Since normalising diplomatic relations in 1972, successive Australian and Chinese governments have focused on deepening trade and investment links to such an extent that China now looms as one of the most critical countries on Australia's twenty-first century horizon. For their part, Chinese elites have welcomed closer ties with Australia and have been particularly keen to accelerate China's direct investment in the Australian mining and energy sectors. Since the early 2000s, a number of commentators have argued that Australia has been gradually drifting towards China's sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific. This trend, they argue, has been reinforced following the election in 2007 of the Labor party government, which has terminated Australia's involvement in quadrilateral talks with the US, India, and Japan; stepped back from commitments to export uranium to China's long-standing rival, India; and intensified Australia's public criticism of Japanese whaling practices. Meanwhile, in 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a point of paying a high profile visit to China during his first major overseas journey, but not matching it with a visit to Japan. Is Australia drifting towards China's strategic orbit in Asia? The article examines this question through the prism of three key indicators of realignment and concludes that, while there is some evidence of Australia accommodating Chinese strategic preferences in Asia, there is no indication that it is realigning itself strategically towards China and away from its long-standing ally, the US.
- Great powers
- Secondary powers