Australian PM Anthony Albanese stated on Monday, that he had a positive engagement with China. This statement was made by Australia’s PM immediately after his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. President Xi said that a stable relationship between the two countries is now in a growing stage. Xi also added that this flourishing relationship will serve each other’s interests.
For the last seven years, there have been no high-profile visits between Australia and China. While Australia acknowledged the role of Beijing in investment in the crucial sector of the country, there were a few high-profile meetings. Albanese’s visits undoubtedly created a window for widening the cooperation between the two. Albanese pointed out the ongoing conflicts will remain a major concern for the world, without mentioning particularly Russia’s invasion and the Middle-East crisis.
Bilateral relationship between Australia and China
China is Australia’s biggest commercial partner. Both countries have had an appreciable amount of economic engagement in trade and commerce for decades. The economic interdependence between the two countries has contributed to strengthening diplomatic cooperation in recent years. Though the two countries had a good relationship bilaterally for decades, now it become soured. In 2017, Australia accused China of meddling in its politics. Moreover, the revamping of Quad as a grouping and Australia’s active participation in that further perpetuated their relationship.
Source: Voa news (China, Australia Sign Free Trade Deal (voanews.com)
The strain in diplomatic relations also affected Australia and China’s trade volume. The erosion of relationships has also impacted high-profile communications. China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and many steps for enhancing the security concerns in the region have not been seen by Australia through a good eye. The recent military presence also became a cause of concern for Australia. With the counter movement by the US, China and Australia’s bilateral pacts weakened over the years.
Analysis of Albanese’s visit to China
Albanese visit could be considered as one of the sudden decisions by the Australian government. This seems to be a firm attempt to bridge the gap in the Sino-Austro relationship. The decades-long trade relationship and political channels have been significantly weakened by the current geopolitical dynamics in the Indo-Pacific region. The increasing influence of the US in this geopolitical theatre has brought China and Australia’s relations into the footnote.
Source: Silk Road Briefing
The increasing support for the US’s presence in the theatre has become an irritating factor for Beijing. Additionally, Australia is an active member of AUKUS and QUAD groupings, which implicitly counter China’s influence. While Xi Jinping has signalled of strengthening the relationships between China and Australia, the current situation seems to take more tests on Australia’s loyalty towards Beijing. Australia visited Beijing for its national interest.
Albanese’s visit to Beijing indicates that the country is trying to balance its relationships with both the US and China. While there is a good relationship and support for the US from the Australian side, there needs to be an immediate balance for the Chinese threat. The growing Chinese aggressiveness and claim of the South China Sea remains a cause for eyebrows for the global community, but in this context, Australia seems to represent the ‘balance of threat’ against Beijing.
On one hand, the country is concerned with its trade advantages with China, on the other geopolitical dynamics also define the current decision of Australia, which is to negotiate with Beijing. Hence, Australia’s rapprochement with China can be considered as a calculative strategy to get the trust back from Beijing. The current visit of the Australian PM is an attempt to balance China and benefit from its economic engagement with the country.