Improving “Alarmist & Alarming” Australia-China Relationship

In a disrupted world, how Australia manages its relationship with the dominant regional, and potentially global, power of China matters-however new research reveals the slender resources devoted to China analysis and research is preventing Australia from realising the opportunities a well-managed relationship can bring and from avoiding the pitfalls of over-reaction.

The report shows that while no one knows how many people are employed in Government to provide professional advice on the Australia-China relationship, the excited nature of Australia’s approach to China is not consistent with the considered and deliberate approach one might expect of China experts.

Key Findings:

  • It is difficult to identify more than twenty individuals in Australia’s universities and think tanks who are recognized contemporary China experts, making clear the poverty of Australia’s China expertise.
  • In addition, there is almost no specialist school for training specialists in politics and international relations with China.
  • If Australia is to avoid the pitfalls of over-reaction and realise the opportunities that a managed engagement with China will inevitably bring, a more considered and deliberate approach to the relationship with China is needed.

“The stridency that distinguishes contemporary government pronouncements on China is alarmist and alarming,” said Allan Behm, head of the International & Security Affairs Program at The Australia Institute.

“China is here to stay, and no amount of Australian stridency changes that fact. This requires a return to the deliberate, measured diplomacy that is the key to progressing our national interests in a highly contested regional and global environment.

“To alienate China, or for China to alienate Australia is not a sound strategy, and so Australia should work to understand the difference between accommodation and appeasement. Alienation never results in accommodation, but when backed by economic power and armed force, it may force appeasement. That’s the risk.”

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