Free Essay - The Importance of Australia's Bilateral Relationship with China

Published: 2023-02-21
Free Essay - The Importance of Australia's Bilateral Relationship with China
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Politics International relations Asia
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1208 words
11 min read

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties with China in 1972 which saw the creation of the Australian embassy in Beijing the following year, Australia and China have largely benefited from their bilateral relationship. China's growth since the 1970s has been important to Australia both strategically and economically. Despite China not being a strategic ally to Australia and the two countries having different ideological and social systems, this essay argues that their bilateral relationship is important since they complement one another in trade and economically and cultivate a solid strategic and diplomatic partnership. The significance of this relationship can be looked at in three ways. First, the Australia-China goods trade has benefitted Australia economically owing to the diversification of trade and strong exports of Australian commodities to China. Secondly, Australia's strategic geographical position means that fostering ties with China is crucial since it would help sustain political stability and wealth in the Asia Pacific region. Thirdly, from a diplomatic perspective, the bilateral relationship is crucial to the creation of personal friendships and professional networks between Australians and the Chinese.

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The Economic Relationship

Menadue (2018) acknowledged that the Australian economic development agenda has heavily relied on foreign trade and investment. In the past, waves of foreign investment and trade were mainly from Britain, the US and Japan. In recent times, however, China has been Australia's leading trade partner with trade volumes increasing between the two countries through imports and exports. Australia and China's economic relations started in 1972 when the two nations established diplomatic relations (Menadue, 2018). Initially, the economic dealings were slow partly due to political upheavals in China. Nonetheless, the economic relationship has grown significantly to mutually benefit these countries.

In 2018, Australia exported goods worth $AU 118.379 billion and imported goods worth $AU 74.903 billion (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade [DFAT], 2019). Additionally, Australia was China's 6th largest source of imports. Main Australia's exports were iron ore, coal, natural gas, and gold while it mostly imported telecommunication devices, computers, and furniture from China. Besides the above goods, Australia also exported services such as personal travel and education-related travel worth $AU 17.908 billion to China. Australia, on the other hand, imported personal travel and transport services worth $AU 3.418 billion (DFAT, 2019).

These statistics indicate a strong trade relationship between the two countries. This trade has been a result of properly functioning markets enabled by the interdependent nature of their relationship. Gill and Jakobson (2017) pointed out that among the G20 nations, Australia leads with regard to the dependency on China for export revenue with about 33% of Australia's steel, petroleum, and mineral exports being shipped to China. These exports boosted Australia's economy considerably between 2003 and 2013 and, particularly, protected the country from the 2008 financial crisis (Goodman, 2017). As such, it would be safe to assert that Australia greatly profits from China's interests in its goods and services that are facilitated by their bilateral relations.

Diplomatic Relationship

Australia's diplomatic relations with China officially began in 1972, which paved the way for the establishment of an Australian embassy in Beijing (DFAT, 2019). These relations have, however, been minimal owing to historical circumstances and core differences between the two nations. For instance, Australia ardently champions for neoliberalism while China embraces communism (Beeson & Zeng, 2016). Additionally, both countries have different social systems. Nonetheless, despite these differences and the countries' asymmetrical interests, Australians and Chinese have, in recent times, acknowledge the significance of strong diplomatic relations in advancing their cooperation and managing differences.

One way that both countries have strengthened their diplomatic ties has been by trying to establish personal friendships to complement their trade and economic ties. A case in point is during a visit by the Chinese foreign minister in Australia where he stated that China can become Australia's most sincere ally if not its closest ally (Beeson & Zeng, 2016). In return, Australia commits to its one-China plan, especially by maintaining an unofficial relationship with Taiwan (DFAT, 2019). In addition to its embassy in Beijing, Australia has also created delegations in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai. These delegations have been vital to the budding professional network between Australians and Chinese by aiding the development of Australian investments and businesses in the tourism and education sectors in China. On another note, both nations have instituted consultation mechanisms to jointly deliberate on issues affecting them. Through these consultations, both countries have made considerable strides in addressing law enforcement problems, climate change, international security, economic cooperation, and strategic and foreign relationships (DFAT, 2019).

Strategic Relationship

Australia lies strategically within the Asia Pacific region. Beeson and Zeng (2016) argued that Australia's geographic position is crucial to China's maritime security. China's long-term security will largely depend on the establishment and sustenance of a politically stable Asia- Pacific. As such, maintaining close relations with Australia will be crucial to guaranteeing this security. If Australia was to end its dealings with China, the Chinese peaceful development plans would be jeopardized due to a hostile external environment. It is for this reason that the Chinese envoy in Australia reiterated that there was no antagonism between the two nations that would threaten his host (Beeson & Zeng, 2016).

Despite Australia holding a less prominent position in China's policy dialogues, it will enjoy a high status among the Chinese as long it plays an integral role in China's peripheral strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. With Australia being a hub in this region, its strategic importance continues to draw the attention of thinkers and pundits in Australia. Most of the pundits predict a greater influence by Australia on some Chinese policies in the future. For instance, Australia's dominance in the South Pacific region may be crucial to China's chances of recovering Taiwan. Furthermore, the bystander role that Australia plays on the South China Sea territorial rows makes it less likely for the country to disagree with China over this crucial sea route and Taiwan (Beeson & Zeng, 2016).


This essay has argued that the bilateral relationship between Australia and China is important since both countries complement one another in trade and economically and cultivate a solid strategic and diplomatic partnership. The close relationship has seen a huge number of Chinese immigrating to Australia. However, there are shortcomings to these benefits with Australians raising concerns that China may coerce them into embracing Chinese perspectives. To alleviate such concerns, Australia should create a national institution mandated with advancing the relationship in a possibly turbulent period. Advancing the relationship would mean improving how the Chinese view Australians from just business allies to strategic partners in the South Pacific region. Furthermore, Australia should stop criticizing China's policies to avoid resentment from the Chinese. Lastly, forging a long-lasting friendship that will guarantee the benefits discussed earlier will require a mutual understanding between the two countries.


Beeson, M., & Zeng, J. (2016). Chinese views of Australian foreign policy: Not a flattering picture. Australian Journal of International Affairs, 70(3), 293-310. DOI: 10.1080/10357718.2015.1117569

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2019). China country brief. Retrieved from

Gill, B., & Jakobson, L. (2017). Rethinking Australia's relationship with China | East Asia Forum. Retrieved from

Goodman, D. S. (2017). Australia and the China threat: Managing ambiguity. The Pacific Review, 30(5), 769-782. DOI: 10.1080/09512748.2017.1339118

Menadue, J. (2018). Four Waves of Australia's Relationships: UK, US, Japan, and China - AIIA. Retrieved from

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