Australia is learning to its cost right now that its entanglement with China is presenting many unexpected issues for its economy. As the trade war between China and the US steps up in terms of tariffs and the market cools, Australia is finding itself in the unwanted middle as a result.
Part of the reason for this is because of Australia’s geography and where the country stands in terms of its close involvement as both a Western economy and a country in the Asia Pacific region. Much of Australia’s import and export procedures have ties to the Pacific and the South China Sea, so news that India is set to increase its involvement in the area is likely to receive a large welcome.
Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne spoke at the Fullerton Forum conference in Singapore, which is based on security and defense. He told the audience that having more allies in the region with both political and financial clout is essential in stopping China from building up too much of an influence. He also railed against the economic superpower for what he termed as its ‘might is right’ approach.
The unfolding geopolitical drama over the last year has seen rhetoric from both sides, and the smaller Pacific Islands are struggling the most to retain independence throughout the whole affair. Recently, India and Australia have opened more of a dialogue, and Japan should also be working alongside the pair to increase the sharing of security intelligence in the region.
Noting that Australia would ‘welcome India’s engagement,’ Pyne said that having another ally in the area would help the country find more backing when it wants to oppose China, as it will not be standing up to the superpower alone.
Part of the current issue is that the US’ clear sentiment under President Donald Trump shows that the country wants to take more of a step back from the interventionist policies of previous governments. However, since the US has instigated the current trade standoff, its hands-off approach has the potential to open a power void which will then need to be filled.
With the South China Sea being one of the key strategic points in the Asia Pacific because of its traditional links to oil and gas, as well as its function as a vital export route, there are many reasons for various nations to vie for power. As China looks to expand what it can control, other countries such as the Philippines and Japan have voiced their concerns about what China can rightfully assert that it owns.
Pyne was quick to point out that an incredibly populous nation such as India deserves respect. The Australian Defense Minister told people at the conference in Singapore that India is ‘a great power in their own right…and they will make their own decisions.’
He also said that it is unlikely that India will want to jump into a ‘rivalry that is unnecessarily unhelpful to them economically or geo-strategically.’ Pyne called on China to not follow the sentiment that Russia has used in recent decades to increase its influence in the region, saying that the world suffers when such a stance is taken.