ADELAIDE - I have a huge amount of respect for John Menadue and thus accept that his recent comments, ‘Xi & Albanese: Can we seize the opportunity', on his Pearls & Reflections website, reflect his long and deep experience in dealing with China.
I also entirely agree with his remarks on the former Liberal-National Party government, which was spectacularly inept in its dealings with China, although its criticisms of China were not always entirely without merit.
And I strongly approve of the Albanese government's sensible approach to China which has been respectful and forthright, certainly not the shrill, overblown hyperbole that characterised the previous government's approach.
That said, it remains the case that China is governed by an authoritarian regime whose values are greatly at odds with those accepted as normal in democratic societies.
While this will be a source of unease and friction into the foreseeable future, it is not necessarily a barrier to having a sensible and pragmatic relationship between our two countries.
I have previously written that Australia needs to have a close defence relationship with the USA, and I maintain this is still the case.
However, it needs to be a relationship based upon mutual respect and support, not slavish adherence to the USA's foreign policy aims which are not necessarily Australia's aims nor in its national interest.
In that regard, I remain puzzled by the decision to base US bombers in northern Australia and by the apparent enthusiasm for purchasing hideously expensive nuclear submarines.
The strategic or tactical value of the latter escapes me at the moment, but I am open to hearing a plausible explanation for why it is worth spending around $90 billion (K210 billion) on these weapon systems.
Based upon what has happened in Ukraine, I think that the money might be better spent on creating a capacity to manufacture powerful of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
China's leader Xi Jinping has reached out to Australia for several reasons, not least our significant trading relationship.
However an unstated reason is that over the last few years China has overplayed its hand in foreign relations and alienated many countries with which it once had good relations.
As I have repeatedly asserted, China is a very powerful country, but it is not yet a superpower.
In fact, it seems unlikely to ever achieve that status owing to the number of financial, economic and demographic problems it confronts.
The only power on earth that can hope to successfully project its military power far beyond its shores is the USA and even it is now less capable of doing so than once was the case.
China cannot do this which helps explain why Xi felt able to assure president Biden that no invasion of Taiwan is imminent.
From an Australian perspective it makes sense to be friendly terms with all countries in our region, including China. We need them and they need us.
This does not mean accepting behaviour or actions that are inconsistent with our values or national interest and this is exactly the basis upon which the Albanese government is operating.
With commendable prudence, it is taking an active role in regional defence structures like the 'Quad' whilst simultaneously maintaining an essentially friendly posture with respect to China.
In this context, I note that Albanese has recently said that the government will not support Taiwan joining ASEAN or APEC on the basis that Taiwan is not recognised as a sovereign state.
This position is consistent with that adopted by the Whitlam government long ago and no doubt brought comfort to Xi Jinping.
With a bit of luck, we will abandon the folly of buying nuclear submarines and focus our attention and resources on other weapon systems that promise to deliver much better value for money as well as be vastly less provocative to some of our neighbours.