Australia should seek policy autonomy, free of US directives
Published: Jan 20, 2021 08:30 PM

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

As the US President-elect Joe Biden becomes the host of the White House, how the world's largest economy under the new Biden administration will readjust its role on the global stage is the subject of heated debate and wild speculation, including the Five Eyes member Australia, which has seen internal debate on Canberra's binding its own fate to the gone Donald Trump government.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attempted to distance Canberra from Trump, and he also expects "there would be a continuation of those policy settings that have so favored the Australian alliance," after Biden is now in charge of America, according to media reports. Local Australian news outlets interpreted this as Morrison's government is clamoring for support from Biden.

As two sovereign states, Australia should develop relations with China independently and constructively. Placing itself in a subordinate position to always listen to the dictates from Washington is clearly not in line with the long-term interests of Australia.

China has been the largest trading partner of Australia for many years, purchasing over 30 percents of Aussie exports, from mineral resources to agricultural products. In spite of having a high economic complementarity with China, Canberra, however, has taken more efforts to disrupt its relation with China, from banning China's 5G developer Huawei to heightening scrutiny of Chinese investments. Such moves have destroyed the momentum between China and Australia and hurt the image and reputation of Australia too.

One of the major external reasons is the impact from the Trump-led US, which has been projecting a cold war mentality and propagating ideological prejudice. To some extent, Canberra has chosen to follow Trump' stubborn anti-China campaign and tie itself to the chariot of US unilateralism, at the cost of its mutually-beneficial relation with its largest trading partner.

The cold-war mentality has already encountered cold shoulders from the international community. After Trump recklessly undermined the US reputation across the world by promoting unilateralism and lies, Biden, as the new president, has repeated his intention to rejoin multilateral platforms.

As for the China-US relationship, though some of the problems will remain, it is expected that the global market may embrace an environment with decreasing uncertainty. If Canberra chooses to continue on the wrong path with its relationship with China, rather than timely adjust its approach to align with the mainstream and dominant development trends, its own long-term interests will bear the damage.

Mutual respect is the prerequisite for cooperation between countries. Canberra should handle bilateral relations following the principle of mutual respect and equality. Essentially, a sound and stable China-Australia relationship will be in the interests of both countries and peoples.

Bilateral relations includes many aspects, from economic to social and cultural cooperation, these should all be taken into consideration when it comes to genuine two-way partnership. Deteriorating China-Australia relations has permeated many aspects of two way ties, including Chinese consumers' losing preferential toward Australian products, to businesses' increasing risk awareness when cooperating with Australian firms or institutions.

It is hoped that the Morrison administration will take action conducive to cooperation with China, so as to provide conditions to bring the frayed bilateral relations back onto the right track, instead of further cloud the prospect.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Liu Qing, vice president at the China Institute of International Studies.