1st Edition

Australia’s Security in China’s Shadow

By Euan Graham Copyright 2023

    A major shift in the paradigm undergirding relations between Australia and China has become clear in the early 2020s, with geopolitical concerns trumping economic considerations. Canberra has implemented a range of new policies in response to the risks it perceives in Australia’s economic relations with China, the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to exert political influence in Australia, the expanding capabilities and presence of the People’s Liberation Army, and Beijing’s economic and diplomatic gains in Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. China’s policies towards Australia have become more coercive in economic as well as diplomatic terms. However, Australia has withstood Beijing’s punitive trade measures without suffering significant economic damage. China’s more assertive regional posture has prompted far-reaching changes to Australia’s defence and alliance policy settings, including new capability acquisitions and strategic initiatives such as AUKUS.

    In this Adelphi book, Euan Graham argues that Australia has provided an imperfect but nevertheless useful exemplar of how governments may respond effectively to multifarious security challenges from China. In particular, the Australian case shows how measures to address domestic vulnerabilities may serve as the foundation for a successful China policy at the international level.

    CHAPTER ONE: The end of the affair

    CHAPTER TWO: China policy begins at home

    CHAPTER THREE: The political economy of Australia–China relations

    CHAPTER FOUR: The China factor in Australia’s defence strategy and alliance posture

    CHAPTER FIVE: Australia’s Indo-Pacific statecraft and Southeast Asia

    CHAPTER SIX: Competing with China in the Southwest Pacific

    CHAPTER SEVEN: Learning to live in China’s shadow




    Euan Graham is the Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow for Indo-Pacific Defence and Strategy at the IISS in Singapore. His expertise lies in Australia’s strategic policy, maritime strategy and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Euan has lived and worked in Japan, Singapore and Australia, where he was executive director of La Trobe Asia, in Melbourne, and director of the Lowy Institute’s International Security Program. Before that, he served with the UK government as a research analyst in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, covering both Northeast and Southeast Asia. He has written and commented widely for international media on a range of regional security issues.

    ‘Euan Graham’s Adelphi book is an essential guide to the remarkable transformation of Australia’s policy framework for managing its relationship with China, and what others can learn from this experience. Graham sets the bilateral relationship in its political, economic and social contexts and thoughtfully tracks the sometimes messy evolution of a new Australian approach to China that emphasises sovereignty, national economic resilience, deterrence and the search for a favourable regional balance of power.’

    Richard Maude, Executive Director, Policy, and Senior Fellow, Asia Society Policy Institute; former Deputy Secretary, Indo-Pacific Group, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Director-General of the Office of National Assessments (Australia)

    ‘Euan Graham provides an invaluable account of Australia’s trials and tribulations to cope with political interference, economic coercion, security threats, and other challenges from China. His timely book offers useful lessons, especially for small and medium-sized states who seek to build domestic resilience and protect their sovereignty from China’s multi-spectrum challenges.’

    Bonnie Glaser, Director, Asia Program, German Marshall Fund of the United States

    ‘This is a contemporary and concise book. It analyses what has happened on the ground, and how things will likely move in the foreseeable future regarding Australia and China but also involving ASEAN and South Pacific states in the wake of the contestation for influence and power by Beijing and Washington. The key takeaway is that foreign policy begins at home, and no quick fix is possible.’

    – Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Ambassador-at-Large, Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs; former Secretary-General of ASEAN