Australia insincere about engaging with Asia

By Yu Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/27 19:53:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


The inaugural Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Summit that concluded in mid-March has triggered a lingering discussion on whether Australia will engage with Asia and what kind of Asia policy it will adopt in the future.

From the achievements released by the Australian government after the summit, Canberra still clings to its contradictory economic and political policies toward ASEAN.

On the one hand, Australia presented a strong desire to boost its economic growth and employment rate through deepened trade cooperation with ASEAN countries amid the economic depression across the West. On the other, it has played a role of "deputy sheriff" in the Asia-Pacific region, attempting to pressure ASEAN member states in the name of democracy and human rights. And Canberra has every intention of reinforcing Australian influence among ASEAN nations.

Australia has long been practicing contradictory political and economic policies toward ASEAN and other developing countries in Asia. The same is with China-Australia relations. And the fundamental reason is that Canberra wants to take a free ride to benefit from Asia's fast economic development while closely following in the footsteps of the US and serving as its "deputy sheriff" in the Asia-Pacific to garner political and security benefits.

Prior to the summit, Australia encouraged ASEAN nations to insist on their sovereign independence and right to choose their own development path in the new geopolitical landscape where China's influence is rising. But meanwhile it made a fuss about human rights and democracy in some ASEAN countries. This political pride and prejudice was also reflected in its attempt to avoid an "invitation" from ASEAN to be part of the association.

Of course, the double standards of Australia toward ASEAN countries have drawn a backlash from ASEAN leaders. Most ASEAN members demonstrate different views from Australia in combating terrorism and safeguarding the security of the Asia-Pacific region and especially the South China Sea.

On the South China Sea territorial dispute, the majority of ASEAN countries held that claimants to the waters should maintain regional stability through promoting mutual trust and confidence and objected to military actions by external powers complicating the situation.

Three decades have passed since Australia put forward its proposal to engage with Asia, and the gap between them still exists.

Back in the 1990s, Asia prospered while Australia was blighted by hardships. Trade cooperation with China and ASEAN countries tided the country through the crisis and that's why Australia was the only Western nation not hit by the economic recession in the past more than 20 years.

Nonetheless all Australian administrations follow the US while interfering with Asian affairs in the name of engaging with Asia. Such a conceited arrogance demonstrates Australia has no sincerity about engaging with Asia. 

If Australia refuses to give up the vanity of being a "deputy sheriff" and show sincerity to develop friendship with Asian nations, it will hardly build intimate ties with China and ASEAN member states.

The author is research fellow at the Oceania Research Center of Sun Yat-sen University.


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