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National Times

Chinese official: it's us or America

Philip Wen, Beijing
May 16, 2012
Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang (R) shakes hands with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing, May 15, 2012. REUTERS/China Daily (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

Pick your godfather ... Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting in Beijing yesterday. Photo: Reuters

AUSTRALIA cannot juggle its relationships with the United States and China indefinitely and must choose a ''godfather'' to protect it, according to a prominent Chinese defence strategist.

The warning by Song Xiaojun, a former senior officer of the People's Liberation Army, comes after Foreign Minister Bob Carr was told by his Chinese counterpart that Australia's close military alliance with the US was a throwback to the Cold War era.

Senator Carr yesterday met the man expected to become China's next premier, Li Keqiang, in Beijing. Discussions centred on more comfortable matters including furthering trade and investment and the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

But Australia's strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region remains contentious. "Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later," Mr Song told The Age.

"Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the 'son' of the US or 'son' of China," he said. "[It] depends on who is more powerful, and based on the strategic environment."

Mr Song said Australia depended on exporting iron ore to China "to feed itself", but had not done enough to engage. "Frankly, it has not done well politically," he said.

With sensitivity in the Asia-Pacific over Australia allowing the US a permanent troop presence in Darwin, Senator Carr has been keen to emphasise its strong record of military co-operation with China.

Speaking on Monday, he said Australia was one of just two countries with a strategic defence dialogue with China at the chief-of-defence level.

He said Australia was last year the first Western nation to co-operate with China on a joint humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise and in 2010 the first to hold a joint live-fire exercise with China's navy.

The HMAS Ballarat will moor in Shanghai tomorrow to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

Both Mr Li and Senator Carr were keen to highlight the positives. The senator told Mr Li the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations was "an opportunity to renew and refresh and recommit to the relationship".

Mr Li said: "Forty years ago the two countries decided to establish diplomatic relations. This was a decision made with strategic perspective and laid the foundation for the furtherance of this bilateral relationship."

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Poll: Should we upgrade our relationship with China at the expense of our relationship with the USA?

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  • Happy to upgrade our relationship with China but I do not accept one relationship is conditional on the relationship with the alternative. China and USA are important friends and allies to this nation and we should worker to strengthen relationships between all ur allies.

    Michael Fitzpatrick
    Date and time
    May 16, 2012, 7:58AM
    • Correct

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 9:00AM
    • From a western (our) perspective you are right. As someone who works in that country a lot your mindset needs to be different to understand where they are coming from.
      It takes a while, and speaking Manderin ala Rudd is not the key to it (they hate him BTW). Things which are important to them, e.g. "choosing sides" can be on the table.
      I hope Carr can steer a steady path through it all. Better him than KR.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 9:13AM
    • Blimey a reasoned well written response.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 9:23AM
    • Bingo. If China want to trade one relationship for another then we should be worried about their motives.
      Or we could just be friends like Tibet

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 9:28AM
    • The Chinese Communist Party completely monopolises power in China, and puts itself above the rule of its own laws.

      Those who promote becoming its partner in crime never bother to explain is why they imagine the CCP would ever treat us better than the abysmally low standards it forces on its own citizens.

      The reason of course is obvious, their argument loses all credibility the longer they talk about China rather than America.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 9:48AM
    • While we have the things you need to develop your economy, we will not be making any such decision. Australia is not the next Tibet/Taiwan.

      We don't need an overlord
      The Gap
      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 10:02AM
    • Well put Michael I agree. @ wennicks you may well be right but seeing it from China's perspective does not make it so. For Aus or for International diplomacy, more generally, nation states such as US, Aus and China need to advance international diplomacy thinking and evolve it more than just who has the biggest gun! As a species we face some very daunting challenges and issues.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 10:19AM
    • I would rather go with the country that most of the time actively respects Rule of Law than one that does not. Australia is founded on principles of rule of law rather than Rule of an Elite Untouchable Committee. Those who see money as more important than principle are willing to turn a blind eye to China's record, its political system, and the clear lack of historical shared history with Australia. The United States may be flawed, but its political system allows ordinary people to make changes, not crush them. I vote for the United States as out military partner, and China as an economic trading partner - that's all. China's defence diplomacy and softly-softly efforts to draw in supporters across the world carries with it a big stick - we need to have a similar 'big stick' to ensure that in trading with it that we do not expose ourselves to its wrath.

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 10:21AM
    • wennicks,
      You could make exactly the same statement for North Korea. Seeing the other sides reasons for breaking fundamental principles and sympathising with their views is the start of the slippery slope. Or as Grouch Marx said, "those are my principles, and if you don't like them I have others"

      Date and time
      May 16, 2012, 10:42AM

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