‘The meaning of China‘, Griffith Review, 41, July 2013
The question of how Chinese power will affect the world and what it will mean is hugely significant for Australia. Although China has been a great power in the past, and is the only nation to experience regaining its super power status, the modern world is far more complex than that of imperial China. The approaches and ideologies used historically have not prepared China for its sudden contemporary empowerment. China itself faces many challenges as it grapples with its status as a preeminent world power.
China’s rise carries deep and complex meaning for Australia. In addition to being a significant source of perceived peril and tension, China has also delivered an unprecedented wave of prosperity, which has reshaped our economy in uncomfortable ways. Most unsettling, however, is that China’s rise takes Australia out of a two-century comfort zone where the premier powers have been just like us, firstly Britain then America. We have lived in a protective bubble but now we face a range of dilemmas and choices that mean we no longer enjoy the luxury of simplicity and remoteness from the world’s great contests. The meaning of China for Australia is that essentially our position and role in the world is maturing.