06 March 2014
A rising power looks down under: Chinese perspectives on Australia
By Jingdong Yuan
Sino-Australian diplomatic, economic and security ties have experienced significant growth over the past four decades. The general trends have been positive, especially in the economic area, where the two countries have developed strong and mutually beneficial interdependence. However, bilateral relations periodically encounter difficulties and occasionally suffer major setbacks, largely due to differences in ideologies and sociopolitical systems, issues such as Tibet, Taiwan and human rights, and emerging challenges ranging from cybersecurity to the geostrategic shift in the region marked by China’s rise and the US’s rebalancing to Asia.
While there have been substantive debates in Australia on the implications of China’s rise, much less is known about Chinese perspectives on Australia.
To help understand Chinese views of Australia, the paper develops its analysis by drawing from four main sources:
- official Chinese documents and leaders’ statements as reported in the media or recorded in official dossiers
- academic analyses published in scholarly journals
- media coverage of Sino-Australian relations and Australian issues in general
- a series of interviews the author has conducted with specialists in Chinese think tanks and academic institutions.
Chinese analysts are paying closer attention not only to Australia–US relations, but also to Australia’s aspirations and role as a proactive and creative middle power in regional and global affairs, especially where Canberra’s diplomacy affects issues important to Beijing. Those areas range from nuclear arms control and disarmament, humanitarian interventions and trade negotiations to maritime territorial disputes.
China’s rise offers opportunities as much as it presents challenges to Australian foreign policy.
This paper puts forward recommendations for managing the relationship between Australia and China.