The Prime Minister has encouraged other countries to embrace China, in particular suggesting that the United States should take a softer approach, and noting that the rise of China presents great opportunities to Australia. I agree.
Recently I attended a public meeting at which a number of people spoke on China, including some people who would be regarded by China as dissidents. A common thread running through the speakers was that Australia should not be getting too close to China while its record on human rights and environmental protection remains as it is.
While we have different views to China on issues of this kind, avoiding getting close to China is not the way to affect China's position. It would not hurt China one iota for Australia to decline to deal with them. China needs nothing from us - we have no negotiating position whatsoever from which to pressure China to do anything it does not want to do. Yet by maintaining good relations with China we can maintain ongoing civil dialogue about areas of disagreement - dialog conducted through appropriate channels - that may be a factor in China eventually reconsidering its positions. This is the only way, realistically, that a country the size of Australia can hope to influence future policy in China. This may seem like a slow approach, and it is not as immediately satisfying as taking more direct action, but it is the only approach that is available to us.
As the Prime Minister says:
We seek to build on shared goals and not become obsessed by those things that make us different. By widening the circle of substance we are better able to deal openly and honestly with issues where we might disagree.