Should Australia Fear the Rise of China in the Pacific Arena?

As China starts to play a more important role in the Pacific, should that pose any threat to Australia?

In terms of population alone we are but a minnow when compared to China's teeming millions, but our minerals, iron ore and coal in particular are in constant demand to feed the demanding furnaces of this vast giant. Thus as a large country in terms of land mass, but small population wise, Australia plays a vital supply role to this rising power in both the Pacific and the world.

The internet is both an educator and a great leveller, in China it is accessed in huge numbers by the locals, they equate with the total population of the United States of America. A new world awaits.

For lives controlled by the Chinese Central Government, the world wide web has provided new opportunities for those who use it in China, opening up new vistas for them, allowing them to break out of a previously tightly held and controlled environment to learn about democracy, free speech and the added freedom that comes with knowledge.

It is my belief that the availability of the internet to those millions in China will tend to offset the powerful role their country can play, and the influence it can also exert in the Pacific, and in particular where the interests of Australia lie.

The United States is obviously well aware of China and its presence in the Pacific Ocean, as a partner with Australia and New Zealand in the ANZUS Treaty, now close to 60 years since its inception.

The recent visit to my country of the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton mirrors the importance of our Alliance with the world's most powerful nation.

We need China to curb that rogue country North Korea, who would appear to pose a far greater threat to peace in the Pacific than does China.

It was Napoleon who said "China was the sleeping giant that would shake the world when it finally woke." Well, we are all aware the giant is well and truly up and awake, so "China Watching" becomes more than merely taking an interest in her and her sphere of influence. It becomes vital that we in Australia use all our diplomatic skills to nurture both our friendship as well as our trade with this new colossus.

China has now surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest economy, but because of its huge population, the per capita Gross Domestic Product is a bare US$6,000, that is equal to a developing nation, and China sits only just above Namibia in the world rankings.

The world interest in China is captured by a spate of new books that have spewed from many publishers, books such as: "China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom." From Richard Baum, and published by the University of Washington Press. "Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics: Entrepreneurship and the State." By Yasheng Huang. Cambridge University Press, a fine coverageof economic policy from the days of the reform era. "Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory," written by Peter Hessler and printed by Harper.

Hessler comments that the only constant in China today is CHANGE. He speaks Mandarin and so does not have to rely on an interpreter, his contact with ordinary Chinese people is direct and spontaneous.

He believes the Chinese are on the move, and the Party will need to move with them.

This quote is reflective of the mood he observed:

"I was most heartened by signs of individualism... ways in which people have escaped the group mentality of the village, learning to make their own decisions and solve their own problems,"

There is little doubt China is changing the world, but it is in the process of changing itself much more.

Let me conclude where I began.

"As China starts to play a more important role in the Pacific, should that pose any threat to Australia?"

Not yet is my conclusion, for what ever that opinion may be worth. But watch the antics of North Korea, and be careful to keep China on your side.


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