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Understanding China: Challenges to Australian Governments

  • Gregory McCarthy
  • Xianlin SongEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Encounters between East and West book series (EEWIP)

Abstract

In the 21st Century world of politics, the importance of China as a strategic partner to Australia is arguably indisputable. However, many scholars have noted that successive Australian governments appear to demonstrate very limited understanding of China itself, reading China through a Western lens coloured by the racial and ideological past, to the detriment of national interest (Pan and Walker in New perspectives on cross-cultural engagement. Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 2015; Fitzgerald 2013; McCarthy and Gao in Australia and China in the 21st century: Challenges and ideas in cross-cultural engagement, Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 2015). This chapter probes into the Australia-China relationship from ‘a consciously dialogical angle’, which reflects on itself as well as the other (Pan and Walker in New perspectives on cross-cultural engagement. Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 2015, p. 4). Through an analysis of Howard’s Human Rights dialogue, Rudd’s misreading of China-Australia via the trope of friendship, and Abbott’s insensitivity towards Chinese history in relation to Japan, it offers a transcultural reading of Australia-China relations of the past two decades. It argues that underpinned by ‘an unreflective form of social knowledge’ (Pan in New perspectives on cross-cultural engagement. Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, 2015, p. 310) successive Australian governments have shared a similar policy framework in their approaches to China because they read the Chinese present as but the Western past in an economic disguise, where communism is akin to feudalism and will come asunder due to market forces (He in J Asian Surv 54:247–272, 2014, p. 253). Within such framework lies the dichotomy of the rising China as ‘opportunity’ or ‘threat’ (White in Quarterly Essay. Black Inc., Collingwood, 2010; Wesley in There goes the neighbourhood. UNSW Press, Sydney, 2011), and a certain unthinkability that China can be read on its own terms not through a Western superiority framing (Seth in Postcolonial theory and the critique of international relations, Routledge, London, pp. 1–13, 2013, p. 2), where an idealised democratic West is assumed against the Chinese ‘authoritarian’ other (Vukovich in China and orientalism: Western knowledge production and the P.R.C. Routledge, New York, 2012, p. 149), in which China’s complex civilisations and its distinctive civility is imagined ‘as yet’ modern (Chakrabarty in Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial thought and historical difference. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2000).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. and Higher Education Press 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  2. 2.Peking UniversityBeijingChina

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