Dependancy … Bob Carr with Li Keqiang in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
AUSTRALIA must find a ”godfather” to protect it and cannot juggle its relationships with the US and China indefinitely, according to a prominent Chinese defence strategist.
The warning by Song Xiaojun, a former People’s Liberation Army senior officer, comes after the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, was told by his opposite number that Australia’s close military alliance with the US was an outdated throwback to the Cold War era – an issue raised in two other meetings with senior Chinese officials.
Senator Carr yesterday met with the man expected to become China’s next premier, Li Keqiang, in the closely-guarded Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing. Discussions centred on more conciliatory matters, including furthering trade and investment and discussions to move along a long-mooted free-trade agreement in the 40th year of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Advertisement: Story continues below
But the question of Australia’s allies in the Asia-Pacific region remains an issue.
”Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later,” Mr Song told the Herald yesterday. ”Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the ‘son’ of the US or ‘son’ of China.
”[It] depends on who is more powerful and based on the strategic environment.”
Mr Song said Australia was dependant on exporting iron ore to China ”to feed itself” but that it had not done enough to engage with the middle kingdom.
”Frankly, it has not done well politically,” Mr Song said.
With heightened sensitivity in the Asia-Pacific region over the strategic impact of Australia’s decision to allow the US to have a permanent troop presence in Darwin, Senator Carr has been keen to emphasise that it has a strong record of military co-operation with China as well.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, he said Australia was just one of two countries that had a strategic defence dialogue with China, which occurred at the chief of defence force level. The next dialogue will be held in Beijing later this year.
Senator Carr said Australia was the first Western nation to co-operate with China on a joint humanitarian aid and disaster relief exercise in Chengdu last year and the first to hold a joint live fire exercise with the Chinese navy in 2010.
HMAS Ballarat will moor in Shanghai tomorrow to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations and to further symbolise close military co-operation between the countries.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Mr Li and Senator Carr were keen to highlight the positive diplomatic relationships between their two nations.
Senator Carr told Mr Li he was ”very conscious that this is the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations” and it was ”an opportunity to renew and refresh and recommit to the relationship”.
”My meeting today with Vice-Premier Li was an excellent opportunity to discuss ways to advance the Australia-China relationship, which has gone from strength to strength in recent decades,” Senator Carr said in a statement.