Australia and Asia relationship

and Asia relationship

This essay analyses the Australian-China
bilateral relationship since 1945 and in particular its political significance
to Australia. Many global factors have influenced this relationship,
including the advent of the Cold War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and
the collapse of the Soviet bloc European nations. In addition, internal
political changes in Australia and China have both affected and been affected
by the global changes. It will be analysed that Australia's bilateral
relationship with China has always had a sharp political edge but that
approaching the new millenium economics and trade considerations are shaping

Australias and for that matter Chinese politics.

A central feature of the Government's
approach to foreign and trade policy is the importance it attaches to strengthening
bilateral relationships. Bilateral relationships are not an alternative
to regional and multilateral efforts. Indeed, bilateral, regional and multilateral
efforts are mutually supportive. When Australia works closely with another
country on a global initiative, such as the conclusion of the Chemical

Weapons Convention, it strengthens the bilateral relationship with that
country. Similarly, cooperation within APEC helps to consolidate Australia's
relations with individual APEC economies. In this way, multilateral and
regional efforts feed back into, and broaden, bilateral relationships (Aggarwal


In the Cold War years of the late 1940's
and lasting well into the proceeding four decades (Vadney 1998) Australian
government policy towards China after the Chinese communist birth in 1949,
was virtually achieved by an overriding commitment to anti-communism.

Australias participation in the Korean War and later the Vietnam War meant
that in a very real sense China (which gave direct tangible support to
both the North Koreans and the North Vietnamese) was Australias enemy (Vadney

1998). Not surprisingly during this period there was a substantial
body of public opinion which, either because of initiation at Australias
involvement in both the Korean and Vietnam War's, was because of interest
in developing closer ties with China in economic and humanitarian grounds,
was influencing the political orientation of the Australian government.

The election of the Whitlam Labor government
in 1972 saw the emergence of an explicit "recognition of China policy"
and although this government was relatively short lived, its bilateral
relationship with China was arguable its greatest achievement in Australias
development in international affairs, especially in the Asia Pacific region
(Cotton and Ravenhill 1998). The Fraser government continued this
policy direction with China, which was strengthened even further during
the Hawke and Keating years (1983-96). The Howard government has
continued this policy and has chosen to place economic and trade considerations
above ideology. Pursuit of a strong bilateral relationship with China
by Australian Labor governments might have been predicted on political
grounds but, increasingly, as the world moves to embrace a global village
profile governments of all political persuasion's are shaping the foreign
policies on the basis of national economic self interest.

In handling bilateral relationships, the

Government often claims to have adopted an integrated approach taking into
account the totality of Australian interests. But, a closer analyses
of this claim reveals it would be almost impossible to meet the totality
of Australia's interests in any bilateral relationship and this is especially
true of China which has such a different socio-political system.

This close relationship continues to raise political questions for Australia
to grapple with, such as her relations with Taiwan, Tibet and Chinese human
rights issues. In some instances Australias interests will be confined
mainly to trade and investment; in the more substantial bilateral relationships,
the Government will implement comprehensive strategies which attempt to
integrate Australia's security, economic and political interests with efforts
to forge a wider network of contacts in such areas as education, tourism
and cultural exchanges. A comprehensive approach to bilateral relationships
also involves working closely with the Australian business community to
expand market access and other opportunities for trade and investment.

It means facilitating institutional links in fields such as the arts, sport,
and education. In this way, each strand of the relationship not only has
value in its own right, but also contributes to building a broader base
from which to develop and advance mutual interests, hence the burgeoning
of cultural links between Australia and China since 1972 (Aggarwal 1998).

Working through bilateral relationships
also enables the Government to calibrate strategy to take into account
national differences. This is particularly important in terms of regional
issues. East Asia, for instance, is enormously diverse, and Australia's
regional policies must take this into account. The same is true of Australia's
interests in ASEAN and within the South Pacific. In relation to China
some Australian government policies, for example, supporting the student
protest in Tiananmen square (Cotton and Ravenhill 1998) damaged its relation
with China and