The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed US-China relations to their lowest point in decades. Deep differences over trade, foreign policy and values have been sharpened amid increasingly hostile rhetoric. What is driving these developments and do they signal the dawn of a new Cold War? How is the pandemic and China’s “wolf warrior” diplomacy shaping the geopolitical contest in Asia? What impact are US and Chinese actions and rivalry having on other countries in the Indo-Pacific? And how should Australia best advance its interests amid deteriorating US-China ties, growing strategic competition and a polarising response to the call for an independent inquiry into COVID-19?

To discuss these issues, USSC hosted a special webinar featuring Ashley Townshend, Director of Foreign Policy and Defence with the United States Studies Centre, Dr Lynn Kuok, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security, IISS, and Richard Maude, Executive Director of Policy with the Asia Society Australia, in conversation with Dr Lavina Lee, Macquarie University.

Richard Maude joined Asia Society Australia in January 2020 as the inaugural Executive Director, Policy, and Senior Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute — the first senior executive role in the Institute outside the United States. Richard Maude most recently served as Deputy Secretary, Indo-Pacific Group, in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with a portfolio covering Australia’s bilateral relations with Asia and North America as well as regional political, security, economic and development assistance interests. Previously, Maude was Director-General of the Office of National Assessments.

Ashley Townshend is Director of Foreign Policy and Defence at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, where he works on strategic affairs with a focus on the Indo-Pacific region. Ashley is also founding convenor and co-chair of the US-Australia Indo-Pacific Deterrence Dialogue and a lecturer in the Centre’s postgraduate program. A frequent contributor to the Australian and international media, Ashley’s analysis has appeared in outlets such as the Financial Times, CNN, the Australian Financial Review, Bloomberg, ABC, and Sky News.

Dr Lynn Kuok is Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific Security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies with a focus on international relations, security and law of the Indo-Pacific, particularly the South China Sea dispute. Dr Kuok is also Senior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She is a former Brookings expert and has held multiple fellowships including at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She sits on the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Geopolitics.

Dr Lavina Lee is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University, Sydney. She is the author of the book US Hegemony and International Legitimacy: Norms Power and Followership in the Wars on Iraq (Routledge, 2010), and has published numerous articles, book chapters and commentary on Indian foreign and security policy, nuclear proliferation, US foreign policy, and security relations in the Indo-Pacific. She is also the author of the recently published report, Assessing the Quad: Prospects and Limitations of Quadrilateral Cooperation for Advancing Australia’s Interests.