Australia, U.S. and China Alliance Introduction

Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Public relations ・Harvard ・16 Sources

Australia has been a critical U.S. friend, ally, and partner, and they maintain a strong partnership reinforced by cultural affinities, shared interests, and common democratic principles. The American forces fought in close cooperation with the Australian troops during World War II, and since then, Australia has played a crucial role as the military partner of the United States in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq (Timm, 2016). They concluded a treaty in 1951, the ANZUS Treaty, to collaborate within the Pacific Ocean region on military issues. This treaty is the foundation of security and military cooperation between them (Medcalf, 2014). In 2014, they signed the Australia-United States Force Posture Agreement during the yearly Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) resulting in even closer security and defense collaboration. In 2015, they signed a “Joint Statement on Defense Cooperation” to aid future teamwork. In 2017, they agreed to take part in the biennial defense Operation Talisman Saber that demonstrates the capacity of their armed forces to collaborate with high interoperability levels.
The alliance between the two countries is an anchor for stability and peace within the Asia-Pacific area and globally (The Asian Research Network, 2016). Their joint security cooperation operations promote the resiliency and stability of this region. They have a common interest in sustaining freedom of overflight and navigation as well as other legal usages of the sea, for instance, the South China Sea. They cooperate on operations to cut down and conquer the Islamic State in the Levant and Iraq and handle the problems of violent extremism and threats of foreign terrorism. Another part of close Australia-U.S. alliance is arms control as well as counter-proliferation (Fruhling, et al., 2014). Besides AUSMIN consultations, they also take part in a trilateral negotiations on security with Japan (U.S. State Department, 2017).
The academic, people-to-people, economic ties between these two nations are also vigorous and vibrant. The “United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement,” which they signed in 2005 has increased the exports of the United to Australia by more than 100 percent. The overall goods and services they traded in 2015 were worth $65 billion with the United States running a trade surplus of approximately $29 billion (U.S. State Department, 2017). Exports from the U.S. to Australia support more than 250,000 jobs in the U.S. in such sectors as travel services, financial services, machinery, industrial materials and supplies, and consumer goods (U.S. Trade Representative, 2016). In response, Australia exports beverages, foods, feeds, travel and business services, and industrial materials and supplies. Bilateral investment amount to over $1 trillion. Australia has made investments worth $440 billion, about 30 percent of the bilateral investment, in the U.S. and the latter has made cumulative investments worth $650 billion in Australia, making it the largest foreign investor in the country. Leading areas for U.S. investment include insurance, mining, and finance (U.S. State Department, 2017).
Besides having healthy relations with the United States, Australia has strong trade relations with China, as well. China is the largest trading partner of Australia, while the latter is China’s leading source of resources (Callick, 2017). According to recent trends, Australian exports are currently rising above the resource sector. From a political point of view, the relations of these countries have had ups and downs. Recently there have been anxieties over the investment of China in Australia, the detention of Australian Chinese persons in China, and setting up of “Air Defense Identification Zone” within the Eastern China Sea by China. However, there have been high points to the political relations, as well. In 2013, they agreed to initiate a prime-ministerial level exchange of ideas between them thus making Australia one of the few countries to have this kind of dialogue (Lowy Institute, 2017).
Their investment relations had occasionally strained broader bilateral links, for example, when a Chinese state-owned corporation attempted to acquire Rio Tinto, an Australian corporation, in 2009, the Australian board in charge of reviewing foreign investment delayed authorization of the bid for a long time thus collapsing the deal (Barboza & Wines, 2009). Since then, the Australian government has worked hard to attract more Chinese investors to Australia. When Li Keqiang, Chinese Premier, visited Australia in 2014, he raised the prospect of increasing Chinese investment in Australian infrastructure (Lowy Institute, 2017). The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement has increased the investment of private Chinese corporations in Australian infrastructure from $248 million to more than $1 billion. Furthermore, Chinese state-owned companies in Australia, which have had a positive track record are likely to enjoy relaxed investment rules (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2016). Nonetheless, Chinese investment has not been popular among the larger Australian community since the majority of Australian citizens have a firm conviction that the Australian government has been allowing too much Chinese investment in the country. Indeed, that is a likely source of strain in the investment relations between these countries (Lowy Institute, 2017).
The rate at which the relations between Australia and China are becoming stronger has sparked debates regarding how Australia should manage its ties with both China and the United States. According to the University of Sydney and KPMG, an accounting and advisory firm, China has become the biggest trading partner of Australia as well as a huge source of foreign investment, with its investment in Australian assets amounting to $11.1 billion, typically property (Westbrook, 2016). There are queries about how it balances its alliance obligations against its economic reliance on China – trading with China accounts for nearly 30 percent of its foreign trade (Perlez, 2016). It has been reported that Australian politicians, who do not face any legal barriers on whom they should receive donations from, have obtained funds from Chinese corporations and persons linked to the government of China (Timm, 2016).
While both the United States and China are strong allies to Australia, they are not allies. Their relationship is the most significant bilateral worldwide. For a long time, the nature of this relationship has not been so apparent, until recently, many observers settled for a perfect yet awkward description: that they are friends neither are they foes (Hachigian, 2014, p. 272). They do not share any overriding political values or security interests, and their views of global order normally clash (Etzioni, 2012). While Chinese government anticipates a post-American, multipolar world, the U.S. administration is endeavoring to maintain the liberal order, which it has been leading even as its relative power in spite of fading of its relative power (Zakaria, 2012). In the meantime, multiple concerns in Eastern Asia, for instance, differences between Tokyo and Beijing and tensions over Taiwan have led to the clashing of Chinese and U.S. interests. They are not adversaries and do not view each other as implacable security or ideological threats (Pei, 2014).


Barboza, D. & Wines, M., 2009. Mining Giant Scraps China Deal. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 4 June 2009].
Callick, R., 2017. Chinese investment in Australia soars to $4.8bn. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 27 February 2017].
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2016. China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 8 November 2016].
Etzioni, A., 2012. Is China America's new enemy?. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 January 2012].
Fruhling, S., Goldrick, J. & Medcalf, R., 2014. Preserving the knowledge edge: Surveillance cooperation and the US–Australia alliance in Asia. [Online] Available at:
Hachigian, N., 2014. Debating China: The U.S.-China Relationship in Ten Conversationsn. Oxford : Oxford University Press. Lowy Institute, 2017. China-Australia Relations. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 4 April 2017].
Medcalf, R., 2014. Australia and the United States: Navigating Strategic Uncertainty. Asian Alliances Working Paper, pp. 1-7.
Pei, M., 2014. How China and America See Each Other. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2014].
Perlez, J., 2016. US casts wary eye on Australian port leased by Chinese. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2016].
The Asian Research Network, 2016. Survey on America’s role in the Asia-Pacific. pp. 35-36.
Timm, L., 2016. How China Is Trying to Wrest Australia Out of US Alliance. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 2 September 2016].
U.S. State Department, 2017. U.S. Relations With Australia. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2017].
U.S. Trade Representative, 2016. U.S.-Australia Trade. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 October 2016].
Westbrook, T., 2016. Australia must choose between United States and China: U.S. Army official. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1 September 2016].
Zakaria, F., 2012. The Post-American World. New York: W.W. Norton.

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