Alarmist stories about Australia’s relationship with China, and concerns about whether China is plotting to take control, insidiously or overtly, are regular front-page news. In Australia’s China Odyssey, acclaimed historian James Curran explores this crucial and complicated relationship through the prism of the prime ministers who have handled relations with Beijing since Whitlam in 1972.
Much recent analysis assumes that managing China has been difficult only since 2017. Yet this relationship has always been difficult. And while there have been moments of euphoria and uplift – moments, even, when some believed Australia could have a ‘special relationship’ with China – high anxiety and fear have often trailed closely in that slipstream. This book provides historical ballast to a debate so often mired in the parochialism of the present.
The task of adjusting to China’s rise is the greatest challenge Australian diplomacy has faced since Japan’s revisionist attempts to remake East Asia in the 1930s. Ultimately, while China under Xi Jinping has indeed changed, and while there is justifiable alarm concerning the course of Beijing’s aggressive and authoritarian nationalism, Australia’s China Odyssey asks whether we have the courage to look in the mirror and see what this debate also reveals about Australia.