Intensifying geopolitical competition is combining with emerging technologies to create new frontiers for statecraft and present new challenges to the rules-based order. How should Australia engage in emerging domains such as cyberspace and outer space? How should Australia adopt new military technologies such as artificial intelligence and autonomous systems?

Australia wants to expand the rules-based order, regulate new frontiers and limit the "grey-zone". Yet Australia must compete effectively with actors who have a lower regard for international law and norms.

In Canberra on 14 and 15 June 2022, the Lowy Institute hosted the Frontier Rules conference to examine practical manifestations of this dilemma and to consider how they should be resolved.

Keynote and discussion

Dr Kori Schake

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shocked liberal democracies into action to strengthen the international rules-based order, Dr Kori Schake argues. Nations that value the post-war international framework have been reminded that they need to be prepared to argue for and defend the system. However, she says it is disappointing that the renewed focus on the rules-based order has come about not through positive decisions by liberal democracies, but in response to the actions of authoritarian states. She says the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine should send a message to China about the consequences of a move against Taiwan.

Keynote and discussion

Dr Samir Saran

Ubiquitous and universally accessible global technology platforms threaten to undermine social and political cohesion, and limit the effectiveness of an international rules-based order, Dr Samir Saran argues. Global tech companies operate beyond the control of individual nations, and impose different concepts around societies' agreed understanding around rights such as freedom of expression. The light-regulation of US-based tech companies compares with the operation of Chinese tech firms operate in the service of the country - but both have their drawbacks for other nations. How should states deal with the threats these platforms pose, and how can they defend themselves in an era of cyber conflict?


Mick Ryan & Dr Kori Sharke

In conversation with Mick Ryan and Dr Kori Schake. Mick discussed his recent book War in the Future, Russian military strategy in Ukraine, and the lessons that China’s military has taken from the conflict.

Australia's Security
and the Rules-Based Order

The Frontier Rules conference is part of the Lowy Institute project on Australia's Security and the Rules-Based Order. Although the concept of a rules-based order is cited with increasing frequency, it is not well understood.

This project examines different dimensions of the concept as well as threats to the existing order. The project has tracked Australia's adoption of the concept over ten years and produced digital debates on approaches to the order by China, the United States and in Southeast Asia.

In 2021, the Institute convened a digital conference on the Biden administration's concept of an Indo-Pacific Operating System.

The project on Australia's Security and the Rules-Based Order is supported by the Australian Department of Defence.

Rules Based Audio

EP 6: What are we getting wrong
about online manipulation?

Rules Based Audio

EP 5: Ukraine and the future of the rules based order

Rules Based Audio

EP 4: Mick Ryan on Russian military strategy in Ukraine

Rules Based Audio

EP 3: In Conversation with Hilary Charlesworth

Rules Based Audio

EP 2: In Conversation with Shirley Scott

Rules Based Audio

EP 1: In Conversation with John Ikenberry