China-Australia relations | South China Morning Post
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Group. Contents. Major Issues. Preface - Implications of the Death of Deng Xiaoping. Introduction. Australia-China Relations. Indonesia halts military co-operation with Australia, in an apparent dispute about training material. Bilateral relations have been tense at times in recent years, although The principles are: The one God system (monotheism), just and of joint military patrols in the South China Sea - something Australia. China waging 'psychological warfare' against Australia, US Congress told It is not clear whether the marines are here for Australia's defence.
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.
Is a powerful China a threat to Australia?
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.
Australia's Relations with China: What's the Problem? – Parliament of Australia
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.
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.
China to take part in Australian naval war games despite tensions between two sides
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.
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.
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. Economically, the two countries complement each other. Furthermore, there are many opportunities for Australia and China to cooperate with each other in international and particularly regional issues.
- US troops are now in Darwin. But questions remain as to why
- Indonesia suspends military co-operation with Australia
- Australia's Relations with China: What's the Problem?
He said the difficulties in were due to the Australian government taking 'some actions which ended up hurting the national feelings of the Chinese people'. As long as the two countries respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, bilateral relations will continue to develop and the potential for cooperation between the two sides will be enhanced.
Although Australia's relations with China have undergone a qualitative change during the last decade and are no longer framed in predominantly geopolitical terms, the Chinese leadership still conducts all its international affairs with broader regional and global implications in mind. Containment, Engagement and Australia-China Relations Chinese perceptions of how it is regarded in international affairs are still strongly influenced by suspicions that the US and to some extent Japan and other Western powers harbour a desire to prevent China from taking its place amongst the major players on the world stage.
Chinese officials look back on a history in which China saw itself as the 'Middle Kingdom' to which the rest of the world paid tribute, followed by a hundred years of humiliation and incursions into its sovereignty by foreigners. When the Chinese people 'stood up', as Mao put it inand embarked on a new effort to rebuild their country, the US instituted a policy of 'containment' which the Chinese Government considered was an attempt to keep China weak and isolated.
These crucial underlying factors in China's relations with the countries of the West became especially evident in the discord which affected US relations with China beginning from Relations deteriorated over a number of issues: US actions over Taiwan and strategic issues began to be read as signs of a return to the policies of 'containment'.
Beijing feared that while professing to seek 'constructive engagement' with China, the US actually wanted to contain the rise of a rival superpower. Australia is seen as a faithful long-term ally of the US which supported the US during the Vietnam War and the Cold War and emulated the US policy of recognising the Taiwan regime as the legitimate government of China.
At the same time, Australia is appreciated for its capacity to act independently of the US, including trading with China during the s and s and recognising the PRC insix years before the US. During the s, Australia's close relationship with China also played a small role in facilitating China's economic and political opening to the world in the post-Maoist era. Australia also expressed its disagreement with US efforts, in andto link China's MFN status with the issue of human rights.
Nevertheless, the Chinese authorities remain highly sensitive to any perceived changes in Australia's strategic and economic outlook and are especially wary of any moves to return to what could be seen as a slavish emulation of the US.
While Australia and China have, since the s, developed a strong bilateral relationship based on shared interests, China still handles its affairs with individual countries in the context of global strategic relationships.
As Australia's bilateral and regional involvement with China grows in the future, a key challenge for Australia's policy-makers will be to balance the demands of the relationship with China while maintaining close strategic and economic ties with the US.
One of the central dilemmas for both Australia and the US will continue to be the question of Taiwan. China under the current regime would never accept a formally independent Taiwan, but Taiwan has been effectively independent for many years and is becoming an increasingly important economic player in the region, lobbying with growing effectiveness for a more regularised status in the international community. The contrast of Taiwan's transition to democratic rule with the authoritarianism and suppression of human rights in China has been instrumental in winning Taipei many supporters in the US, particularly in Congress.
Any change in policy on Taiwan in either Washington or Canberra would jeopardise the even more important relationship with Beijing, yet the pressures on the current ambiguous arrangements can only grow in the future. The issue of Hong Kong is not fraught with the complexities of Taiwan's status, but the territory's reunification with China in July has many potential problems, not only in terms of their implications for US-China relations but because of Australia's direct bilateral interests. Hong Kong is a very important trading partner for Australia whose economic future is of great interest for Australia, and Australia will be unable to stand aloof from the tensions which may develop over the issue of political freedom and human rights in the territory under Chinese rule.
Economic Growth and Political Uncertainty The growing importance of relations with China for Australian policy-makers is set to continue because China is maintaining rapid economic growth even while entering a period of political uncertainty.
International attention has focused even more on this uncertainty since the death of Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese economy has sustained an average annual growth rate of almost ten per cent over the last decade and is projected to become the world's second largest economy within the next ten years.
China's growth, together with Australia's greater relative economic involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, have led to a twenty per cent average annual increase in Australia's exports to China over the last five years. China is currently Australia's fifth largest trading partner and if the trade figures with Hong Kong were to be added after reunification in Julythe total would rank third after Japan and the US.
Chinese investment in Australian agriculture and minerals has expanded considerably in recent years. China's economic success has boosted the confidence with which the Chinese Government is conducting its foreign relations and asserting its position in regional territorial disputes such as the Spratly Islands, 28 in its relations with powers such as the US and Japan and over issues such as human rights. While China's military capability is limited and its armed forces are only at the beginning of what will be a long process of modernisation, the country's rapid economic development provides the necessary conditions for its eventual rise to the status of a major military power.
The effective debunking of Maoist ideology following the rise to power of Deng Xiaoping has meant that the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party has come to rely on its capacity to deliver access to material wealth.
But the benefits of the new approach have not flowed evenly to the Chinese people. In contrast with the shared backwardness of Maoist China, regional disparities are widening as well-situated provinces take advantage of new opportunities while poorer regions experience far less growth.
The rise of market-driven economics has uprooted millions of people in search of work and thrown the future of millions of workers in old state-owned industries into doubt. With rising visible poverty and crime, many Chinese perceive that the benefits of economic growth are being monopolised by a corrupt minority. The suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Junewhich arose partly to protest against such problems, further weakened the legitimacy of the Communists and has led them to depend increasingly on the power of the armed forces.
The Party continues to shrink from any ideas of political liberalisation for fear of the complete loss of control which brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Every year since marines have been routinely stationed here, and, under the terms of the force posture agreement between the USA and Australia, they will be here every year until This is an extraordinary arrangement, which has come under little public scrutiny.
The strategic significance of having the forces of a foreign nation stationed on domestic territory has largely escaped attention. Why this highly unusual deployment has become necessary in peace time has never been properly explained. Under normal circumstances no independent nation entertains the forces of another nation in anything other than the most extreme of situations, such as being under immediate threat from some third party.
In the case of Australia, no such threat exists. The defence white paper states that there is no more than a remote possibility of a military attack by another country on Australian territory in the foreseeable future. This being the case, there should be some other explanation for such an unusual development. However, successive Australian governments have offered only flimsy reasons. From the very start, the move lacked transparency.
Despite its significance, the decision involved no parliamentary debate and little public discussion.
It was fait accompli. Whether the idea for the deployment originated in Australia or the USA has never been made clear. The true nature of their mission remains hidden.