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Will Australia’s Next PM Pivot Towards China?

Malcolm Turnbull, who appears to be next in line to win the Australian prime ministership, may make an Asian pivot of his own—toward China. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Hugh White of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at Australian National University suggests (and hopes) that a Turnbull Administration would shift Australia away from the Anglosphere:

Just a few days after Obama’s 2011 pivot speech to our Parliament received a gushing response from Gillard, Turnbull issued this stark warning: “An Australian government needs to be careful not to allow a doe-eyed fascination with the leader of the free world to distract from the reality that our national interest requires us to truly (and not just rhetorically) maintain both an ally in Washington and a good friend in Beijing.”

And finally, Turnbull recognises that all this means Australia has to rethink its place in Asia from the ground up. We cannot assume, he has said, that “the strategic and diplomatic posture that served us in the past can and will serve us unchanged in the future; or that it doesn’t matter if our strategic and economic messages to our region are somewhat contradictory”.

In terms of the U.S.-China balance of power, both regionally and globally, this is one to watch.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    TAI has another story today about a U.S. admiral alleging that China’s submarines are outnumbering America’s with references to China’s claimed “carrier killer” missiles. Should we connect these two stories and conclude that Australia does not wish to place its bets on a power (us) which it sees in relative decline?

  • Sydney Reader

    The Sydney Morning Herald and it’s sister publication The Melbourne Age have never liked the current Prime Minister Tony Abbott. They represent the Left view of politics. Indeed, they have done everything within their power to demonise him. Their wishful thinking concerning Mr. Abbott’s demise is, to paraphrase Mark Twain, greatly exaggerated.

    The American Interest may want to read other Australian newspapers such as the The Australian or the Australian Financial Review before jumping to hasty conclusions. To quote Mr Twain, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please”.

    • Corlyss

      Syd, how’s about posting links to a couple of articles from those publications that you would refer your friends to, let us take a look at what other authorities have to say. I hate the idea of Abbot being turfed out so soon after he was elected and a return of the dim-bulbism of Rudd and that flame haired woman who succeeded him. Their flakery for global warming and their eager embrace of Islamic refugees regardless just made me nauseous.

  • ljgude

    Sydney Reader speaks to this Perth reader. TAI is reading too much into the Sydney Morning Herald’s left of center wishful thinking about Mr. Turnbull. You can see the jump in the quotation from the article. Turnbull says Australia has to remain on good terms with both the US and China. Then the in the next paragraph we are told “all this means Australia has to rethink its place in Asia from the ground up.” PM Paul Keating did that in the 90s and many Asians laughed at him and us. We aren’t Asian, we are Australian. Even most of our Asians become very Australia. It must be the roos or something. Unlike my colleague from Sydney I think Abbott may well be dumped by his own party in favor of Turnbull. Academic think tank types can rehash the Australia is part of Asia meme all they want. Turnbull becoming PM is not going to shift Australian foreign policy much and neither would the election of the opposition leader Bill Shorten in the next election. In my view this a blood in the water journalism – Abbott is in trouble: he recently survived an attempt by his own party to unseat him by 60 something to 39. For those of you unfamiliar with parliamentary democracy that ain’t good. And both the press on left and the right are spruiking it for all it is worth. So keep your powder dry TAI.

    • Corlyss

      “We aren’t Asian, we are Australian.”

      I have to admit I get most of my Aussie political insights from a music-scholar holocaust survivor who hailed from Czechoslovakia and who’s lived in Australia since she was 14. Our “doe-eyed” twit in the WH makes her despair, and talk like “pivoting to China” makes her EXTREMELY nervous and gives her flashbacks to living in terror under a tyranny. I hope you’re right. But hope is not an investable strategy. It would be a huge mistake to try to foreswear or ignore Australia’s place in the Anglosphere and a PM bent on doing that could cause a lot of mischief before he’s turfed out. China is still ruled by two gangs of brutal thugs. Our best hope is they knock each other out, but again, hope is not an investable strategy, esp. when we have a US government hell-bent on unilateral disarmament in order to let regional tyrants breath free.

  • matimal

    This guy sounds like the Neville Chamberlain of Australia. Abandoning your central principles and traditions just leaves you without unifying principles and weakens the body politic. It would be a tragedy to see such a man leading Australian foreign policy.

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