Few outside Asia give much thought it, but the China-Australia relationship is one of the most important in the region. China is one of Australia’s largest trading partners, and given the close business ties between the countries and China’s rising geopolitical clout, many Australians have been extremely (perhaps excessively) concerned with maintaining good relations with their larger neighbor to the north.In an op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Hartcher rightly points out that Australian predictions of China’s inevitable rise are a bit myopic, and that even the Chinese elites (who tend to benefit from the system) aren’t so near-sighted about their country’s problems:
In China, elite debates are dominated by the slowing economy and falling real estate prices, the bizarre and unexplained two-week disappearance of the incoming president and the crisis of national governance.Where the Australian elites seem to see certainty, the Chinese see great unpredictability; Australians see a monolith where the Chinese see fragility; the Australians see flawlessness where the Chinese see deeply troubling problems.
This is a healthy corrective. China is actually more dependent on its sources of raw materials than those suppliers are on China—and Beijing feels that dependence acutely. Does Saudi Arabia worry about the goodwill of its oil customers, or do the oil importers worry about keeping the Saudis sweet?Australia’s China enthusiasts don’t just misunderstand the genuine uncertainties and insecurities in China’s internal politics; they misunderstand the nature of Australia’s own position in the international system.Read Hartcher’s full critique here.