Australia's Relations with China: What's the Problem? – Parliament of Australia
With Australia-China bilateral relations at close to a year low, the Turnbull That said, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel may have been delayed simply because of a busy Chinese political. As a former British colony with a majority white population, Australia has for much of its The height of Australia's cultural embrace of China arguably came during the Which relationship is more important to Australians? . is able to transform its economic power over Australia into political leverage. The Australia–China relationship will undergo a huge change over the The scale and complexity of the relationship is growing because of the and clear acknowledgement of the economic and political advantages of open.
The problems which plagued Australia-China relations during were an indication of the sensitive nature of the relationship. In particular, Australia's relations with China will be strongly influenced by the course of US-China relations during the second Clinton administration. Preface - Implications of the Death of Deng Xiaoping This paper was completed just before the announcement of the death of China's 'paramount leader' Deng Xiaoping on 19 February As Deng became increasingly old and fragile in the years before his death, international commentators devoted much discussion to the political implications of the succession from Deng's leadership.
The paper includes a discussion of the growing political uncertainty in China with the decline of the Communist Party's Maoist legitimacy and the Party's loss of direct control over the economy and over people's daily lives, together with problems developing with social and regional disparities and the suppressed popular desire for democratisation. The death of Deng Xiaoping is discussed as a factor which will contribute to this uncertainty, but the paper argues from the position that his death is unlikely to have an immediate impact on events.
Had Deng's death occurred before the policies of economic openness and liberalisation which he championed from the late s were fully established, elements in the Party still influenced by Maoist economic ideas might have been encouraged to attempt to regain ascendancy.
Equally, had he died before his designated successor, Jiang Zemin, had consolidated his position, Deng's departure from the scene would have been more destabilising. From information currently available, it seems unlikely that Jiang's authority will be challenged in the immediate future and even less likely that there would be any serious discussion of returning to the economic policies of the past. On the issue of economic policy, Jiang has recently been associated with a 'neo-conservative' approach designed to dampen the effects of popular resentment about corruption, crime, unemployment and the continuing underdevelopment of interior regions.
These negative aspects of the growth of recent years have come to be identified with the freewheeling economic policies of 'Dengism', but it is significant that while attempting to tackle such problems, Jiang's leadership has never suggested that there would be any reversal of the fundamentals of Deng's economic strategy.
Rather there has been an effort largely successful to bring the economy to a 'soft landing' after a period of overheating and the resultant high inflation which eroded many people's incomes. Beijing has also attempted to direct a portion of new investment into the interior to facilitate more even development.
As far as the leadership is concerned, there seems little doubt that Jiang Zemin is in firm control and has strengthened his position in recent years. Jiang has sponsored a range of proteges into influential posts in the Party, government and military and has established himself 'at the core' of a collective leadership. This allows him to act as a broker in the event of conflicting views between the conservative and moderates in the Party. Jiang has also made efforts to build up a body of thought in the tradition of 'Mao Zedong Thought' and 'Deng Xiaoping Thought'.
Focusing on the need to reaffirm cultural and family values as well as the drive for prosperity, Jiang's ideas are designed not only to heighten his own stature but to reinforce the idea of the Party as a moral and political leader of the Chinese people.
Jiang's efforts to reinforce his political and ideological position is important in the lead-up to the 15th Party conference to be held in October where he will wish to cement and formalise his dominant role. Jiang's main weakness is that he does not have the military background which could reinforce his support within the politically powerful People's Liberation Army. On the other hand, any other likely contenders for power, principally Prime Minister Li Peng, have the same disadvantage.
Li Peng also suffers from his strong popular identification with the suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations in June It should be stressed that even if factional divisions were to emerge in coming months or years, the terms of debate would not be about the basics of economic philosophy such as those which marked the transition from Mao's rule to that of Deng Xiaoping.
The great legacy of Deng's incumbency is the hegemony of an economic strategy based on opening China to the world market and greatly reducing the role of bureaucratic planning and direction in the allocation of resources for investment.
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The paradox which Deng also bestowed on his successors, however, is that while expanding wealth has provided new strength for the regime after the chaos of the Mao years, social change and social problems accompanying this growth have shown their potential to undermine support for the Party. Jiang's Zemin's efforts to restore the Party's legitimacy and ideological leadership are unlikely to see it return to the position it held during the post-revolutionary years. With social discontent in the cities and growing dissatisfaction in the interior, particularly amongst ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang, the Party may have to rely increasingly on the Army to assert its control.
Introduction Relations with China are one of the most important aspects of Australia's foreign policy. As an emerging great power in our region with whom Australia is developing a major economic relationship, good relations with China will become an increasingly prominent feature of Australia's international interests.
But maintaining good relations with China is also one of the most difficult challenges for Australian policymakers. The recurring friction in Australia-China relations which marked much of was a sign of the sensitive nature of dealing with China and a good indicator of the range of issues which can arise in managing the relationship.
Problems began to emerge in when China criticised Australia's policy on China and Taiwan which it perceived was becoming too closely tied with US policy and which it interpreted as throwing doubts on Australia's commitment to a one-China policy.
This perception grew out of the new Australian Government's quick expressions of support for US actions in response to China's military exercises in the Taiwan Straits during the March Taiwanese presidential election, as well as the upgrading of Australia's defence ties with the US in July China also criticised the visit to Taiwan by the Primary Industries Minister, Mr Anderson, and the discussion about the possibility of Australia selling uranium to Taiwan. Adding to the ill-feeling was the decision by the Australian Government, in Aprilto cut part of Australia's aid program to China.
Concerned to prevent any further deterioration in relations, Mr Howard moved, in Novemberto reassure the Chinese Government that Australia had not altered its China policy following the election of a Coalition Government. He took the opportunity of the APEC summit in Manila to meet with the Chinese President, Ziang Zemin, to discuss the issues which had placed a cloud over the relationship between the two countries.
The meeting was reportedly very successful and the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: The Chinese Government attaches importance to the statements of the Australian Coalition Government on placing emphasis on Sino-Australian relations, adhering to a one-China policy [and] being against containment We would like to develop a long, stable relationship with Australia on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and seeking common ground while reserving our differences.
Following the meeting with the Chinese President, some observers suggested that the problems affecting Sino-Australian relations had been overcome. Certainly, the meeting between the two leaders, together with other contacts at ministerial and official level during the final months ofhelped reduce misunderstandings which had developed in Beijing about the direction of Australian policy.
The whole affair, however, underscored the inherently touchy nature of the relationship with China. Despite the apparent passing of tensions, Australia's relations with China will continue to have potential for friction for many years into the future. This paper outlines the recent problems in Sino-Australian relations and the light they shed on the challenges which confront Australian policymakers. It provides a background against which to understand the development of Australia-China relations and discusses the nature of sensitivities in the relationship in the context of China's relations with the United States and the country's recent economic growth and political problems.
Australia-China Relations in Retrospect Australia's relations with China and Chinese at a non-government level have been controversial for most of Australia's European history. Anti-Chinese feeling, occasionally erupting into violence, was a feature of Australian goldfields from the s and a desire to prevent Chinese immigration was one of the first motivations for the White Australia policy instituted after Federation in At an official level, Australia-China relations were, from their foundation during WWII until recently, dominated by the concerns of wider strategic relationships.
InChina under the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek became one of the first countries with which Australia established independent diplomatic relations.
This relationship was established in the context of China's struggle against Japan rather than because of any significant commercial or political links between the two countries.
It was not untilhowever, that Prime Minister Harold Holt sent an ambassador to Taiwan to seal Australia's recognition of the Chiang Kai-shek regime as the sole legitimate government of China.
By that time the question of the recognition of China had become a major political controversy in Australia and became linked to the issue of the Vietnam War and perceptions of China as a threat to Australia's security and sponsor of communist subversion throughout Southeast Asia.
Despite hostile political relations, Australia nevertheless continued to trade with mainland China, especially with major sales of wheat.
The situation changed dramatically at the beginning of the s with the change of government in Australia and changes in US policies on China. One of the first acts of the newly-elected Labor Government in was to recognise the PRC as the sole government of China.
This laid the foundations for rapid growth of diplomatic, cultural and economic links between Australia and China under both the Whitlam and Fraser Governments. These developments were facilitated by China's efforts to strengthen its ties with the West as a whole, firstly to find allies against the Soviet Union and, following policy changes into boost China's economic growth by opening up to the world economy.
From the early s Australia's dealings with China began to move away from a preoccupation with global strategic issues and to concentrate on regional issues and bilateral economic links.
In political terms, the 'special relationship' which Prime Minister Hawke considered had developed between Australia and China came to an abrupt end, however, with the violent suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Beijing in June Concerns about human rights abuses in China ensured that diplomatic relations between Australia and China were frosty for over a year, including a ban on ministerial visits until early Nevertheless, the importance of the commercial links which had grown up between Australia and China in the preceding decade meant that there was little possibility of relations returning to the kind of enmity and suspicion which had characterised the pre period.
Trade and investment between the two countries were unaffected, and the Australian Government emphasised that Australia 'remain[ed] committed to a long-term cooperative relationship with China'.
The focus of the Keating Government on deepening links with the countries of Asia meant that particular attention was given to the relationship with China. At the same time the government was sensitive to continuing domestic and international concerns about China's human rights record and emphasised that relations were maintained with a 'realistic, business-like approach' rather than with the ideas of a 'special relationship' which had marked the pre period.
Prime Minister Keating conducted a successful visit to China in Junewith an emphasis on trade and investment. A Year of Friction Following the election of the Howard Government in MarchAustralia-China relations encountered serious problems as the Chinese Government began to react to what it saw as change in the direction of Australian policy on China.
China had expressed concerned about Australia's increasing contacts with Taiwan duringbut the problems reached a new level in The Chinese perception was fuelled by a number of actions by the Australian Government which Beijing interpreted as together forming a shift away from a previously supportive stance on China towards a position more closely tied with US interests and less friendly to China. The issues over which the misunderstandings developed were an indication of the sensitive nature of the Australia-China relationship and the degree to which the relationship is directly linked to the health of China's relations with the United States.
One China or Two? In March Taiwan held its first fully democratic presidential election. The Chinese Government, in an effort to reassert its continuing claim to sovereignty over Taiwan and to influence Taiwanese electors not to vote for pro-independence candidates, began a demonstrative series of missile tests in the Taiwan Straits.
In response, the US Government moved two aircraft carrier groups into the area to monitor the tests and to affirm its interest in the security of Taiwan.
One of the first foreign policy actions by the new Coalition Government after its election in March was to call in the Chinese Ambassador to express its concern about the mounting tensions between China and Taiwan. The new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, also welcomed the US decision to move warships into the Straits as a sign of US commitment to the security of the East Asian region, as 'demonstrating [US] interest in participating in regional security issues in a very practical way'.
Chinese Government representatives did not make any particular public response to the position of the government, but subsequent events suggest that they took note of Australia's quick support for the US and began to look for further signs that policy in Canberra was changing with the new government, in particular that Australia was moving away from its 'one China' policy.
China began to register great sensitivity to Australian dealings with the government in Taipei. In July, the Mayors of Beijing and Shenzhen declined to attend an Asian cities' conference held in Brisbane in protest against the attendance of the Mayor of Taipei, Mr Chen Shui-bian, a leading figure in the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.
Mr Downer had issued a statement saying that the federal government had no objection to a visit by Mr Chen. Funded as part of Australia's overseas aid program, the scheme had been controversial for some time and the government decided to abolish it as part of efforts to reduce budget expenditure.
The Chinese Ambassador said the move would: We hope that the Australian Government will follow internationally accepted practices and continue to support the projects in the pipeline All these projects have been committed by the two governments.
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If they are not to be carried out, then it won't be in line with international practices. But it has also been suggested that the Chinese were particularly concerned that the cancellation of DIFF funding was part of a wider campaign by Western countries to restrict the flow of development assistance to China. Australia's cancellation of projects in China financed through soft loans may have strengthened fears in Beijing that Australian foreign policy was taking on a new pro-US and anti-China character.
The 'Claws of a Crab'? Part of the foreign policy agenda of the new Coalition Government was to re-emphasise Australia's security relationship with the US. At the AUSMIN talks the two countries signed a new security declaration and agreed to expand the range of joint exercises, including regular participation by US personnel on Australian soil.
Chinese reaction to the development came quickly and stridently, in the form of a commentary in the official People's Daily. From this we can see that the United States is really thinking about using these two 'anchors' as the craws of a crab The recent moves by the US in Australia show that the Cold War thought process has not changed much in the minds of some people, who still hope to play the role of the global policeman.
Whereas the previous Labor Government paid more attention to building bilateral security relations, the new government has repeatedly emphasised the importance of its traditional allies.
Using the metaphors beloved of Chinese commentary, the article compared Australia to a bat which gave its allegiance to the mammals when they triumphed, but showed its wings and declared itself a bird when the birds were victorious. What countries have seen instead are aid cuts to Asia and speeches by the MP, Pauline Hanson, full of anti-Asian and anti-immigration sentiment.
As soon as it was announced that the Buddhist leader and symbol of the Tibetan independence struggle would be visiting Australia, the Chinese Government began protesting against any suggestion that the Dalai Lama would meet the Prime Minister or any senior Australian Government figure.
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When the Prime Minister said he would indeed meet the Dalai Lama, the People's Daily launched a particularly strident attack on the Australian government: The statement repeated the warning that the decision would 'unavoidably produce a negative impact on relations between China and Australia'.
Nevertheless, senior members of previous Australian governments and parliament had held meetings with the Dalai Lama without the vituperation which marked their reaction to Mr Howard's meeting. The Chinese have always opposed such meetings but their response on this occasion was at a new level. It is quite unusual for Australian foreign policy to be subject to a repeated critique in the Chinese press.
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The View from Beijing The change in the character of Chinese statements about Australia needs to be understood as the product of a general perception in Beijing that Australian policy was being redefined under a Coalition Government. A number of individual actions without a united objective in mind were interpreted by the Chinese authorities as a co-ordinated policy response. The Australian Government did not appear to appreciate the extent to which Beijing would read a single coherent meaning into the actions.
The view from Beijing was that Australia under a Coalition Government was becoming less sympathetic to the Chinese position on highly sensitive issues such as Taiwan and Tibet and was moving to re-emphasise traditional especially US relationships at the expense of Asian connections. Of particular disquiet from Beijing's point of view, Australia's renewed stress on the importance of the US alliance was seen as a return to a less independent foreign policy which would conform more closely to US interests.
This was regarded with particular concern at a time when China-US relations were being affected by a number of disagreements. Dealing with an Emerging Great Power Following the efforts of senior Australian Government officials and the meeting between the Australian Prime Minister and Chinese President in Manila in Novemberthe government of China brought an end to the hostile public critique of Australian policy.
A Chinese presidential spokesman was reported as describing the Howard-Ziang meeting as 'very friendly': One meeting cannot resolve all the problems, but the two leaders have reached a common understanding to overcome our difficulties and keep better relations in the future.
This is the beginning of another stage; that we should keep the momentum going. His comments indicate that the Chinese Government has a generally positive attitude towards the prospects for Sino-Australian relations. Politically and militarily, China and Australia pose no threat to each other.
In the second half of the 20th century, the Australian political class still saw Russia as a local threat but this time through the prism of the cold war. Similarly, the new alliance with America rebooted the old hostility to China, with the horror of the yellow peril becoming the fear of the red menace.
By the mids, China was the overwhelming focus of Australian foreign policy, just as it had been through most of the 19th century. For Clive Hamilton — and many in the national security establishment — the answer is simple: China, on the other hand, is not. In earlier periods, Australian paid for the protection of the British fleet by volunteering young men for bloody slaughters in the name of the empire.
The alignment with Washington entails a similar price, already implicating Australians in some of the greatest crimes against democracy in the modern age. Infor instance, John Howard made perfectly clear that he saw participation in the invasion of Iraq as, at least in part, a means of strengthening Anzus. There was nothing anti-totalitarian about the carnage that followed, with as many as a million people dead.
The ghastly reverberations continue to this day. Yet democratic Australia has been running very similar campaigns against those nations it can control. None of that is intended to prettify the Chinese regime, a clique of dictators becoming ever more dictatorial, nor to whitewash its own ambitions in the Pacific. The narrative of Australian settlement is part of a broader story, one in which, over and over again, one great power after another imposes its will on the region.