The former Australian ambassador to South Korea and Vietnam, Richard Broinowski, is among those who believes China is sending a political message to Australia. He points out the Australian media has been highly critical of China recently on many fronts, particularly on human rights. “It is sending a warning message that we have to be careful if we want to continue the very profitable coal trade,” he told This Week in Asia. …
[E]ven if China does hold the whip hand in the economic relationship, Australia may have an edge in other areas. Naren Chitty, the inaugural director of the Soft Power Analysis and Resource Centre at Macquarie University, says Australia has an enormous amount of soft power that it can use to manage its relationships with China. Evidence of this, he says, are the many Chinese seeking to migrate to the country. “They want to come here because there is something attractive about it. There is rule of law, lifestyle, economic conditions … all that is an attractive place to migrate to,” he said. …
Chitty at Macquarie points out that following a Senate hearing on public diplomacy [JB emphasis], the Australian government initiated a soft power review last August with a report due later this year.
“Australia wants to have close relations with both the US and China. The US is its strategic partner and China is a trade partner,” Chitty said.
Key to balancing those interests, according to Chitty, is treating all parties equally.
Broinowski agrees, saying that by not participating in US-led “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea, Australia might be striking the right balance.
“We are treading a fairly delicate and careful path,” he said, adding that he is confident the “lucrative trade in iron ore and coal” between Australia and China will continue.
“A couple of shipments held up at one port is not a trade war,” he said.
Not yet, at least.
Source: South China Morning Post