Journal article

The case of Stern Hu: perspectives on China's ‘rule of law’

International relations International law Relations with China Rule of law China

Over the last six months, Australia has been undergoing a sharp learning curve in its relations with China. This has come about courtesy of China’s detention on 5 July 2009 of Rio Tinto executive, former Chinese national, and now Australian citizen, Stern Hu, together with his three colleagues, Liu Caikui, Ge Minqiang and Wang Yong, all Chinese nationals. Aside from the shock the Hu case has represented to most Australians — accustomed since the 1980s to viewing China as a relatively benign presence in our region — the main lesson has been that China’s version of the rule of law is quite different from Australia’s and that that version may also, in times of stress, impact on our own society. Such a realisation may well underlie attitudinal changes identified in the Lowy Institute’s 2009 survey of public policy and foreign policy. Whereas in 2006 only 25 percent of Australians saw the development of China as a world power as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, by 2009, 40 per cent now viewed it as such.

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