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Complex interdependence and China’s engagement with Australia: navigating between power and vulnerability

Zheng, Yixiao (2014) Complex interdependence and China’s engagement with Australia: navigating between power and vulnerability. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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China has become heavily dependent on Australia for resource supply as a result of her rapid economic growth over the 2000s. Stable and reliable resource supply from Australia has become a matter of national economic security. Yet, China’s resource relationship with Australia is grown out of a delicate geopolitical framework, because Australia is not only a resource superpower but also a staunch U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite extensive economic interdependence between the two countries, China faces a huge challenge to build a genuinely reliable and close resource partnership with Australia. This study discusses how China has pro actively sought to shape or adapt to the evolving power dynamics behind the bilateral resource politics over the 2000s. It provides a relevant case study on the resource politics between a rising great power and a resource superpower under the condition of complex interdependence. China’s search for resource security has become the primary goal of her policy towards Australia in the 2000s. However, China’s engagement with Australia has led to an uneasy resource partnership with growing competitive dynamics and constant power struggle. The political context of the resource ties between China and Australia has changed dramatically towards the end of the 2000s, as the systemic impact of China’s rise has resulted in a deterioration in the strategic dimension of China-Australia relations. This has in turn created considerable constraints and uncertainties in China’s resource cooperation with Australia. Both the difficult resource investment ties and the inequitable iron ore trade relationship show the limits of this resource partnership. Australia’s approach to this critical resource relationship with China remains ad hoc, transactional and oriented to short-term interest maximisation. Despite her growing power, China remains the more vulnerable party in the uneven resource interdependence with Australia. The Chinese have sought to improve their power position vis-à-vis the Australians; but domestic economic constraints and internal fragmentation have considerably undermined Chinese efforts to gain the upper hand in the bilateral resource politics. China has to navigate cautiously between power and vulnerability in her engagement with Australia.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Yixiao Zheng
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > Government
Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Hughes, Christopher R.

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