Australia`s `Russia` problem? It`s China
January-March 2018
By: Rory Medcalf

Beijing has adopted this approach toward South Korean business interests, yet this has not succeeded in its goal of changing Seoul’s stance on missile defense cooperation with the United States. Economic vulnerability is often as much about perception as reality – and it is in China’s interests for Australia to imagine itself highly vulnerable.

Already, some voices in business, academia and the media focus on the possible economic impacts of annoying China. The perception of economic harm can have an outsized effect on domestic interests, creating pressures for rapid political compromise. If we overreact to any Chinese economic threats and self-censor on issues perceived to be problematic for Beijing, it will not protect Australia from further pressure; it will instead signal that such pressure works.

As the recent border standoff with India indicates, and the failure by Beijing to compel South Korea to abandon its missile defenses, other countries in the region can resist pressure from China when their interests diverge.

For its part, Australia is discovering that its paramount China challenge is not a few thousand nautical miles away in the South China Sea. It is right here at home.

So, what does Australia do about it? The political class needs to take a set of decisions in the interest of Australian sovereignty and independent policy, to restrict and limit foreign influence in Australian decision-making. Pressure is building not only for transparency, but also for significant law reform.

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