History will judge today’s leaders tomorrow

Staying ahead of the geopolitical game requires bold decisions today which will set the context for the next 40 years, writes Australia China Business Council Chairman, Frank Tudor.

Few recognise that on the very same day in 1972 that then Opposition Leader Gough Whitlam was meeting with the Chinese leadership in Beijing, US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was also in the Northern Capital negotiating the parameters of President Nixon’s historic visit to China, which would lead to one of the most significant shifts in geopolitical power in the twentieth century.
Indeed, Whitlam himself was kept in the dark and did not know of Kissinger’s presence for many months after the visit and long after the cries of treachery had disappeared into the annals of the dying days of the McMahon premiership.
Yes it certainly was time. It was time for Australia to unshackle itself from the tunnel vision parochialism of the opening two decades of the Cold War to pragmatically assess the implications of a communist China on our region’s political architecture and maybe, just maybe, awaken our national consciousness to a phenomenal economic opportunity.
Let’s ponder for a moment and imagine that Nixon did not go to China but Labor still won the 1972 federal election and within months of forming government, the Whitlam administration established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. Would we have undermined our alliance with Washington and destroyed the foundations of Australia’s post-war foreign policy?
We cannot know what Australian foreign policy might have looked like if circumstances had forced Whitlam to go it alone, but as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral relationship, it is a fascinating exercise with some stark reminders of Australia’s current choices.
From the commanding heights of world politics state actors make deliberate choices – alliances, defence procurement decisions, inclusive (or otherwise as we have recently learned from Honolulu) trade pacts, which determine the fate of nation states and importantly – their economies and their corporations.
As China’s rise increases Australia’s economic dependence on our northern neighbour, so too is China’s ascendancy accompanied by hyperbolic rhetoric of defensive pyramids, strategic triangles and containment hexagons throughout the corridors of traditional powers.
Yet I don’t believe that Australia is presented with the choice between sides as many in this debate contend. Rather, we should have a conversation about how we can increase genuine free trade in the region and, in turn, multilateral interdependence. A world of dependent states is not only a more prosperous one but one that is also inherently more secure.
The challenges presented by this strategic paradigm are not entirely dissimilar to the choices faced by Whitlam as he touched down in 1972 Beijing. Without any knowledge of play real pokies online Kissinger’s presence and entering China from the opposition benches to boot, Whitlam risked anti-communist ridicule from the hard right, yet managed to engineer what would become the boldest foreign policy shift in Australian political history.
Whitlam trusted his instincts and was emboldened by his values. History remembers this as a defining moment in our nation’s history and images of Whitlam ascending the Great Wall of China surrounded by Mao suit wearing cadres have already beamed their way to Australia’s television screens and periodicals as we commence celebrating this important anniversary in this year of the dragon.
Such statesmanship would be welcome as we contemplate the past and look to securing the next 40 years in this very special bilateral relationship. 

ACBC AGM Results
The Annual General Meeting of the Australia China Business Council was held in Sydney in November 2011.
Members present re-elected the Council’s Chairman, Vice-President and Treasurer, and heard a report and business plan from the Council’s Chairman. The Council’s Non-Branch Directors were also returned to office. To download a copy of the Chairman’s Report and Business Plan please visit the national news section at www.acbc.com.au
The Council’s Board of Directors are listed as follows:
Chairman of the Board and National President, Frank Tudor, Managing Director, Horizon Power
Vice-President, Ian McCubbin, Partner, Norton Rose Australia
Chief Representative in China, Paul Glasson, Chairman, Satori Investments
Secretary, Laurie Pearcey, Chief Executive Officer, Australia China Business Council
Treasurer, Tim Hogan-Doran, Director, PwC
Non Branch Director, Maree Arnason, Executive Director (Strategy), Rey Resources
Non Branch Director, Derek Baines, Qantas Airways
Non Branch Director, Tim Goldsmith, Global Mining Leader, PwC
Non Branch Director, David Powell, Managing Director, Powell & Co
Branch Director (NSW), Jim Harrowell AM, Partner, Hunt & Hunt Lawyers
Branch Director (NT), Daryl Guppy, CEO, Guppy Traders
Branch Director (Qld), Michele Robinson, Director – International Assistance
Coordination Queensland Reconstruction Authority
Branch Director (SA), Sean Keenihan, Partner, Normanwaterhouse Lawyers
Branch Director (VIC), Jason Chang, Managing Director & CEO, EMR Capital
Branch Director (WA), Duncan Calder, Partner, KPMG

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