Special 2013 ACYD Video Address: Australian Ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley speaking on Australia-China-US Relations

Kim Beazley

This is a special 2013 ACYD video address by the Australian Ambassador to the US, Kim Beazley speaking on Australia-China-US Relations.

The ACYD would like to specially thank The Hon Kim Beazley, AC, Australian Ambassador to United States of America for delivering this special video address and the Australian Embassy in Washington for recording, editing and transcribing this video.


Conversation between the young people of two important countries is an important part of building people to people contact and people to people contact that will last a lifetime. And because you've started so early in your enquiry, your research into the relationship that we have between us -- that relationship between Australia and China -- you can be expected to be influential through a very lengthy period of time. Some of it will be in business, some of it will be in academic life, some of it will be in government but, speaking from the point of view of somebody who has been in government, you are now a very important asset in our relationship with a very important country.

I'm the Australian ambassador to the United States, as you know, and one of the things that we do keep an eye on for the Australian government is the relationship the United States has with China. It's sometimes in people's minds that what we ought to be doing is developing a trilateral relationship -- the US, China, Australia -- actually that doesn't make very much sense. Better to focus on the bilateral relationships when we come to contemplate how we do business with each other: the Australia-China relationship, the US-China relationship, the Australian-US relationship, rather than trying to complicate it by working out mechanisms to construct a rather artificial operation between all three.

One thing I've learnt since I've been here as the Australian Ambassador is how very deep the relationship is between the United States and China. Some in Australia think that the US and China are a bit distant and that the relationship that we have with China is that much deeper and indeed it's very important, a very important trading relationship, our most important trading relationship. And Australians have for some considerable period of time now worked very hard to ensure some depth and character to the bilateral relationship with China. The news for us in Australia is this, from my experience here; nothing that we have in the Australia China relationship approaches the depth of that between the United States and China. There is a real consciousness in both countries that the relationship they have with each other is probably the most important one that they do have. And that they need it to be deep, they need it to be comprehending the fact that there'll be many areas of disagreement between them.

But having established that there will be those areas of disagreement, how is that controlled in such a way that the possibilities of mutual benefit for the two countries, which are massive, is not in any way hindered? The American involvement in China, in investment, in educational institutions is getting deeper and deeper. The Chinese involvement the other way is likewise getting deeper. If you go through the Chinese elite for example, you'll probably find that many of them have children who are studying here in the United States. There is an understanding in China that the United States is the world's leading economy, the world's leading inventive nation. And that means that that's a relationship that the Chinese have to get absolutely right. In the presidents of the two countries meeting in Los Angeles in Palm Springs, there was a deliberate attempt on the part of both of them to get the relationship out of the highly structured, formalised state visit environment, in which to this point of time it has largely been pursued at the highest levels. How to get the US President and the Chinese President meeting in an informal environment where they don't have to keep delivering to each other structured speeches that have been processed through endless bureaucracies before they're actually delivered. But to meet together as human beings and to start to get into a frame of thinking whereas individuals they can resolve crises between them. It also has to be said that this is only a first step or only first steps, that the disagreements between the two nations is still strong.

America is particularly worried about things like the protection of intellectual property. American business is very concerned about that, getting increasingly concerned about it. The United States is concerned too that the view that there's a system of rules for resolving disputes, an international rules-based order, which is enormously important to uphold if we're going to have the sort of peaceful development, and in the case of China, the peaceful rise that China used to talk about or the Chinese dream as the current President of China tends to talk about. If these are to succeed then it's very strongly the American conviction they can only succeed if the world is at peace with the rules basically being observed. That's quite important given that in the areas surrounding China there are very, very few agreed boundaries, maritime or land borders. So the settlement of disputes, the peaceful settlement of disputes is important.

The Chinese on the other hand seek from the Unites States acknowledgement of their great power status. They seek from the United States an understanding that they have views about these rules and that they want to take a look at aspects of policies globally which they think might inhibit them. In fact China's done pretty well out of the global system to this point but that does not necessarily mean that every facet of it is satisfactory from a Chinese point of view. So that's the US and China and well what does that all mean for us in Australia and the Australian-Chinese relationship. Well we've always said one thing firmly in Australia and I don't think the Chinese have ever disagreed with this, and that is given that China is a very important trading partner of Australia, and a nation of great interest to us and that we inhabit the outskirts of the same region. And given that we have with the United States, historically our most important military relationship, common sense suggests to Australian leaders that what we want is a good relationship between two very important friends -- the United States and China. The discussion at the moment between the United States and China is as good as it's ever been.