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Thayer The Alliance: Who Will Australia Choose USA or China?

Thayer The Alliance: Who Will Australia Choose USA or China?

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
A presentation that considers four basic questions about Australia's alliance with the United States: (1) Why choose China over the US? (2) Why Australia cannot choose to ally with China (3) Why Australia should stay allied with the United States and (4) Why Australia does not have to choose between China or the USA.
A presentation that considers four basic questions about Australia's alliance with the United States: (1) Why choose China over the US? (2) Why Australia cannot choose to ally with China (3) Why Australia should stay allied with the United States and (4) Why Australia does not have to choose between China or the USA.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Sep 05, 2013
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Background Brief The Alliance: Who Will AustraliaChoose USA or China?Carlyle A. ThayerSeptember 3, 2013
Presentation to Burton and Garran Hall Roundtable, The Australian NationalUniversity, Canberra.CHOOSING US OR CHINA IS NOT AN OPTION
Why choose China?
Economic reasons: China is our largest trading partner. It will overtake the USeconomy by 2030 to be largest economy in world. Australia should bandwagon toensure favourable economic treatment.Geographic reasons: Australia is part of the Asia-Pacific. It is far from China and is notdirectly threatened by Chinese military power. Australia has no vital interests inTaiwan, the East China or South China Seas.Defence reasons: US policy of rebalancing is destabilizing regionally and US attemptto maintain its primacy in the Western Pacific will inevitably lead to conflict with arising China that will be more confident and militarily more powerful.
alliance with the United States will draw us into conflict with China. This is not in ourinterest.China today represents a more powerful threat to the US in economic and militaryterms than the Soviet Union did at the height of Cold War.
Why Australia cannot choose China
Australia can never become an ally of China. China will assert its hegemony over theAsia-Pacific. Australia will be assigned its place in a hierarchy headed by China.Australia will not be consulted at the highest level about Chinese global economic orstrategic policies.China will not share global intelligence with Australia.Australia cannot count on China to sell and provide spares for the most modernmilitary equipment and platforms to ensure our self-defence.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
either as an ‘ally’ (quote unquote) or a country that bandwagons will
have to refrain from criticizing China or Chinese policies. A relationship with China
entails constant day to day pressure to toe China’s line on a number of issues.
 Australia can never share the values of an authoritarian undemocratic stateespecially with respect to democracy, human rights and religious freedom. AnAustralia allied with China would have to remain silent about Syria and its use of chemical weapons.Or for another example, China refuses to mesh its foreign assistance policy with thatof Australia in the South Pacific.
Australia’s attempt to promote democracy and good
governance is undermined by China. China says aid coordination would be
interference in the internal affairs of island states. China’s aid is given without strings
and thus contributes to corruption.
Why stay allied to the United States?
The alliance has been in place for 62 years. ‘If it ain’t broke don’ fix it’.
 Australia benefits in multiple ways from a formal treaty alliance. Alliances changeover time in their purpose and scope of activities. ANZUS was originally aimed at apotential remilitarized Japan. The US-Australia alliance will change in the future tosuit the national interests of both parties.The US will remain an Asia-Pacific power as its current policy of rebalancingdemonstrates.
 Australia simply cannot afford armed neutrality to protect itself and its interests.
The US alliance provides Australia extended deterrence against any state that wouldthreaten Australia with nuclear weapons or conventional force. Therefore Australiahas no need to develop nuclear weapons.The US alliance also provides deterrence against would be adversaries who must
always calculate what the US will do if they hurt Australia’s interests. For example,
the US told Indonesia at the time of Australian-led intervention in East Timor that if itattacked Australian forces the US would intervene. US marines were stationed onships with the intervention force. This is a practical example of deterrence.Australia has access to the highest levels of U.S. government, its views are heard andrespected even if they are not always taken into account. Australia does not have to
go all the way with LBJ
as the UK Parliament has just demonstrated overintervention in Syria.Australia is the beneficiary of global intelligence and intelligence assessments that itcould never afford to gather and process on its own. The flow is reciprocal if weighted in the US favour.Australia benefits from the US alliance network
Japan, South Korea, NATO and USstrategic partners such as India.Australia benefits from special access to US military technology and platforms that itcould never afford to produce domestically. The US and Australia co-produce verymodern weapons and defence systems.
Australia benefits from interoperability with the US and its other treaty allies.Australia and the US can intervene in HA/DR (humanitarian assistance/disaster relief)such as 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia or they can intervene militarily inAfghanistan to oppose extremism.Australia and the United States share most values in common regarding the rule of law, democracy, human rights, religious freedom, gender equality, international lawand global order.Economically
the United States is the largest investor in Australia and Australia is amajor investor
in the United States. Even if the US is not Australia’s top trading
partner, the US, Japan and South Korea are in the top order.Australia and the United States share the same values about a rules basedinternational order particularly towards economic integration.
Australia Doesn’t Have to Choose
Australia can retain its alliance with the United States and comprehensively engagewith China.Australia does not have to sacrifice it economic interests or surrender its values byremaining allied to the US and engaged with China.
Australia’s comprehensive engagement strategy must be bilaterally andmultilaterally based. The Gillard government’s agreement with China for annual
high-level talks is one example. Australia
exercises with the
People’s Liberation
Army Navy including live-firing exercises is another example.Australia can pursue multilateral engagement through:
United Nations, G-20. World Trade Organisation
East Asia Summit
APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum)
ASEAN Regional Forum
(ADEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus)
ASEAN Enlarged Maritime ForumBottom line: Australia can have it both ways, alliance with the US andcomprehensive engagement with China. There are too many costs and risks inchoosing China over the US or vice versa.What is left out of this equation is how China will act as its power grows botheconomically and militarily. There is also the question about whether or not our
straight line extrapolations of China’s rise are accurate.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A
. Thayer, “
The Alliance: Who Will Australia Choose USAor China?
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, September 3, 2013. All background

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