Friendship is more than just words

Updated: 2012-04-11 13:42

By Wang Hui (China Daily)

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Friendship is more than just words


Canberra is in danger of learning the truth of the Chinese saying that he who does not trust enough, will not be trusted.

Although Jeffrey Bleich, the US ambassador to Australia, has brushed off the suggestion as just a "sexy, fun narrative", it is clear that with the United States building up a stronger military presence in the Asia-Pacific region in order to contain the rising power of countries like China and India, Australia wants to jump on the bandwagon - despite the fact it covets a profitable economic relationship with China.

But as a Chinese old saying said that the person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith announced on April 4 that about 200 US marines have arrived in Darwin. The move is part of the defense deal agreed between Canberra and Washington during US President Barack Obama's visit to Australia in November. According to the plan, the US will send military aircraft and up to 2,500 marines to Darwin by 2017.

Welcoming the troops, Smith said the move was aimed at dealing with the rise of China and India and the shift in strategic and economic influence to Asia.

In another sign of strengthened US-Australian alliance, the Washington Post said last month that the US was interested in using Cocos Islands in western Australia as a new base for its surveillance of the South China Sea.

Something the Australian people seem less enamored of. As a letter published in the Melbourne-based The Age newspaper on March 30 pointed out, using the islands as a base for US drones is not in Australia's national interests. "We have good relations with China and India Why antagonize large nations in our region which are also good trading partners?" the writer asked, getting to the heart of the matter.

And late last month, Canberra banned Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from tendering for contracts in Australia's broadband rollout, citing cyber attack concerns.

Yet this year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of diplomatic relations between China and Australia; 40 years in which, thanks to the efforts of both sides, their interests have continued to converge.

According to Chen Yuming, China's ambassador to Australia, China has become Australian's biggest trading partner, its largest export market and its biggest source of imports. In 2011, the bilateral trade volume surpassed $100 billion, 1,000 times the volume 40 years ago.

Today, there is no denying the fact that the interdependency of the two economies has reached an unprecedented level, According to figures released last week by the Australia China Business Council, every Australian household benefits to the tune of $13,500 a year from trade with China.

At the people-to-people level, every state and territory in Australia has established partnership ties with Chinese provinces and cities and more and more Chinese tourists are visiting Australia. Chinese students make up the largest population among overseas students studying in Australia.

Canberra should both cherish the hard-won achievements in their interaction and ensure that the current good momentum in bilateral ties continues.

After prohibiting Huawei from tendering for broadband contracts, a move perceived by Beijing as obstructing Chinese companies' normal business in Australia, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the nation's relationship with China as strong and robust.

"We are deeply engaged at every level... and you will continue to see our relationship with China strengthen and grow," she said.

Yet if Canberra continues to place more importance on its alliance with Washington, the trend of giving China the cold shoulder will eventually hurt the good momentum that the two countries have worked hard to build.

Canberra should heed Aristotle's words that a friend to all is a friend to none.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.