The emergence of China as a major world superpower and dominant force in the Asia-Pacific region puts Australia in an interesting and precarious position due it its history of alliance with the United States. Professor of Strategic Studies at Australian National University Hugh White argues that as the paradigm shifts, Australia will be forced to reevaluate its policies, both domestic and foreign, and in his spirited reading of his own succinct, thought-provoking essay, he not only criticizes the perceived impotence of the Australian political establishment, but lays out a bold vision of Australia’s role in the new world order.
In the September Quarterly Essay, Hugh White considers Australia’s place between Beijing and Washington. As the power balance shifts, and China’s influence grows, what might this mean for the nation?Throughout our history, we have counted first on British then on American primacy in Asia. The rise of China as an economic powerhouse has challenged US dominance in the region and raised questions for Australia that go well beyond diplomacy and defence – questions about the kind of country we are and how we see our place in the world.
Will China replace the US as regional leader? If so, we will be dealing with an undemocratic and vastly more powerful nation. Will China wield its power differently from the US? If so, should we continue to support America and so divide Asia between our biggest ally and our biggest trading partner? How to define the national interest in the Asian Century?