The two candidates trying to become Australia’s prime minister in the upcoming national election September 7, Kevin Rudd and Tony.
- Abbott, offer differing views on China, the most important nation in Australia’s economic and strategic future.
Rudd, the Labor-led government’s incumbent prime minister who speaks Chinese, says Australia needs to be preparing for a transition because the Chinese resources boom has ended. China became a very important trade partner to Australia over the past decade.
In the broader geopolitical arena, Rudd wants the United States and China to come up with a new Asia-Pacific “strategic road-map” in order to enhance security, trade and investment in the region.
Abbott, leader of the opposition Liberal Party since 2009, says Australia’s relationship with China needs to change from one of shared interests to one of ‘shared values.”
But he also points out that Australia’s friendship with China is more recent that with Japan, and not as developed as its relationship with the United States.
In a speech to a Beijing business audience last year, Abbott said it would take time before Australia’s relationship with China approached “the warmth that we take for granted with America”, but that it would be worth the effort.
Abbott agrees with his mentor, ex-Australian prime minister John Howard, that his nation should maintain its strong military alliance with the United States, but should also be friends with China. Abbott says Howard “understood that you could make a new friend without losing an old one.”
Abbott says Australia has accepted China’s modernization of its military, and its military relationship with the United States should be viewed as one of “building trust” rather than “picking sides”. He says as prime minister his objective toward China would be one of engagement and cooperation rather than containment and competition.
Both Rudd and Abbott agree that Australia needs to finalize a free trade agreement with China that the two nations have been working on since 2005. The agreement has stalled because of disagreements over investment access, agriculture, and intellectual property protection. Image/Getty Images