The rejection of the extradition treaty with China by an unusually diverse coalition spanning the political spectrum should be a reality check for proponents of closer ties with a country that shares few of our core values. This much is clear from the refusal of an overwhelming majority of parliamentarians to put Australian citizens at the mercy of Chinese courts, which clearly lack judicial independence and are subservient to the will of the ruling Communist Party.

Pragmatists assert that we have to look beyond this democratic deficit because we live in a China world, and shaping that world to our advantage ought to be a foreign policy priority. Australia’s first ambassador to China, Stephen Fitzgerald, in his recent Whitlam Oration assumes that getting closer to China would give us more influence over its policies, but that’s a dubious assumption.

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