Han Feng, a deputy director at the China Academy of Social Science, a think tank closely linked to the Communist Party and government, said the paper appeared to be politically motivated by Labor.
“It doesn’t have any major changes and with an election approaching in Australia it is not the right time to have a major change in defence policy,” Mr Han said.
“The white paper has to reflect the attitude of Labor to a certain extent and, given the Gillard government does not have a majority position in parliament, this paper is the result of wanting to balance the positions on defence on both of Australia’s political parties.”
The long-awaited white paper said the government was keen to work with China to ensure its growth and emergence as a major world power remained peaceful.
The commentary surrounding China was significantly calmer than the 2009 white paper, which warned that China was a growing military risk in the Asian region.
China then reacted angrily and its military relationship with Australia has remained fractured.
In the new paper, the government said it believed China would become “more active” in international issues, given its strong economic growth and size. China has the largest military in the world with 850,000 soldiers in the land, air and sea units of the People’s Liberation Army.
“The government does not believe that Australia must choose between its longstanding alliance with the United States and its expanding relationship with China, nor do the US and China believe that we should make such a choice,” the white paper said.
“The government does not approach China as an adversary. Its policy is aimed at encouraging China’s peaceful rise and ensuring that strategic competition in the region does not lead to conflict.”
However, there is suspicion in China that a major defence policy overhaul is likely.
Mr Han said it was vital that Australia remained independent as one of the most powerful nations in the Asia-Pacific. “Australia won’t be choosing sides between China and the US, that will be a disaster for it,” he said. “It will be good for Australia to play a role where it is it aligned to any major world power, which will allow it to mediate if disputes arise.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China recognised that Australia’s military rhetoric had changed since 2009.Source: The Australian – Text politically driven to avoid change: Beijing
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