Australia's political relationship with China is far less developed than its economic relationship. This paper argues that this is detrimental to Australia's interests because China is not merely an economic power but also a crucial political and security actor in the region.
Underdeveloped political and strategic relations between Canberra and Beijing weaken Australia's ability to exert influence regionally. Australia risks being viewed by China's leaders merely as a provider of resources. Moreover, there is a danger that problems in the bilateral relationship will escalate into a crisis due to the lack of familiarity and political trust between key Australian and Chinese decision-makers.
The paper recommends that the Australian government take several steps to increase political trust between Canberra and Beijing. Among others, she advocates that Australia should pursue an annual strategic and economic dialogue with China at the Cabinet Minister level. Cabinet Ministers from eight G-20 members already have a regular strategic dialogue with their Chinese counterparts.
- Australia should pursue an annual strategic and economic dialogue with China at the Cabinet Minister level.
- When elaborating on Australia's political and security challenges, political leaders should speak candidly about the uncertainties associated with China's rise.
- Ideological differences should not deter Australian officials at all levels from trying to gain a comprehensive understanding of Beijing's intentions and the thinking of Chinese officials on contentious issues. Understanding is not synonymous with endorsement.