Aussie joins US crusade against China but receives only hollow praise

By Chen Hong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/19 15:13:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Australia's China policies in recent years are evidently characterized with bizarre indiscretion and immaturity. Since mid-2017, Canberra has stubbornly aligned itself with the Trump administration's assertive and belligerent strategy to contain China. It has senselessly disregarded and even trashed the long-standing partnership with China. In a number of instances, Australia has spearheaded US' anti-China crusade, mindlessly challenging China's national interests, and jeopardizing bilateral political, social, cultural, economic exchanges and cooperative efforts.

Although with a relatively short history, Australia has been viewed by China as one of the most important countries in the Asia-Pacific region since 1972 when the two countries established diplomatic relationship. A constructive partnership had been dynamically developing for the mutual benefits of both countries and peoples.

However, during the past four years, the Australian Liberal-National Coalition government has been displaying an incredulously juvenile world outlook. It has further shown injudicious judgments, and an immature understanding of its relations with the rest of the international community. Canberra unrealistically presumes that by challenging and insulting a big country such as China, Australia would be able to boast about and celebrate its "coming of age." Whenever differences or frictions have occurred, Canberra would categorically sidestep conventional diplomacy of frank and open discussions as adults. It has instead petulantly vented wrath and fury with offensive rhetoric and aggressive measures. 

An adolescent undergoing growing pains would act out impulsively often without deliberating upon the ensuing consequences and costs. Maturity in its true sense is characterized with long-term deliberations, open-mindedness, tolerance and mutual trust. Querulous finger-pointing and insensible complaints only betray a deep-rooted sense of frailty and insecurity.

By throwing itself into the role of US' deputy sheriff, Australia has been pointlessly sacrificing its own national interests with no tangible gains in return.

The four years of the Trump administration have been characterized with persistently erratic international policies. These have adversely impacted the peace, stability and prosperity in the world, in particular in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia's Turnbull and Morrison governments have both imprudently aligned with Washington's adventurist Indo-Pacific Strategy. In so doing, they have pioneered a series of maneuvers which have put its relations with China, Australia's biggest trade partner, in jeopardy. 

Australia is one of the staunchest and ferocious foot soldiers in the US crusade against China. For this, Canberra has been warmly applauded and cheered by Washington. Morrison was even hailed by Donald Trump as "a man of titanium." Canberra indulges in such hollow praises - although it has never received any substantial rewards in return.

With the assured prospect of a Joe Biden presidency, Canberra needs to reflect upon the rationale - or lack of rationale - of the recklessness of its China policy. Given the likelihood that China-US relations could proceed in the coming four years in a less confrontational manner, Australia's foreign policy needs to make due diplomatic adjustments to avoid an embarrassing scenario in which Australia's relationship with China would remain in the cold - while Beijing and Washington jointly seek to restore a more normal and constructive rapport.

China is Australia's comprehensive strategic partner. The two have had proactive and productive bilateral cooperation for the past decades - which has created economic dynamism in both countries. People to people exchanges have also been developing on the basis of mutual trust and respect. This has led to Australia becoming one of the favorite destinations for Chinese people to study and travel in.  

There are no fundamental conflicts of interest between these two important Asia-Pacific countries. Canberra needs to learn to interact with China and other countries in the world in a more mature and level-headed way. It should foster a foreign policy that is independent from Washington's self-interested interference, a foreign policy that shows it is a responsible and independent member of the international community.

The author is a professor and director of the Australian Studies Centre, East China Normal University.

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