Conversations The Runway

Employing National Power Levers to Balance Great Power Competition in the Region

40 min Source: The Runway Events


Defence experts discuss national power levers and their application in our region.


Dr Charles Edel from the United States Studies Centre (USYD)  discusses five dominant trends driving the security environment and affecting regional instability. He questions if China is using an aggregation of its national power levers (military and economics) to coerce and destablise democracy in our region. He discusses how the pre-existing geopolitical tensions are exacerbated by the Corona pandemic. Using the lexicon of the competition continuum, Dr Edel argues Australia's appropriate policy response to the competition should be to pursue "an independent line", rather than acquiescing to any one great power. He highlights the Australian alliance with the US and its regional neighbours should not be underestimated for its strength.  

Dr Andrew Carr from the College of Asia and the Pacific (ANU) discusses the great power challenges: US governance issues, and questions of China's transparency and leadership legitimacy in the region. He takes a different view to great power competition in our region to that of Dr Edel, advocating it is more about how the competition plays out for order in our region and our national interests. As well as getting comfortable with the use of our military power lever - the use of force, as a "backstop" to both protect the other power levers and deal with future challenges. Acknowledging the effects created by Australia's air power, he advocates that Air Force's role should be to take a more "targeted focus" in the region. In his view greater strategic effects could be achieved by harnessing the strength of our democracy (vis-a-vis the rigidity of authoritarianism) and through greater continuity in our engagement with our Pacific partners.

Both guests highlight the importance of individual commitment to through-career professional development and education as a means to meaningfully contribute to the security discussion. 

(Recorded 12 May 20)