctive yellow cover which made it easy to find at the newsagent…

I didn’t want to subscribe straight away – after all, though Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd tried to make it so, foreign affairs is not exactly a sexy subject in everyday life.  I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to know about it and I am wary of oversubscribing to journals and then not having making time to read them.  But I bought Issue #1, and I read all but the last article – and meant to review it here when I’d finished – when lo and behold, Schwarz Media sent me a review copy of Issue#2.  And I’ve been reading it over breakfast, feeling fascinated in a mildly alarmed kind of way.  The Spouse was interested too when I interrupted what he was reading, to read compelling excerpts from the first article….

Really?  I can almost see the disbelief on your faces, dear readers.  (That’s if you’re still with me).  Foreign policy is for policy wonks and diplomats in Canberra, and indeed it can be downright depressing when Trump is on the menu.  (Any Trump-free day is a good day, IMO).  I’m not going to tell you that it is a good citizen’s responsibility in a democracy to be well-informed and that in the absence of any intelligent media coverage of foreign affairs on the ABC or anywhere else,  this journal is a must-read.

No.  I’m just going to tell you how interesting it is for an ordinary, everyday Australian to read about what’s going on around us while we fixate on the love life of foolish MPs and an America-centric view of the world.  Here’s one of the excerpts I read out to The Spouse:

Australia needs to be similarly dispassionate [as its Asian neighbours] about the way power is shifting in its region. The advent of Trump calls for a fundamental rethinking of Australia’s strategy towards the Asia-Pacific. Such a rethink has long been needed, but with Obama and his predecessors, we hid behind a hope that American power and resolve would prevail once again. Trump tears away any excuse for wishful thinking. For the past quarter-century, Canberra’s policy has been to support American primacy and US efforts to prevent the rise of rivals. Trump’s election forces us to confront the failure of that policy and the implausibility of the restoration of America’s position of dominance. Rather, Australian policymakers must acknowledge the overwhelming reality that our future will increasingly be shaped by Beijing, not by Washington.

The Australian debate on the US alliance misses the point entirely. We should neither summarily break the alliance nor blindly deepen our investment in it. We should keep the alliance with the US but reshape it towards ensuring an enduring American role in the emerging Asian power balance, just as we reshaped the alliance towards a different rationale at the end of the Cold War. We need to become as unromantic about American power as our northern neighbours. American power will endure, but the US will no longer be the arbiter of the regional order. We should therefore make sure that we use our alliance with the United States to help secure what we regard as an acceptable and achievable environment in the Asia-Pacific. But first that requires working out what we want.

Reimagining our foreign policy is going to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done – because this is the first time since European settlement that Australia has had to contemplate living in a region not dominated by a culturally similar ally. For all of its talk of “shared destiny,” nothing about contemporary China gives cause for confidence that a Beijing-centred regional order will be sympathetic to our values or interests. Nor can we have much confidence that other regional powers will combine to enforce the principles of stability, access and equality that have been so important to our safety and prosperity. (‘The Pivot to Chaos’, by Michael Wesley, in Australian Foreign Affairs, Issue #2, Feb 2018, p.20-21)

This last paragraph really resonated with me, because it reminded me of when China’s president addressed our parliament in the same week as President Obama’s inspiring inauguration speech.  There couldn’t have been a greater contrast, and it made me painfully aware that China doesn’t speak our language in more ways than one.

You can read the compelling first article as a taster at the AFA website.  The journal also includes book reviews and a correspondence section, and its contributors include experts like Paul Keating, George Megalogenis, Kim Beazley and David Kilcullen.  The next issue is going to be about our problematic relationship with Indonesia.  And yes, I’ve subscribed….

Editor: Jonathan Pearlman
Titles: Australian Foreign Affairs: 
Issue #1 ‘The Big Picture, Towards an Independent Foreign Policy ‘ (Oct 2017)and
Issue #2 ‘Trump in Asia, The New World Disorder’ (Feb 2018)
Publisher: Schwarz Publishing
Source: Issue #1 purchased from my local newsagent and Issue #2 is a review copy courtesy of Schwarz Publishing.


  1. I wish I were that person who religiously read the Saturday Paper and the Monthly (and good on Schwarz for putting them out) but after a lifetime reading current affairs (and the death of the ABC) I am down to Crikey (and Michael West and a couple of independent news sites you directed me to) and am otherwise concentrating on fiction. Perhaps one day I will get into podcasts and resume shouting at the radio.


    • I can’t be bothered with podcasts. Too much messing about. I like something in print that lands in my letterbox!


      • Unfortunately I have each day about 12 more hours of ear time than eye time.


  2. […] Pearlman edits the new Australian Foreign Affairs Journal and he thinks that fake news is a serious problem in the US, and it’s starting to be […]


  3. […] Australian Foreign Affairs #1 The Big Picture and #2 Trump in Asia #BookReview […]


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