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News Analysis: Australia's China policy constant no matter who wins election

English.news.cn   2013-06-29 20:08:54            

by Xu Yanyan, Song Dan

MELBOURNE, June 29 (Xinhua) -- The newly-elected Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd sworn in as the 28th prime minister of Australia days ago, just very limited time left for him to reunite his party before meeting the opposition challenges in the upcoming elections scheduled in September.

According to some local political analysts and media, Canberra' s major foreign policy especially for China, will be consistent no matter who wins the election or who takes power as prime minister, and both contesting parties need to be clever and careful enough to maintain close ties with China and the United States.


Rudd won the election in 2007 and served his first term as prime minister before defeated by his then deputy Julia Gillard during a party chief struggle, who also held the position for three years. No matter how they accused each other inside the Labor Party in the past six years, one thing in common for them and has never changed was their main diplomatic focus, which was maintaining positive relations with China.

It's widely recognized in Australia that one main reason was China's strong demand for Australian commodities as well as growing Chinese investment here, especially in the mining sector, which made Australian economy outstanding among countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

According to Dr. Pradeep Taneja, an expert on China in the University of Melbourne, Rudd considered China as his top priority and himself is well known as a Chinese expert with great knowledge of that country. As for Gillard, she released "Australia in the Asian Century" White Paper in the end of last year and later led a heavy delegation to China, where she met with the country's new top leaders and announced "strategic partnership" with Beijing.

Local media said her visit to China had brought the relationship between the two countries to a historical level and branded it as the major diplomatic achievement or "legacy" in her term of office.

"In the aspect of trade volume and investment, I think it's a historical high for Sino-Australian relations during her term as PM," said Taneja.


According to a recent poll in some areas of Australia, Rudd's return as prime minister has boosted the ruling Labor Party's chance of winning the election.

The ReachTEL surveys show Rudd's return has "lifted Labor's vote after preferences by 10 percent" in three suburbs seats in Sydney and Melbourne, where Labor's vote had collapsed most alarmingly, the local newspaper The Age reported.

"I think now it's hard to say who will win between Rudd and Tony Abbott (of the opposition camp)," they are a little bit different in regard of China, said Taneja in an interview with Xinhua.

"Even the Sino- Australian relations was not that smoothly during Rudd's first term, he studied Chinese language, politics and culture for 30 years, therefore China is and will always be a priority for him. For Abbott, he recognizes the importance of China as a trade partner and a global power. But he will also treat China as a challenge. He doesn't have a background to think deeply about China," said the scholar.

So if Abbott wins in the election, how his relations with China will go depends on what advices he receives and who he listens to. If he listen to hard line people, there will be one type of relationship, if he listen to the business community leaders and mining sector in Australia, he will not raise any difficult issues to China, he added.

Some political analysts have believed the major China policy will not change based on Australia's national interests, which Taneja agreed too.

"There won't be any big differences, the policy is consistent, " he said, adding "both leaders will pursue Australian interests, both parties will try to maximize the economic opportunities in relations with china and try to avoid a conflict between China and the United States."


Some analysts like Professor Hugh White in the Australian National University, said there is a potential for conflict between China and the United States, Canberra can not play both with Beijing and Washington at the same time and it will eventually face tremendous pressure from the two global powers and have to make a final choice between them.

However, many political and business leaders, scholars have different opinions over the issue, suggesting Australia should become a bridge between China and the U.S. in Asia, where Canberra can balance its role with those two countries by promoting the influence of regional institutions IN which both powers participate, like G20 or East Asia Summit.

In Taneja's points of view, China and America's economic interdependence is a kind of guarantee for no conflict between them. Most countries in the region also "want to avoid the situation (conflict between China and the U.S.) from becoming reality", Australia is able and must play a bridge role.

"Australia has to make sure the Sino-U.S relations become part of the regional architecture....to make sure they can resolve their differences in regional forum," he said.

"Australia doesn't have to choose, Australia doesn't need to choose, we can have both China and America, but it means Australia' s diplomacy will have to be very advanced and has to be very careful and very clever in managing the relationships," he stressed.

Editor: Fang Yang
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