The evolution of Sino-Australian trade has proved to have implications not only for the prosperity of the Australian economy, but also for the regional balance of power and Chinese energy security strategies. While it is important for China to have good commercial relationships with its neighbors, trade with Australia has been used as part of a double-edged strategy to regionally recalibrate power and to ensure access to energy supplies.
To put it in starker terms, increasing Chinese influence on the Australian economy has progressively been used as a means to foster a "regional architecture which accepts and accommodates China’s growing regional power". The increasingly complementary relationship between the two economies has become the main lotus of the Australian economy’s prosperity. Australian policy makers have increasingly been breaking with its traditional post-Vietnam role by modifying its thinking and providing strategic support for China. Moreover, the exertion of Chinese power on the Australian economy has also been used to assure access to copious energy supplies. The increasing dependence of the Australian economy on China has provided the ultimate means to assure access to reliable and uninterrupted LNG and uranium supplies.
These developments have therefore reverberated far wider than economic ties. They have caused new power realignments as traditional US regional hegemony is eroded to accommodate China’s growing power and assured future Chinese economic needs. Therefore, the ambition underpinning this strategy can only be fundamentally comprehended from one perspective, and that is not economics, nor a desire to be neighborly. It has to be seen through a geopolitical eye.
Estephanie Henaro has studied Geopolitics, Territory, and Security at King's College London.