It is, perhaps, the question of the 21st century. How can countries foster mutually beneficial relations with an increasingly powerful China, without bowing to Beijing's coercion? The question looms largest in Australia. China is the country's No. 1 trading partner, but Canberra is pushing back hard against alleged Chinese political interference and investments in sensitive infrastructure. Other countries are watching to see what blowback Australia encounters.
"Australia is leading the United States in its awareness of and responses to Chinese political warfare and economic statecraft," said Tom Mahnken, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for policy planning under President George W. Bush and now the head of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. "The Australian government has been forced to come to grips with the challenge of Chinese investment in infrastructure and key industries, and attempts to manipulate elite and public opinion."