As the top 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls prepare to take to the stage for their next debate in just over 24 hours time, the United States Studies Centre has released a new report examining the future of the party's foreign policy platform and the consequences for Australia.

Washington-based Non-Resident Fellow Dougal Robinson writes in the report that if a Democratic president is sworn in on 20 January 2021, they will likely have won the Oval Office on a platform that is far more assertive towards China than the Obama administration’s, and yet at the same time to the left of the last two Democratic presidents on most foreign policy issues.

"There is the very real prospect that a Democratic candidate relatively unknown to allies and partners, with limited experience in foreign policy, or promising wholesale changes to foreign policy, triumphs in the general election," Robinson says.

"Australia should be paying close attention to the shifts in the Democratic Party’s debate on China and the related questions of trade policy and Asia policy, as well as the Middle East and defence spending.

"The China hardening in the Democratic Party will likely continue to embolden President Trump in his approach to Beijing up to the 2020 election and perhaps beyond."

Key points

  • The Democratic Party’s foreign policy platform is getting tougher on China and simultaneously growing more sceptical of the utility of free trade, high defence spending, and US leadership in the Middle East.
  • President Trump is unlikely to achieve major domestic successes before the election, so many of his most notable actions in the lead up to the election in 2020 — and what he will see as an electoral strength — will likely be foreign policy.
  • Regardless of who wins the election, Canberra will need to prepare to be called on by the United States for a tougher approach to China.

View or download report

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