Australia and New Zealand face a geopolitical predicament as a consequence of China’s rise. How do we preserve our Western liberal values in the face of growing concern with our largest trading partner and it’s turbulent relationship with our key ally, the United States?

The 20th century saw the US rise with both economic and strategic dominance, but the 21st century is predicted to become the period of resurgence for China. Henry Kissinger has suggested that we are entering a multipolar world — international power dynamics shifting from West to East. 

Ideological tensions with China were recently highlighted by Australia’s Liberal MP Andrew Hastie and New Zealand’s Canterbury University Professor Anne-Marie Brady. 

After Hastie wrote a critical opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald expressing his concern for China’s human rights violations, comparing Xi’s regime to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, he was banned from entering China. 

Meanwhile, in her policy paper, Magic Weapons, Brady wrote of the Chinese Communist Party’s soft power coercion across Western nations, pointing to China influencing our democracies through foreign donations and the establishment of Confucius Institutes. Following this, she’s received threats of violence, her car and office vandalised.  

As Samuel Huntington predicted in his 1993 book ‘The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order’, Western liberal democracies like Australia and New Zealand will steadily witness greater civilisational tensions with China’s Confucian authoritarianism. 

And Graham Allison’s Thucydides’s Trap posits with a grim scenario of great power conflict: The rising China threatening the incumbent global power, the United States — Australia and New Zealand could fall victim in an intensive security competition between the United States and China. 

In his forward for Allison’s book, Destined for War, Andrew Hastie posed the question: Can the political leadership of both countries overcome the historical structural stresses that have brought other great powers to war?”

The goal for both Australia and New Zealand is to protect our liberal democratic principles but to also avoid becoming the modern ‘Melos’ of the Peloponnesian War — the nation that fell mercilessly to Athens in 416 BC — preventing the ‘Thucydides’s Trap’. 

John Mearsheimer and Hugh White’s debate in Canberra is the beginning of an ongoing discussion concerning our strategy regarding the rise of China. Australians and New Zealanders must wake up to the task of solving this difficult challenge. 

It is imperative for both Australia and New Zealand to find a practical foreign policy solution to the ever-increasing turbulence between the United States and China. 

Leonard Hong is a recent graduate at The University of Auckland and a former research intern at the Centre for Independent Studies.

This article was first published by the Centre for Independent Studies, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.

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