research / Journal publications

The evolution of Malcolm Fraser's China policy

March 25 2018

This article explores the evolution of Malcolm Fraser's views on China. While Gough Whitlam is fondly remembered as a trailblazer for normalising Australia‐China relations, Fraser was a pioneer in rendering a sense of bipartisanship in Australia's China policy. Fraser was not initially a Sino‐enthusiast, however. He came from a background of staunch anti‐Communism and throughout the 1950s and 1960s believed that China posed a major threat to stability in the Asia Pacific. The Liberal Party fiercely opposed the Whitlam government's decision to normalise diplomatic relations with China in 1972. Following the Whitlam dismissal in 1975, Fraser became Prime Minister and, in what seemed to be an abrupt departure from the Liberal Party's position, thoroughly embraced relations with China. As Leader of the Opposition, Whitlam called out the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party's radical policy shift. This study examines the domestic and international dynamics that shaped Fraser's views on China and ultimate adoption of a successful China policy. This is the untold story of a crucial turning point in Australia‐China relations under the leadership of a conservative government, in which a strong relationship with China became a cornerstone of bipartisan Australian foreign policy.

Read the article online here.

Note: This article was published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, volume 64, issue 1, March 2018, 65-80.

Author: Hannah Bretherton, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney.