Furthermore, Peterson, a correspondent for the Post Gazette, recently reported that, "Mr. Rudd has been seen as intent on balancing Australia's relations with China and those with the United States, a longtime ally and major trading partner. But he has argued recently that China should, to reflect the changing world economic order, have greater voting rights within the IMF and a greater say in how its funds are spent" (2009, 2). Based on China's role as Australia's largest trading partner and its proximity, Australia's current Minister for Foreign Affairs is using the Group of Twenty (G20) forum to advance these goals. In this regard, Peterson adds that, "Canberra's key ambitions heading into the G-20 summit go beyond the trilateral Australia-China-U.S. relationship. Mr. Rudd -- currently co-chair of the G-20's working group on IMF reform -- is arguing for a clear role for China in the management of the global economy" (2009, 3). Likewise, Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently cited the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) organization as being highly influential in Australia's foreign policy. For instance, speaking at the APEC CEO Summit in November 2010, Gillard emphasised that, "From the beginning, one of APEC's historic goals has been to deepen regional economic integration by opening borders and creating opportunities for business and government" (2010, 2).
The point has been made by Darwell (2005), a consultant director of Reform, a London-based think tank, that the close relationships between the UK and the U.S. will not necessarily mean that it will not be possible for Australia to pursue increasingly close ties with China in the future. For example, Darwell emphasises that, "(i)nternational relations is not a zero-sum game, and Australia's close relationship with the U.S. does not come at the cost of its relations with China. Both China and the U.S. have an interest in developing constructive relations with one another, not least because of China's hunger for economic growth, which is precisely where Australia's interests lie" (2005, p. 58).
The foregoing observation suggests that notwithstanding the historic relationships between Australia and the United States, Australian foreign policymakers can pursue an independent course that is focused on the country's best interests without necessarily jeopardizing these longstanding relations. This observation is supported in large part by current trade levels between Australia and China as shown in Figures 1 and 2 below.
Figure 1. Australia's Major Import Partners
Figure 2. Australia's Major Export Partners
Source: Australia 2010
Although Australia has managed to weather the lingering global financial crisis better than most, it is certainly not immune to the effects of a global economic downturn and its increasing reliance on China as a major trading partner will also involve increasing trade interdependence in ways that might adversely affect Australia's ability to formulate and administer independent foreign policies that do not take these trends into account. As can be readily discerned from Figures 1 and 2 above, in both imports and exports, China dominates Australia's trade with other countries.
Despite the longstanding relationships between the U.S., UK and Australia, it is becoming increasingly apparent that American and British influence in the international hierarchy is waning while that of China is waxing. In particular, the so-called Global War on Terrorism that is being aggressively prosecuted by the United States and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom, has diminished the legitimacy of these countries' leadership roles in the eyes of many members of the international community (Snyder 2006). These trends have created significant shifts in the international hierarchy of influence with countries such as China, Japan and India assuming greater importance for Australia's interests. According to Snyder (2003), a Senior Lecturer at the School of International and Political Studies, Faculty of Arts, Deakin University in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, the outcomes of these trends remain unclear at present, but it is apparent that they will hold important implications for Australian foreign policymakers in the future. In order to build stronger relations with the countries of Southeast Asia, Australia needs to forge closer economic and cultural ties with countries that are in Australia's region. According to Snyder, "Australia needs to build on the positive relations it has with the states in the region at both the political and military level to mitigate these concerns" (2006, 322). Based on the foregoing trends, the sphere of influence represented by the U.S. And the UK, while remaining important, will likely diminish somewhat as the economic, political and military clout of China and its neighbors, particularly Japan, continue to increase in the coming years (Jiang 2007). This point was also made by the Honorable Stephen Smith in a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute National Security Dinner in 2008:
"Japan has been our closest and most consistent friend in our region for many years. Australia and Japan have many things in common, including our shared values, our democratic outlook and our shared regional engagement. Japan is a key economic, security and strategic partner of central importance. Our cooperation on regional security issues continues to expand. All this provides the basis for a critical partnership that will see both countries working together in the region for many years to come. (4)
In sum, the world is clearly shifting from the unipolar framework that characterized the last decade to a multipolar framework that will require reevaluations of what is truly in Australia's best military and economic interests in the future, and these issues are discussed further below.
Projections of Australia's Foreign Policy for the Future
It is clear that the 21st century is in fact shaping up to be the "Century of Asia," with China among the frontrunners in terms of economic development. For example, according to Darwall, "(w)hile the twentieth century was the century of the Americas, the chances are the twenty-first century will be the century of Asia and we may see, for the first time, a real eclipse of American economic power" (2005, p. 58). Although currently the only superpower in the world, the military might of the United States is being gradually countered by the military build-up in China and Russia and it appears to be just a matter of time before the hegemony enjoyed by the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century is eclipsed. In this regard, Hiro (2008) emphasises that, "No superpower in modern times has maintained its supremacy for more than several generations. and, however exceptional its leaders may have thought themselves, the United States, already clearly past its zenith, has no chance of becoming an exception to this age-old pattern of history" (140).
In fact, there is already evidence of this transition taking place, with China's military spending increasing by 18% in 2007 alone (Hiro 2008). According to Hiro, although China's military budget of $45 billion represented a fraction of the spending levels in the United Sttaes ($459 billion), a report from the U.S. Department of Defense clearly emphasized that, "China's rapid rise as a regional and economic power with global aspirations," and maintained that China was "planning to project military force farther afield from the Taiwan Straits into the Asia-Pacific region in preparation for possible conflicts over territory or resources" (2008, 141).
These shifts in the current hierarchy of influence will be particularly important for Australia given its proximity to these countries in the future. In this regard, in a speech delivered to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute National Security Dinner on 9 April 2008, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Stephen Smith observed, "The Australian Government is determined to look afresh at our strategic and national security challenges and how to respond to them. We need to adapt and respond to new challenges. This century, a globalised world demands more than ever a committed and active bilateral, regional and multilateral diplomacy from Australia" (2008, p. 3). These objectives will involve maintaining current mutual agreements with the United States, but will also require a recognition that other countries may become more important to Australia's military and economic interests in the future. Projected into the near future, say for the next decade or so, these demands will require an Australian foreign policy that balances the country's historic relationships with the U.S. And UK in favour of expanded relationships with the rest of the international community, particularly China, Japan, India and Brazil as burgeoning economic powerhouses. This point was made by Flitton who reported in 2004 that, "Instead of over-relying on a special relationship with any one country, Australia should be more 'promiscuous' in its international affairs" (2004, p. 229). Given the recent trends discussed above, this recommendation remains relevant today and for the future of Australia's foreign policymaking efforts.
While the market reforms undertaken by China have been accompanied by some relaxation of its totalitarianism, the harsh reality remains that China is a state-controlled society where civil liberties still take a backseat to the whims of the ruling elite. From a strictly pragmatic perspective, an independent Australian foreign policy…