Australia has a new Labor government with a different character, inclusive tone and a new political agenda. The country will now rebuild its neglected regional diplomacy and take a multidimensional approach to regional peace and cooperation.
It is clear that the previous administration rejected Trump’s approach to the excessive politicization of national security by the Australian people. The change of government therefore represents a rare opportunity to rebalance Australia-China relations, if China so desires.
Anthony Albanese, the new Prime Minister, is an outstanding leader who has demonstrated throughout his life in public service a unique ability to work with his competitors to achieve practical results.
Australia and China have signed a free trade agreement and are both members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Their economies complement each other and both can benefit from continued economic cooperation even as supply chains diversify and change gradually in the post-COVID-19 era.
There are other important areas where common ground can be found. Of great importance is the challenge of climate change, which threatens both China and Australia. The new Australian government has finally committed to taking real action to combat climate change. These actions will require working together because Australia and China are highly interconnected when it comes to global supply chains. These urgently need to shift to environmentally friendly production.
Australia and China also have deep and lasting people-to-people ties, and it is in the interests of the two countries for business travel, tourism, international education and scientific exchanges to return to normal after the pandemic. Australia has a large Chinese population and others who know very well that building relationships requires patience and understanding and are not vilified or distrusted, as has often been the case recently. Since our political systems are fundamentally different, there will be misunderstandings from time to time, but the brunt of political disagreements should not be borne by the general public in both countries.
The new Australian government is likely to be more effective in building partnerships with its neighbors in Asia and the Pacific, as it will focus on practical cooperation and proportionate multidimensional approaches rather than rhetoric.
If this is the case, Australia will regain its former position as a “heavyweight combatant” in the region. It will be a country that China is keen to work with to advance its commitment to peace and sustainable development to demonstrate development.
The fact that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China, which the Labor government has made possible all those years ago, is an opportunity for a mature reassessment of the relationship to show the world that even societies are different. Political systems can work together in the common interest.
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