Howard trip reflects 'best ever ties'
Updated: 2006-06-26 08:43
Australian Prime Minister John Howard's visit to China this week to launch a
multi-billion dollar gas deal reflects a readiness to accept Beijing's growing
economic and political clout as an opportunity, not a threat.
Howard's conservative government has repeatedly indicated
that it does not share the qualms expressed by close allies - the United States
and Japan over the regional giant's expanding power.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard shakes
hands with China's Premier Wen Jiabao during their meeting in Canberra,
earlier this year.[AFP/File]
"We welcome China's growth and China's development," Howard said after
meeting in Canberra in April with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. "We see it in a
Howard will meet Wen again in the southern province of Guangdong during a
visit from Tuesday to Thursday, where they will oversee the official opening of
a 25 billion dollar liquefied natural gas program.
The contract to supply gas to Guangdong for 25 years -- Australia's largest
single trade deal -- got underway last month with the first shipment from the
giant North West Shelf field off Western Australia.
The gas deal is just one plank of a fast-expanding trade partnership that has
largely been fueled by exports of natural resources from Australia to China, and
is part of generally warm relations between the two countries.
"I think the official term used to describe relations is 'the best ever' --
and that's probably right," said Malcolm Cook, Asia-Pacific program director for
Australia's independent Lowy Institute think-tank.
"One of the things that strikes you if you look at the Japanese, US and
Australia approaches to China, Australia's is much less ambivalent and
cooperative and sees the rise of China both economically and diplomatically as
an opportunity," he told AFP.
"Both the prime minister and foreign minister (Alexander Downer), when they
talk about rise of China, consistently take the line that it is not
automatically going to cause conflict and competition," Cook said.
"On a recent trip to the US, Howard used his keynote
public speech to drive home quite strongly the point that in the US the
so-called dragon-slayers have it wrong and the so-called panda-huggers have it