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Australia rising to the Chinese Challenge

by Bruno Hellendorff, researcher at GRIP

25 January 2012
This article has been written in the framework of the program « Union européenne – Chine » of the Chaire InBev Baillet-Latour (Université Catholique de Louvain).


With the borderless economy developing and multipolarity becoming a reality, China has succeeded in taking the lead of a dynamic that pushes Asia ever more to the centre of the global geopolitical landscape. In the Asia-Pacific region, such a development constitutes a dramatic challenge to regional stability, as Beijing’s long-term strategic ambitions remain clouded with concerns and uncertainty. Countries faced by this destabilizing process have so far displayed quite a mixed response to the challenge. Among those, Australia has developed a composite policy that combines a targeted engagement of China with hedging and balancing behaviors, under the label of “middle power diplomacy”, one that aims to uphold its regional high profile.

In this article, GRIP’s research fellow Bruno Hellendorff seeks to unravel Canberra’s rationale when engaging China and determine whether the current emphasis on multilateralism displayed by officials of both sides gradually supplants, complements, or barely overlays the traditional bilateral ties and mechanisms of power politics, and if the trend is likely to be sustained. .

Key words: China, Australia, middle power, strategy, Asia, diplomacy.
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