Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bob Hawke on China's Foreign Policy

Greetings from the Great Hall of the Australian National University, where former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke is speaking at the launch of the book 'China's Foreign Policy' by Stuart Harris. Mr. Hawke commented he had just made his 98th visit to China and his first was just after the Gang of Four were arrested in 1978. He emphasised China's attachment to a peaceful international environment. This contrasts with the general view at the Alliance 21 conference yesterday, which assumed aggressive posture by China in the East and South China seas. Mr. Hawke nominated Deng Xiao Ping's reforms of the Chinese economy as the greatest single decision by a leader in the 20th Century (I am not sure that historians would agree with this). Mr. Hawke argued that China was not a threat to the Western world. Mr. Hawke then mentioned the South China Sea. He said that Chinese officials had said they were interested in joint development of resources. However, this seems at odds to the current confrontation taking place between Chinese warships around a oil exploration rig in waters claimed by Vietnam. Mr. Hawke claimed that China never had a warm relationship with the Soviet Union and this was just a matter of convenience. This seems at odds with history, where China and the Soviet Union provided personnel in support of North Korea.

Professor Stuart Harris has a less glowing view of China, pointing out that it will have more cohesive power, but at least in the short term this will be used to address issues close to China. Professor Harris cautioned that misunderstandings could lead to conflict, as they did in world war one.He pointed out that both the Chinese and US government contain differing views on how to resolve their conflicting interests.

At question time Mr. Hawke was asked about the current government's foreign policy. He expressed concern about the current prime minister's enthusiasm for describing Japan and Australia as close allies.  He also cautioned that future wars still run the risk of nuclear escalation.

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