‘Delusional’: Ex-PM on China ‘challenge’
A former Prime Minister says that Australia must not compromise one thing while working on its rocky relationship with China.
Former Prime Minister John Howard has said Australia should look to its shared values with the United States as it faces an increasingly “belligerent” China.
The former Coalition leader spoke with former Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a University of Sydney webinar on Wednesday night to mark 70 years since the US and Australia became formal allies in the Pacific with the signing of the ANZUS Treaty.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the greatest foreign policy challenge that Australia has at the moment is China,” Mr Howard said.
“China is at once our greatest export destination, a country that played a very material role in Australia being able to effectively escape the bullet when it came to the global financial crisis, but also a nation that has become far more belligerent and aggressive internationally.”
But he said Australia could work on its complicated and increasingly rocky relationship with China without compromising its friendship with the US.
“I think the two guidelines Australians have got to follow is first of all we can’t abandon our values [and] we can’t abandon our alliances and friends,” he said.
“And these I think misguided people who say at some point, Australia has to make a choice between China and the US are really having delusions.”
Mr Howard told the audience Australia should not discount “Middle America” nor the similarities he said the two cultures shared.
“I have to say this, the willingness of the US through all those years to send her men and women to fight for other countries is something that you have to admire and express gratitude for,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with the good heart of Middle America when it comes to sticking up for freedoms of the world and the values that bind Australia and the US together more tightly than anything else.”
He and Ms Gillard agreed on the importance of Australia managing its relationship with China, which is both an aggressive rising superpower and Australia’s key trading partner.
“The rise of China … has consequences in every direction. It has huge consequences for Australia given where we are in the geography in the world,” Ms Gillard said.
“Continuing to work that through as Australia, in dialogue with the US and of course in dialogue with China, is going to be a huge shaper of the future.”
Both former politicians backed the continuation of the ANZUS treaty, which they see as solidifying a crucial alliance and which Ms Gillard described as a “vital and natural fit” for the two countries.
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