Redefining Australia-China ties

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-4-22 3:49:00

With Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visiting China next week, the two countries now have an opportunity to boost their relations.

Australia's foreign policy has long been close to the US. Its Chinese-speaking former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd once expressed his interest in focusing more on Asia, especially on China. However, ideological considerations then urged him to distance himself from China and take a tougher stance than his predecessor, John Howard.

Over the past few years, conflicts between Australia and China have become more frequent – Rebiya Kadeer's visit to Australia, tension over Rio Tinto and the Rudd administration's 2009 defense white paper among others. Nevertheless, it was during these years that bilateral economic and trade relations grew to new heights. China is Australia's top trade partner at the moment. All these seem to show Rudd's China policy went against the interests of the Australian people themselves.

In such context, Gillard's adjustment in dealing with China does not seem to be a very difficult task. However, will the so-called adjustment merely be a temporary diplomatic posture?

Australia's China policy has been influenced by two forces. First is the US-Australia alliance together with the so-called Western values. This brought about Australia's inertia in prioritizing ideology when dealing with China. Second is the emergence of Asia, especially China, which has given Australia colossal practical interests. The Asian appeal now spurs Australia to adjust its diplomatic framework.

The Chinese public can understand Australia's inertia in its national strategy, and China does not seek to make Australia pick a side, the US or China.

Beyond considering studying and traveling aboard, ordinary Chinese rarely think of Australia in their everyday lives. Chinese society wants to see a moderate and normal relationship with Australia.

However, if Australia keeps stating China's importance, yet reinforces the US-Australian alliance as its national strategy for the 21st century, the Chinese public will feel uncomfortable. On the one hand, they may think Australia is trying to help the US in managing Beijing; on the other hand, they will see Canberra's emphasis on China's importance as pragmatism.

What is especially unacceptable to the Chinese people is Australia's challenging of Chinese values. The two countries are vastly different in their national situations, especially in term of population. If China has no right to make light of the Australian model, Australian should not belittle the 1.3 billion Chinese people's right to choose their own political path, either.

We hope Gillard can bring some changes. The Australian government should at least show basic respect to China. This is one of the fundamental rules of this civilized world.

Moreover, Canberra should be more tolerant toward a rising China. This will also make Australia happier.

Posted in: Editorial

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