Thursday, March 22, 2012

Australia's Last Chance with Bob Carr? China Unfazed by Conservative Hypocratic Rudd Doctrine

Time is on China's side. China would not bet on the rise and fall of leaders in its neighbouring countries. Even during tough times of nation building and isolation, China was able to stand its own. With more economic clout, China could afford to play cool and focus on practical matters. Over time, China could prove to its neighbours and other powers that it does not harbour any ambitious and expansionist intentions which have long been associated with imperialism, the root of evil that has overstretched brought many great nations down. 

Bob Carr's appointment as Australia's new Foreign Minister may be a welcome change. Nevertheless, the precise nature and course of bilateral relations remain to be seen. 

The premature euphoria of Kevin Rudd's appointment has melted away quickly. The Mandarin speaking scholar who researched on the crossroads and challenges in Chinese history during the Tiananmen protests was neither a friend nor a diplomat when dealing with China. By now, most Chinese in the mainland and overseas in Southeast Asia and Australia realise that Rudd was no ally as claimed from the official White Paper statement to his public humiliation of China's domestic policies and a peek into his inner thoughts of pro-American grandstanding. 

How international partners play its game does not matter. China's priority is to sustain and share its wealth with the population. This may also mean increasing domestic consumption and contracting production and exports. These would inevitably raise cost of essential products and hurt the middle class and poorer people in developed countries.

Quote :

The resignation of Kevin Rudd as foreign minister was a welcome development for Beijing. One clear impression based on a week of meetings in Beijing with Chinese officials and researchers as well as Australian China-based diplomats is that the "Rudd factor" has been an underlying tension in China-Australia ties for four years. With Rudd no longer in government, Chinese interlocutors were willing to elaborate on their dislike for the first Chinese-speaking Western leader.
Interestingly, it was not the 2009 Defence White paper nor the (in)famous Beijing University speech by Rudd in 2008 that appears to have caused the greatest irritation among Chinese foreign policy specialists. Rather, it was Rudd's uncomplimentary remark about Chinese ("rat f . . kers") at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in addition to his comments to Hillary Clinton about being prepared to use force against China, disclosed by WikiLeaks.
So the Darwin decision has put Australia on the radar screen of China's foreign policy establishment. Some might ask, for better or for worse, but in the words of one Australian official, it is better to be noticed for the wrong reasons than to be "just a hole in the ground". Australia struggles to get the attention of a rising power, which in its foreign policy thinking is absorbed by its relations with its neighbours and other major powers, especially the US. 

Herein lies a real and substantive opportunity for Foreign Minister Carr, an unknown entity to Beijing. Carr should seek a meeting with his Chinese counterpart as soon as possible. Australia needs more meaningful strategic engagement with China. Raising the level of regularly scheduled, recurring summit meetings to the deputy prime minister or foreign minister level would establish a high-level mechanism, which is not susceptible to the inevitable ups and downs in relationships.

It would also offer the possibility to deepen discussions between Canberra and Beijing from merely bilateral issues to broadly regional issues. It is in Australia's interests to be perceived by China not only as a trading partner, but also as an important and useful regional player, with which regional problems can jointly be addressed.

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