Op-Ed Contributors

Tweaking Sino-Australian ties

By Guo Chunmei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-06-30 07:53
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Kevin Rudd's efforts to move his country closer to China may serve as template for Gillard's policy stance

Strategists in China and Australia are analyzing the direction of Sino-Australian ties in the wake of Julia Gillard replacing Kevin Rudd as the country's first woman leader.

Basically, the Gillard administration is unlikely to deviate from Rudd's policy regarding Sino-Australian relations, and will likely push for more stable ties between both nations.

Rudd's legacy in improving the bilateral partnership is likely to dominate Gillard's approach to China.

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First and foremost, Rudd pushed forward closer ties after acknowledging that China had contributed greatly to regional as well as global development.

Ever since he came to power in 2007, "integration into Asia" was one of the three pillars of Rudd's foreign policy. Rudd maintained that Australia was "the bridge between the East and the West".

In fact, Rudd chose China as the sole destination of his first Asia tour, during which he sincerely urged Chinese leaders for closer cooperation on issues ranging from a bilateral free trade agreement, which had been languishing for years, and climate change.

Regarding the international financial crisis, Rudd emphasized that Sino-Australian relations were essential to maintaining Australia's economic growth, and encouraged China to play an important role in the reform of the international financial system.

He maintained, for instance, that countries holding mammoth foreign exchange reserves, such as China, should be given more say in global financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

He also sought a greater role for China in the G20, trade talks and regional security architecture.

Second, Rudd insisted that his country's relationship with China should remain as "zhengyou", a concept borrowed from Chinese, which Rudd proposed during his first trip to Beijing in 2008. The term indicates true friendship with forthright admonition, and he emphasized dialogue to solve differences according to each nation's principles.

Rudd also sought to find a way out of persistent differences between the two nations.

In 2009, due to domestic compulsions, especially from opposition parties in Australia, difficulties emerged in Sino-Australian relations.

On some sensitive topics, such as investment by Chinese companies in resources rich Australia, the Rio Tinto case, and the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer issues, Australia took a divergent view, which harmed bilateral ties.

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