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Banking on a Constructive China: Australia's China Debate

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China is probably less controversial and provokes less heated discussion in Australia now than at any time since the Chinese Revolution in 1949. This is due to the establishment of a bilateral dialogue to handle diplomatic, military and economic issues, the perception of China as both an emerging market economy and a responsible player in the Asia-Pacific, and the post-September 11 improvement in U.S.-China relations. U.S. policies vis-a-vis China are a major driver of Australias debate about China. Australia has consistently made it clear that the United States remains the key to its security, and that Canberra finds U.S. hegemony in the Asia-Pacific desirable. Yet Australia has tried to carefully manage its substantial diplomatic and economic links with the Peoples Republic of China PRC even during low points in the China-U.S. relationship. Other drivers in Australia s debate about China include human rights, especially in Tibet, and the best way to handle human rights differences in the overall bilateral relationship, as well as rapidly expanding economic ties. Within Australia, the link between human rights and economic objectives has been a controversial aspect of the debate about China. In 1997 the Howard government agreed to withdraw from an annual UN censure of China on human rights issues and instead conducts bilateral dialogue with China including human rights. Australias debate about China is also driven by the view that China is a critical player in helping to settle some of the instability problems in the Asia-Pacific, from the Korean Peninsula to South China Sea disputes to non-proliferation. China even supported at the UN Security Council level the Australian-led intervention in East Timor in 1999. Australia s debate about China does encompass concerns.

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  • Government and Political Science

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