The only litmus test for China-Australia relations is the best interest of their people
Published: Oct 28, 2023 01:16 AM
Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times

After Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's visit to the US this week, he will visit China next week. First of all, China will be opening its doors to welcome the upcoming visit by Albanese to China. China is Australia's biggest trading partner, and China has huge market potential for many commodities and products produced in Australia. Therefore, for Australia, it is absolutely important to maintain good, robust state-to-state relations with China.

The US position regarding China is very different from the position of many other Western countries. The US worries about two things. One is that China will catch up with the US in terms of the size of its GDP. On the other hand, the US worries that once China surpasses that of the US, China will impose its political system, ideology, and ways of doing things onto the US.

Basically, the US worries about losing its top-dog position to China. But equally importantly, either in the past, present, or future, China will never seek hegemony. China will not be the next top dog in the world to replace the US. Therefore, the US needs to be rational rather than viewing China as an antagonist. If countries like Australia follow this logical explanation, then they do not need to suffer the nightmare suffered by Washington.

China is a megatrend of our time. You simply cannot decouple from China. It's an impossible mission. You cannot also view China as a risk to practice what they call de-risk. After all, China is the largest trading partner with more than 130 nations in the world. Therefore, dealing with China is the right thing for the majority of the countries in the world.

Maybe a certain country has better relations with the US, but it doesn't mean that in order to maintain good relations with the US, you need to turn yourself into an enemy of China. In the case of Australia, the country will continue to keep its political and strategic relations with the US, but it's also important for Australia to maintain its economic trading and people-to-people relations with China. These two sets of bilateral relations should not be contradictory to each other?

Australia is an important country for China in terms of trade and people-to-people exchanges. If Australia views China as its competitor or rival, I think the Australian government needs to second-guess its own judgment. Countries like Australia need to do good offices between China and the US rather than completely disregarding their own independence of judgment to be 100 percent sided with the US. The US will also come to the conclusion that China is a megatrend of our time.

Australia should be good at promoting both its relations with China as well as its relations with the US. I don't think Australia should pick and choose between China and the US. Albanese just needs to do what is the absolutely correct thing for the national interests of the Australian people. After all, the Australian people do want to continue normal business with China and to promote people-to-people relations with China. In China-Australia relations, there is only one real litmus test, that is, whether the exchanges between China and Australia will be in the best interest of the Chinese and the Australian people.

Australia is a big country and is fully entitled to its own independence of foreign decision-making. I do hope the Australian government will have their own independence of mind. Here I want to give my personal credit to Albanese, because he has demonstrated enough maturity and soundness of his own decision-making power.

Under the previous administration of Australia, Australia seemed to be so agitated in its relations with China that it became very much losing its own independence of mind, and it didn't care about hurting the fundamental interests of the Chinese and the Australian people. Compared with the previous administration, Albanese seems to be more mature and more sound in his own decision-making process. He definitely fully acknowledges China's importance as the biggest trading partner of Australia, and he also attaches great importance to people-to-people exchanges between China and Australia.

China's demand for many commodities produced in Australia is really without limitation. Therefore, if Australia ignores China, excludes China, or views China in a hostile, antagonistic way, it is against the fundamental interest of the Australian people. I do hope that the Australian people will conclude that it is absolutely important to maintain normal relations with China, and I believe Albanese has made that turn of mind and has convinced not only the Australian government itself but also many other governments in the West in particular. That is, to deal with China as it is, to trade with China, and to promote people-to-people exchanges with China, is absolutely the right thing to do.

The author is a chair professor at Soochow University and Vice President of the Center for China and Globalization. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn