Coronavirus Presents Opportunity for Middle-Sized Powers, Says New Government Advisor

March 3, 2020 Updated: March 4, 2020
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The head of ANU’s National Security College and new adviser to the Morrison government, Professor Rory Medcalf, says the current coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for Australia and other middle-sized powers in the region to deal with the Chinese regime in a stronger and more confident manner and reduce tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

A former diplomat, Medcalf, who was just last week appointed to the advisory board of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations, said Tuesday that the way the coronavirus epidemic has been dealt with by the Chinese authorities has prompted the Chinese people to lose confidence in the country’s leadership.

He made the comments at the launch of his new book, “Contest for the Indo-Pacific,” attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong in Canberra.  The book challenges the idea that China or the United States will dominate the region in the future, instead highlighting that “middle players” coexisting and cooperating are the key to ensuring stability.

In a written piece published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Medcalf added that the outbreak has caused “lasting damage to the People’s Republic of China, which was already weaker than it liked to look,” and is a reminder that the country will “struggle to maintain the internal obedience and international sway it needs for its Indo-Pacific strategic ambitions.”

Medcalf said that these vulnerabilities presented the perfect opportunity for middle-sized powers in the region such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and India to “define a future based on mutual respect for sovereignty.”

“The challenge now for Australia and other ‘middle players’ between the United States and China is to redouble their efforts to build security cooperation and define a future based on mutual respect for sovereignty of nations large and small,” Medcalf said.

“The COVID-19 emergency is a black swan event—an improbable catastrophe obvious in retrospect—that will disrupt the connected, contested Indo-Pacific region we have seen evolve in recent decades. The opportunity now for Australia, as we protect our own population and offer international cooperation in combating coronavirus, is to demonstrate a creative mix of resilience, national interest, and partnership.

“This prolonged crisis could hasten the day when China will need to find a strategic settling point for its regional ambitions,” the former diplomat added.

The Epoch Times has contacted Professor Rory Medcalf for further comment.