Understanding China: Challenges to Australian Governments

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


In the 21st Century world of politics, the importance of China as a strategic partner to Australia is argubly 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 2015; Fitzgerald 2013; McCarthy and Gao 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 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, 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 (Baogang He, 2014, p. 253). Within such framework lies the dichotomy of the rising China as ‘opportunity’ or ‘threat’(White , 2101; Wesley, 2011), and a certain unthinkability that China can be read on its own terms not through a Western superiority framing (Seth, 2013, p. 2), where an idealised democratic West is assumed against the Chinese ’authoritarian’ other (Vucovich, 2012, p. 149), in which China’s complex civilisations and its distinctive civility is imagined ‘as yet’ modern (Chakrabarty, 2000).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranscultural Encounters in Knowledge Production and Consumption
EditorsXianlin Song, Youzhong Sun
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789811049200
ISBN (Print)9789811049194
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameEncounters between East and West
PublisherIntercultural Perspectives
ISSN (Print)2364-6721
ISSN (Electronic)2364-673X


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