ANU experts discuss China and India ahead of leader visits

14 November 2014

Next week Australia welcomes His Excellency Mr Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, and The Honourable Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, who will both address the Australian Parliament.

An historic free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and China is expected to be announced during the visits.

Mr Modi is the first Prime Minister of India to visit Australia since Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. In September Prime Minister Tony Abbott sealed a long-awaited deal for Australian companies to sell uranium to New Delhi.

Some of Australia’s leading experts in international relations between the nations discuss the latest developments.

Professor Warwick McKibbin
Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis
Crawford School of Public Policy

“The Emerging Economies, particularly China and India will be shaping the world economy in the 21st century. However the future is not predetermined and there are many economic and political barriers that could destabilise the world community.

“It is critical to Australia’s economic and political interest to have good relations and to work with these countries and their leaders in shaping the global institutions for enhancing future economic growth and prosperity.

“The presence of both leaders to address the Australian parliament in tandem with the G20 meetings in Brisbane shows how well Australia’s foreign policy has been managed in the past year. This is both of symbolic as well as real economic and political importance.”

Dr Meera Ashar
Deputy Director, South Asia Research Institute (SARI)
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

“Interactions between India, China and Australia at the G20 have the potential to lead to not just rich and long lasting partnerships in the region but also ones that foster creative and responsible solutions to some of the common challenges that these countries face, both in the domestic and international arenas.

“There are concerns about India’s chosen path to development and modernisation as it internalises global perceptions of itself to form problematic self-definitions.”

Professor Hugh White
Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

“When his predecessor, Hu Jintao, addressed our parliament in 2003, he delivered two messages. The first was how much the economic relationship could offer Australia, and the second was that in return, China expected Australia to respect China’s interests, and support its growing regional ambitions. We can expect Xi to deliver the same two messages, but with added force.

“Just as Australia’s benefits from China have grown, China’s expectations of Australia are growing too. If we want the benefits that growing trade with China can bring, we will have to accept that China’s power in Asia will grow too.”

Professor Michael Wesley
School of International Political and Strategic Studies
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

“Xi Jinping’s speech will be an important read on how China interprets its current relationship with Australia.”

“Modi’s speech will be an important foreign policy statement for a new and little understood Prime Minister of India.”

Dr Jane Golley
Associate Director, Australian Centre on China in the World

“The underlying message from President Xi will be clear. Our economic ties are strong and growing, but don’t think this is enough to sustain a strong bilateral relationship in the future. We need more trust and understanding.

“If I were President Xi I would ask Mr Abbott why he had allowed the US Obama-Kerry administration to talk him out of joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, when he had initial support for it. I would also push him on what he meant by Australia being more likely to join, if the new bank had ‘the kind of transparency and the kind of governance arrangements that, for argument’s sake, the World Bank has.’

“I would then ask him why he was so insistent on the idea that reducing emissions would ‘cost jobs’, when the potential for low-carbon growth is so great.

“To really push things, the biggest issue that I think Xi and Abbott should be discussing is what positive role Australia could play in preventing ‘the second cold war’, as America becomes increasingly fearful of China’s rise. I doubt this will come up, however.

“Instead, the discussion is likely to focus on the strength of the economic relationship and on celebrating the FTA agreement, despite its incompleteness.

“Abbott will praise China for its economic reforms so far, while calling for more, and reminding Xi of the need for China to be a responsible global stakeholder and a ‘player of the (our) rules’.

“Ultimately, the two countries will agree (in public) to accept and respect their (political and strategic) differences, while building on their (economic) strengths.

“The problem is that it is no longer obvious that this strategy is going to work.”

Mr Ryan Manuel
Political scientist
Australian Centre on China in the World

“The first thing Tony Abbott should discuss with Xi is why Australia didn’t join a multilateral investment bank. He should also discuss Australia’s climate policy with Xi. What is it likely to be, given the recent US-China emissions deal? Establishing these parameters will allow the Prime Minister to argue that Australia will have a China policy of ‘no surprises.’”

Professor Prema-chandra Athukorala
Arndt-Corden Department of Economics

“The Potential gains from signing free trade agreements (FTAs) with China and India have been vastly exaggerated in the contemporary Australian foreign policy debate.”

Dr Elisa Nesossi
Post-doctoral Fellow, ANU Australian Centre on China in the World

“In an international legal context where China plays an increasingly crucial role, comprehending how Chinese decision-makers understand the concept of justice proves crucial. It allows an appreciation of the evolving interaction between law and politics in China, and it has wider implications for its adherence to international fair trail standards and its role in the international legal order.”

“Since China began its legal reforms in 1978, it has undergone an extremely rapid development of its legal system. Law today is a powerful tool for both the authorities and Chinese citizens.”