Over the past few months, Australia and China’s relationship has become increasingly strained. While trade remains strong, tensions are brewing between the two governments.
Like Australia, the US has started to investigate China’s influence within US communities and educational institutions.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with US President Donald Trump in Washington DC this week. One of the discussions on the table will be to establish a regional joint infrastructure scheme between Japan, India, the US and Australia, according to The Australian Financial Review.
This scheme is set to be an ‘alternative’ to the One Belt, One Road initiative, according to a senior White House official.
Previously, the four nations mentioned above were part of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD). This allowed for participating nations to hold informal talks, as well as joint military exercises.
It was disbanded during former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s tenure, after pressure from China to withdraw. It was also a time of growing tension between the US and China.
Many believed that the QSD was created in response to China’s rising military power and growing economy.
The QSD was restored in 2017, a decade after it was disbanded. However, Australia has yet to agree to join its naval forces to perform military exercises with all participating members.
With the QSD restored, Beijing will be watching the exchange between Trump and Turnbull very closely. China was not pleased about the QSD restoration when it happened in November last year. That also could have factored into the verbal attacks thrown by both China and Australia in the final months of 2017.
And while Labor states that they are keen to sign up to the One Belt, One Road initiative, the Turnbull government remains reluctant.
According to the AFR, the US’ decision to set up their own regional infrastructure scheme:
‘…comes after the Financial Review reported exclusively last week concerns by Admiral Harry Harris, who is set to be US ambassador to Australia, over China’s growing influence and predatory economic behaviour in the Indo-Pacific.’
While Australia needs to tread carefully where its largest trade partner is concerned, it also needs to do right by its people. With the growing influence China presents, Australia cannot continue to allow Beijing to sway elections, education and community.