What the Government should do in regard to China policy following the 2013 Federal Election
30 July 2013 at 22:44
Some Australian commentators claim that Australia is at a cross roads, and that it is unprecedented that its largest trading partner is not its closest ally. In fact, its major ally and largest trading partner are engaged in a Cold War power struggle. They go on to say that solving this ‘unprecedented’ situation is Australia’s greatest foreign policy conundrum for at least the next decade. However, Australia’s situation is not unique, neither in the region nor in its own history. By considering the recent positions of the major political parties this essay will examine ...view middle of the document...
The ALP has, since Hawke-Keating, sought to emphasize Australia as an Asia-Pacific nation, rather than just a western one.
With Kevin Rudd replacing Julia Gillard as the leader of the ALP in late June 2013, it is easier to predict what Australia’s policy towards China will be if the ALP wins the election, as they will probably be similar to the policies Rudd pursued when he was Prime Minister between 2007 and 2010 and then Foreign Minister between 2010 and 2012. During this period, he was the most influential person in Parliament regarding foreign affairs, and with a diplomatic and academic background on China, Rudd has a deep understanding of Chinese culture. In his first term, he characterised Australia’s relationship with China as ‘Zhengyou’ (a true friend who can criticise). Rudd said that as a Zhengyou "The best way to prosecute our relationship with China is to be broad-based about it and not to pretend problems do not exist when they do… At the same time, [we should] not regard those problems as impeding the development of the rest of the relationship."
The Rudd Government used its Zhengyou status (real or imaginary) to raise several issues with China, something its predecessor never did. He mentioned human rights abuses in the 2008 speech in Beijing; in 2009, Chinalco was blocked from buying Rio Tinto; the Defence White Paper named China as a threat and Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uyghur leader was allowed to attend the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival. Each event displeased the Chinese, yet despite this, trade between the two nations continued to grow, fuelled mainly by Chinese need for raw commodities.
The Coalition takes a pragmatic view to foreign policy, having a history of separating politics with trade. Australia was trading with the PRC under Menzies, at a time before it granted diplomatic recognition, and even while Australian troops fought and died in Vietnam - which was justified as an attempt to stop Chinese aggression - Australia was selling wheat, wool and steel to the PRC. Under Howard, the Australian Wheat Board was embroiled in scandal for bribing officials of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Howard Government made a conscious effort to shift Australian foreign policy away from the multilateralism of the Hawke-Keating government and ‘compartmentalise’ Australia’s relations with individual nations. Coalition governments also have a history of publicly appealing to ‘Australian values’, i.e., western values we have adopted from the English and share with the Americans. The flipside of this is that this often exacerbates xenophobic and racist undertones in Australian society against other cultures.
Tony Abbott has a history of being an anglophile, stating on several occasions that Australia is firmly part of the Anglosphere, most notably in his autobiographical book Battlelines. When making a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC he said “few Australians would regard America as a...