Australian leader Anthony Albanese should beware of accepting concessions from China for actions that the world’s no.2 economy simply “shouldn’t have done” in the first place.
(Bloomberg) — Australian leader Anthony Albanese should beware of accepting concessions from China for actions that the world’s no.2 economy simply “shouldn’t have done” in the first place.
That’s the view of Lavina Lee, a security studies specialist at Macquarie University, citing China’s current easing of export restrictions or releasing of detained Australians, at an Asia Society event in Sydney on Thursday.
Australia should recall who changed the status quo between the two nations “and not fall for that trap,” Lee said in a panel discussion. Ending “coercion of various sectors of our economy” aren’t concessions from China “and we shouldn’t offer too much in return.”
Lee was speaking a day after China released journalist Cheng Lei from about three years of detention, for allegedly passing national secrets to an overseas institution. Cheng’s detention in 2020 happened at a time of worsening ties between Beijing and Canberra.
If Albanese failed to show resolve when meeting President Xi Jinping, an event yet to be officially scheduled, it would only encourage further coercive or illegitimate behavior from Beijing in future, said Lee.
The panel on Thursday discussed Australia’s role in the Asia-Pacific region and touched on various flashpoints in the region. Participants, who also included Bates Gill of the Asia Society and Michael Green of the US Studies Centre, viewed Taiwan’s election in early 2024 and Beijing’s response as a potential inflection point.
China is also likely to try to persuade Albanese that tensions in the region are really a US-China issue and not something Australia and other countries should be involved in, said Lee. It suits China to have less players interested in Taiwan or the South China Sea rather than more, she said.
But Australia shouldn’t remain “aloof from the Taiwan issue,” Lee said. She urged the government to press on Beijing that “the lack of transparency around Chinese military and nuclear modernization is of concern to the region and to us.”
The panel also discussed the potential of a second Trump presidency, with US elections in November next year, and what that might mean for Australia.
Green, who served on the staff of the National Security Council from 2001 through 2005, said Trump’s own party was likely to curb his unilateral instincts as its lawmakers tended to be more internationalist. But he warned that right-wing governments like Australia under former Prime Minister Scott Morrison had worked better with Trump than left-wing ones such as Albanese’s.
“For a Labor government, it’s going to take some discipline, and some really serious thought about how to manage the alliance,” Green said.
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