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Australia’s Position in the US-China Competition

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Australia has the potential to depolarize power balances in the Asia-Pacific region all by itself. Therefore, the country can even determine the fate of the competition between the United States (United States) and China. It should be remembered that Australia is a member of the United Kingdom. Therefore, the monarchy of the United Kingdom is represented by a governor in Australia. But as it is known, it is only a symbolic function.[1] Hence, it would not be utopic to say that Australia is fed upon the Western political system and the social community structure. In this context, it can be said that it is difficult to put the Australian people under the same category as “Eastern Society”.

Australia is a critical ally and business investment partner of the US. At a time when geopolitical uncertainty increased in the Indian-Pacific, the United States and Australia strengthened their partnership in; trade, investment, politics, culture, security intelligence and defense. In the official texts of the United States, relations with Australia are described as follows:[2]

“Australia is a vital ally, partner, and friend of the United States. Our two countries maintain a robust relationship underpinned by shared democratic values, common interests, and cultural affinities. Economic, academic, and people-to-people ties are vibrant and strong. Our partnership promotes peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world. The United States and Australia marked the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2020.”

Australia’s largest political maneuver in the China-US dilemma is the signing of the AUKUS Pact.[3] The packt, including Britain among the member states, envisions a number of joint military moves with the other two allies Australia has agreed on. Under the agreement, it is possible to open up the assurance of military technology transfers, joint exercises and resource shortcomings. In the light of these facts, AUKUS is one of the most obvious indicators that Australia will co-operate with the United States against China.

In addition to the UKUSA Agreement, there are also some other alliances that were originally signed between the United States and the United Kingdom, and then expanded with the inclusion of Australia and New Zealand.[4] The UKUSA is noting as an agreement based on the co-operation of the electronic intelligence structures of the countries mentioned.

Another significant agreement is the Quad Security dialog (QUAD). It is a basically signed security agreement between Japan, India, the United States and Australia.[5] Built to take joint action against security concerns in the Asia-Pacific region, QUAD’s main mission is to weaken China’s hand in the region.

China wanted to raise its hand against these powerful alliances and turn its face to other options. The Belt and Road Initiative, which targets many countries from the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, is a strong example of retaliation that China has given to the four alliances at this point. Consequently, allied blocks in the Asia-Pacific region were formed through these agreements. In today’s conjunctions, Australia has chosen to take part with the US against China.

China-Australia relations came to a complete breakout in 2020, with a number of economic sanctions. For example, Australian Treasury Minister Jim Chalmers called on China to remove trade barriers.[6] Such commercial inhibitions mean the Beijing administration stopped importing beef, wine, lobster, barley and timber from Australia in 2020. However, the party that started this trade sanctions silo was not China. For Australia has banned Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from building 5G network infrastructures, taking measures against some Chinese investments by law to prevent foreign influence in domestic policy.

It is no coincidence that Australia makes such pro-Western and sharp moves in foreign policy. As mentioned above, the Australian people, which are difficult to describe as an eastern society, come from the Western modernism echole.

On the other hand, the political structure of China is one of the issues that Canberra is concerned about against Beijing. To give an example of this contrasting situation, Scott Morrison, who is on the liberal side in Australia, was defeated against Labor Party Chairman Anthony Albanese in the last elections. The biggest reason for the change in power was Albanese’s interest in the issue of “climate change”.[7] On the other hand, China is governed by Xi Jinping, who will remain in power lifelong with the latest constitutional amendment, and the Chinese people have no share in the change of power. This issue is summarized in an article published on an official Australian government site:[8]

“China is rapidly integrating into the world economy; however, the state structures that enable integration fall short of reforming and adapting to the new Chinese society created by economic change. The Chinese Government understandably expects the country’s emerging status as a leading world economy to be duly recognized in global institutions and relations. But a significant part of the international community still feels that China does not fully comply with established norms of international relations. The Chinese Government is aware of the fear and suspicion in some US circles. That is why they tend to interpret any pressure to reform their institutions and politics as a new form of anti-Chinese restraint.”

As a result, Australia is an Asian Western state due to its political and social dynamics. In this respect, China is not suitable to ally with Australia. In the light of these implications, political and economic contractions will continue to be seen in Australia-China relations.


[1] Yan Zhuang, “Why is Australia Still Part of the British Monarchy?”, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/03/world/australia/why-is-australia-still-part-of-the-british-monarchy.html, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[2]  “U.S. Relations With Australia”, U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/u-s-relations-with-australia/, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[3]  “Aukus: UK, US and Australia Launch Pact to Counter China”, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-58564837, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[4]  “UKUSA Agreement Release”, National Security Agency/Central Security Service, https://www.nsa.gov/Helpful-Links/NSA-FOIA/Declassification-Transparency-Initiatives/Historical-Releases/UKUSA/, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[5]  Vikas Pandey, “Quad: The China Factor at the Heart of the Summit”, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-61547082, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[6]  Sarah Swain, “Treasurer Calls on China to End Bans on Aussie Goods”, 9News, https://www.9news.com.au/national/china-news-update-australian-treasurer-jim-chalmers-calls-on-beijing-to-end-bans-on-aussie-goods/b90756d2-95f0-4ac2-b538-e967470f7f49, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[7]  “Australia election: Anthony Albanese signals climate policy change”, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-61539426, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

[8]  Stephen Sherlock, “Australia’s Relations with China: What’s the Problem?”, Parliament of Australia, https://www.aph.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/About_Parliament/ParliamentaryDepartments/ParliamentaryLibrary/Publications_Archive/CIB/CIB9697/97cib23#CONCLUSION, (Date of Accession: 13.09.2022).

Egemen ÖNEY
Egemen Öney, İhsan Doğramacı Bilkent Üniversitesi'nde Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi Bölümü'nde okumaktadır. Felsefe, sosyoloji ve uluslararası ilişkiler alanlarına ilgi duyan Öney, halihazırda ANKASAM'daki stajına devam etmektedir. Öney, iyi seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.