research / Working papers

Australia-China Relations (January 2015 to June 2016)

December 31 2016

This chapter will detail the notable trends and key developments in Australian political, economic, strategic and cultural engagement with China from January 2015 to June 2016.

Elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2014, Australia and China have continued to nurture their bilateral ties. January 2015 to June 2016 saw the forging of an ever-closer trade relationship, stronger people-to-people links through business, tourism and education and the reinforcement of the orthodoxy that a close Australian relationship with China and a close Australian relationship with the United States do not have to be mutually exclusive concepts.

Under the guidance of two conservative leaders Australia's China policy during this year and a half continued to largely be based on pragmatism, not ideology. The Australia-China relationship enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the Australian political system although there were, naturally, some divergences in Government and Opposition positions. In this time a number of relationship milestones were marked, most significantly the conclusion and implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

But while the bilateral relationship over this 2015-2016 period was, on the whole, relatively smooth, engagement between the two countries was not without its complications and differences. Continuing regional tensions over security and maritime claims and mounting Australian domestic sensitivity over Chinese investment gave rise to potential flashpoints in the relationship.

Ultimately, however, cooler heads and diplomatic finesse prevailed. While the relationship remains a challenging one, both countries seem committed to continuing to maintain a forward-looking perspective and continue to strive for deeper, more mature engagement.

Notes: This chapter was published in Sun Youzhong and Han Feng, eds. Blue Book of Australia: Annual Report on Development of Australia (2015-2016). Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2016. 246-268.

Author: Elena Collinson, Senior Project and Research Officer, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney.

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