Democratizing the Dragon: Keating’s Foreign Policy Strategy amid China’s Rise in Asia

Stream: Panel 75 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Australian Foreign Policy and the Rise of China
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


To date, public debate surrounding Australia’s bilateral relations with China has focused on the growing economic interdependence between the two countries. However, the role of democracy and justice in engaging the nature of the direction of China’s rise in Australia’s middle power diplomacy is also an important piece of the puzzle. In the last decade, concerns have arisen over the political side of the relationship which is being increasingly tested by sea-sawing US-China military tensions in the region. Examination of Keating’s government from 1991-1996 sheds light on cognitive theories of liberal institutionalism and globalization. Soft balancing and economic accommodation combined with democratic institutions and traditions were strategic tools used by Keating’s Labor party in fostering a new and growing strategic partnership with Beijing. Furthermore, the high and low points of the bilateral relationship elucidate the independent variable of China’s economic and military rise in Asia and the dependent variable of Keating’s democratic hedging strategy in Australian foreign policy. My paper argues that, contrary to expectations, international geo-political variables have not changed significantly over time. Hence, Australia’s guiding democratic principles are important advantages in the future democratization of China. Formulating a systemic approach of power balancing and cautious democratic hedging, may further contribute to safeguarding Australia’s national interests and advancing Canberra’s grand strategy of the political liberalization of Asia.


David Fitzsimmons (Presenter), The University of Sydney
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