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Choosing Ahead of Time?: Australia, New Zealand and the US-China Contest in Asia


Australia’s profile as one of Washington’s leading allies in the Asia Pacific has grown due to the Obama Administration’s rebalancing strategy. While New Zealand is both unable and unwilling to match the intensity of its neighbour’s relationship with the world’s leading power, its own strategic ties with Washington have strengthened considerably in recent times. While Australia’s alliance with the United States may raise future challenges vis-à-vis its increasingly important relationship with a rising China, New Zealand also has a balancing act to maintain, not least because of its close economic ties with the People’s Republic. In different ways both Australia and New Zealand may currently be reducing their room for maneouver if and when the contest between the United States and China becomes more severe. The risks may be higher for Australia because the same strategic geography that gives it renewed prominence may also increase its exposure to competition and conflict in Asia, and because its own military rebalancing towards the north and west of the continent is occurring just as its defence budget has been significantly cut. For New Zealand, while those direct risks may be smaller, staying on Canberra’s radar screen will become harder. Indeed as they each look towards their own relationships with the major powers, Australia and New Zealand may need to work even harder to sustain their own bilateral alliance relationship.

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