Executive summary

  • The strategic changes occurring across Asia underpin thinking about the future of the US-Australia alliance.
  • Over the past decade the regional economy has changed shape, placing China at the centre of a tightly-integrated Asian system of distributed manufacturing.
  • As Asia’s power topography becomes more pyramidal, disputes and civilizational rivalries can be expected to escalate.

Now in its seventh decade, the long-standing US-Australia alliance has never been closer, both in operational and political terms. The mutual commitment between Canberra and Washington has particularly intensified during the past ten years. However it remains to be seen how strategic changes in the Asian region will impact this intensified Alliance. Several key factors have the potential to change the nature of the relationship and can be grouped within six broader categories: Asia’s power topography, the emergence of the Indo-Pacific, the normalisation of Asian security, destabilising prosperity, China as the economic hinterland, and territoriality and status. The future of the Alliance depends on the Australia and America’s relative interests and how to best secure these amidst the strategic changes occurring in the Indo-Pacific. The Alliance in and of itself, is neither ephemeral nor permanent. Whilst it is likely that both countries will draw closer together, the possibility that differing paths may be taken should not be dismissed.