With Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Panetta visiting Australia this week, there has been much chatter that Australia is on the cusp of making a serious choice: America or China. America remains one of Australia’s closest allies, but China is its largest trading partner, and the two have grown closer in recent years.
In her last speech in the country, however, Clinton made the essential and entirely accurate point that America isn’t asking Australia or anybody else to pick sides. CBS News reports:
“I know there are some who present a false choice: That Australia needs to choose between its longstanding ties to the United States and its emerging links with China,” Clinton said.
“Well, that kind of zero-sum thinking only leads to negative-sum results,” she added.
Clinton’s comments followed a speech on Wednesday by former prime minister Paul Keating, a hero of the ruling Labor Party, in which he said Australia’s “former sphere of influence is diminishing.”
Clinton is right; it is not about making a choice. Via Meadia believes that China’s economic goals do not ultimately conflict with our own, and that allowing China to rise within the existing international system is the best strategy for integrating a potential rival into a structure of stability and prosperity that makes everyone, including China, better off. Increasing trade between Australia and China will do nothing to upset this goal, and if more increases China’s satisfaction with the existing order and deepens China’s economic integration in and commitment to a broader trading system, growing Chinese-Australian trade actually helps American policy in the Pacific.
At the same time, America has been increasing its military and naval ties with Australia, and more such agreements were negotiated during this visit. Again, the American goal is not to strangle China or cut it out of the Pacific, but to work with important countries in the region, China included, to create a stable security environment that protects the interests of all.