China casts doubt on friendship

a-oneilThe Rudd Government’s claim that Australia is a ‘friend’ of China has been punctured by the apparent unwillingness of Chinese authorities to grant Australian officials regular consular access to the detained Australian citizen Stern Hu, according to Flinders University’s Associate Professor of International Relations, Andrew O’Neil [pictured].

“Australia’s diplomatic relationship with Beijing remains fraught. The arrest of Australian national and Rio Tinto employee Stern Hu has served to underscore the still fragile foundation of Australia-China relations,” Associate Professor O’Neil said.

“Australia may be enjoying record trade and investment flows between the two countries but we should be wary of claims that Australia has somehow acquired a greater degree of diplomatic access in Beijing,” he said.

Since normalising diplomatic relations in 1972, successive Australian and Chinese governments have deepened trade and investment links to such an extent that China now looms as, arguably, the most critical country on Australia’s 21st century horizon.

“There has been a vigorous debate among policy makers, think tank experts, and academic analysts about the extent to which Australia should be engaging China and whether this engagement risks compromising Australia’s alliance relationship with the United States,” Associate Professor O’Neil said.

“Claims of declining American primacy in Asia, coupled with the apparent rise of Chinese influence in the region, have provoked concerns that Australia may be drifting towards China’s strategic orbit in the region. The latest developments involving Mr Hu have now added to those concerns.”

Associate Professor O’Neil’s comments were made as he added the editorship of the Australian Journal of International Affairs (AJIA) to his teaching and research role at Flinders University. Australia’s leading peer reviewed international studies outlet with a strong focus on Australia’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific, the AJIA was established in 1946 and is the flagship publication of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

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