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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Australia is a partner we can't live without

A good, middle-pathed commentary found in the Global Times by a People's Daily senior reporter.


Australia is a partner we can't live without

by Ding Gang
Source - Global Times 3 September 2009

On Tuesday, the Global Times ran a story "China is a partner Australia can't live without." I think this is only one side of the story.We should also recognize that Australia is a partner China can't live without. Both are equally important, especially in terms of economy and trade.

Recently there's been a comeback of the so-called China threat in Australia. For issues concerning China's fundamental interest, we shouldn't flinch, but handle them in accordance with the law and refute opposing arguments with reason. Yet it should be noted that the frictions are the results of closer economic and trade ties between China and Australia.

Some Chinese netizens think lightly of Australia. They believe that Australia relies so heavily on China for its economy and trade that China could easily "crush" Australia.

This isn't completely groundless. Australia's official statistics last year show that China was its second largest trade partner. Exports to China accounted for 14.6 percent of Australia's total, and imports from China, at 15.6 percent, were the largest of any nation. Moreover, a large number of Chinese students went to study in Australia, pouring money into the economy. On the other hand, Australia doesn't rank that high on China's foreign trade list.

For historic reasons, we like the economic approach when judging a country's influence. Therefore, some people emphasize the economic and trade ties with Australia, as if others will change their opinion about us when we become heavily relied upon. This perception shows an
excessive worship of power.

In fact, economic and trade relations are about mixed interests. Australia provides China with some indispensible goods. Recently CNPC signed a contract with Australia to buy $41 billion natural gas. China goes global, and increases economic connections with other countries. Meanwhile, China builds codependent relationships and her interests are interwoven with the rest of the world. China's position has changed, so has its relations with the world.

The relationship of interest is about mutual development and benefit, not about fearing and being feared.

Take Chinese overseas students, for example. They benefit Australia's economy and receive better education. Some of them will come back and contribute to China's development.

Our relations have changed from no connections to codependency. It's no longer a one way street. And as China gets stronger, it's unlikely that we'd build unbalanced foreign relations. Nor should we make the assumption that they can't live without us.

Even if someday China becomes so powerful that it could lead the world single-handedly, other countries will not necessarily be crushed without China. Besides, the confrontations of ideologies and system, or people's prejudices, cannot be resolved through economic and trade measures or raw power.

Usually there're boundaries in the game of interest between two codependent countries. Within the boundaries, the two parties can negotiate; going past them, both could get hurt. That's why when we say "China is a partner Australia can't live without," we should
ask ourselves, "Can China live without Australia?"

After all, our economic and trade relations are mutually beneficial. It's a win-win situation. China has gained a lot from its relations with Australia, and Australia hasn't gone so far as to treat China as an enemy.

If we can view China's relations with Australia and other Western countries from this perspective, we'll understand our own power much more clearly.

And when the people can look at our own country more objectively, we will have more flexibility in foreign affairs.

The author is a senior reporter with People's Daily