Australia will stand up to China to defend peace, liberal values and the rule of law, says Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
In the Coalition government’s clearest statement yet on how to handle China, Ms Bishop said it had been a mistake for previous governments to avoid speaking about China for fear of causing offence.
"China doesn’t respect weakness," Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media, marking a break from the policies of previous governments whose reticence, she said, had only caused confusion.
Ms Bishop said the experience in November of speaking out against China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defence Information Zone – which led to the Chinese foreign minister famously tearing strips off her in Beijing with cameras rolling – had fortified her view that it was better to be frank than misunderstood.
“This did affect our national interest because it meant that, for example, our national carrier Qantas suddenly had to inform Beijing even if it wasn’t flying anywhere near,” she said.
“The freedom of the skies and freedom of the seas in that part of the world is important to us because that’s where the majority of our trade is done.
“So I believed that, at that time, we had to make it clear where we stood on unilateral action that could be seen as coercive and could be seen to – and which did – affect our national interests.”
Ms Bishop also made the clearest public statement yet of how the increasingly militarised disputes on China’s periphery were prompting Australia to deepen and broaden military ties with the United States and other nations, most notably Japan.
Those trends have been on display this week with Prime Minister Tony Abbott agreeing to a “strategic” defence relationship and new military technology sharing agreements with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who leaves Australia on Wednesday.
“We know that the optimum is deeper engagement [with China],” said Ms Bishop. “But we’re also clear-eyed about what could go wrong. So you have to hope for the best but manage for the worst.”
Successive Australian governments have been flummoxed about how to speak about China.
Prime ministers and foreign ministers have mostly voiced concerns quietly, or not at all, in the hope that problems could be resolved behind closed doors.
But Ms Bishop said her government had moved decisively and deliberately to match deeds with words.
“Foreign policy under the Coalition is designed to project and protect our reputation as an open market export-oriented economy,” she said.
The pirates are pressing the Chinese to introduce the rule of law ?
July 10, 2014, 7:38AM
Hilarious, isn't it? I have to wonder - if Ms Bishop is suddenly so passionate about liberal values, is she going to extend her "we're not scared of them" approach to our Middle Eastern trading partners as well?
July 10, 2014, 8:09AM
Our genius Julie says "China does not respect weakness". So she does care about what they think. She wants their respect. But Jules, we are weak. We are 22 million and they are about 1.5 billion. In reality China barely knows we exist. I have been there 4 times and the average person knows nothing about Australia. We are utterly insignificant. Occasionally they mention kangaroos but I assure you they know nothing of North Melbourne. There are huge cities in China bigger than Sydney that most Aussies have not even heard of.
July 10, 2014, 8:32AM
And which "Middle Eastern trading partners" are they exactly?
July 10, 2014, 8:33AM
Julie Bishop mouthing about Liberal values. The Abbott Government abandoned the real principles of Liberal politics long ago. Saying her government adheres to Liberal values doesn't stand up to scrutiny, quite simply it is a lie. Re her smug attitude to China, bravado is one thing, reality is another, she should show more respect to the Chinese, after all Sir Tone is slowly selling this country to them and in the process conceding economic strength to their regional ambitions and approaching dominance. Bishop is part of the movement that will directly impact on US regional interests in the Asian sphere, her ignorance is stunning in terms of consequences that are now in train. She is in no imaginable way up to the task of managing her department.
Neil (not on radio) Mitchell
July 10, 2014, 8:48AM
I'm sure China will be quaking in their boots at Julie's comments. As a Foreign Minister she's about as effective as a flea on an elephant.
China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defence Information Zone and Australia’s reaction to it.
Australia need to be careful here and get sucked into a conflict.
Japan's ADIZ was created unilaterally by the U.S.in 1950 and transferred to Japan in 1969. The Japanese ADIZ is not recognized by China or Russia. Japan also UNILATERALLY expanded its ADIZ twice after the US transfer, once in 1972 and once in 2010. On 25 June 2010, Japan extended unilaterally its ADIZ 26 km west to cover the whole Yonaguni Island. The government of the Taiwan expressed its "extreme regret" over Japan's handling of the move.
Very interesting! Thank you for sharing that.
July 10, 2014, 8:06AM
China is a bully, and have problems with several neighbours - India, Vietnam, Phillippines, Japan. China often intrudes into India at will. They are also creating problems for Australia by siding with corrupt regimes in the Pacific. Julie Bishop is doing the right thing, by reminding China and the Chinese diaspora that creating instability is not on. Go Julie.