Australia's political relationship with China is far less developed than its economic relationship. In a new Lowy Institute Policy Brief, Linda Jakobson, East Asia Program Director, argues that this is detrimental to Australia's interests because China is no longer merely an economic power, but is also a crucial political and security actor in the region.
“Underdeveloped political relations between Canberra and Beijing weaken Australia's ability to exert influence regionally”, said Linda Jakobson.
“Without developing a broad set of high-level understanding with China’s leaders, Australia won’t be able to manage the inevitable tensions that will arise in the bilateral relationship”, she said.
Moreover, the near-exclusive focus on economic relations risks the perception of Australia being unable or unwilling to pursue an independent foreign policy.
With the forthcoming White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century in mind, Jakobson recommends that the Australian government take several steps to build political and strategic ties with the intent of strengthening political trust.
Her main recommendation is that Canberra should pursue an annual strategic and economic dialogue with Beijing at the Cabinet Minister level, with three strands: political, defence and economic.
Australia–China ties: in search of political trust is available free of charge from www.lowyinstitute.org.