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US and China leadership transitions equally important for Australia

By Julie Bishop - posted Thursday, 8 November 2012


There has been extensive coverage in Australia's media of the US presidential election with significant analysis of the likely winner and the implications for Australia.

President Obama has now won a second term in a decisive victory and immediately faces a number of significant challenges including negotiating with a Republican dominated House of Representatives to avoid the 'fiscal cliff' that will see a reduction in the massive budget deficit, but could also reduce the economy by around 4% in 2013.

The global focus on the Presidential election is understandable given the United States continues to be the world's largest economy and the only super-power and as such plays a vitally important role globally.

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The United States is Australia's third largest trading partner and our most important military ally.

What is harder to explain is the lack of coverage of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that is taking place at the same time as the US presidential election.

China is Australia's largest trading partner and a rising military power in our region.

The difference between the sheer energy, hoopla and theatre of the hotly contested campaign between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, compared with the managed, controlled and outwardly calm transition in China could not be more profound.

The US presidential candidates reportedly each spent more than $1 billion on the campaign as they criss-crossed the country attending rallies, giving speeches, taking part in nationally televised debates and generally mobilising the vote.

Television networks were flooded with advertising and there was endless polling. analysis and punditry.

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All this makes for compelling viewing. It is easy to dismiss the vast majority of the coverage as superficial entertainment in that it rarely delved into the implications of the actual policy positions espoused by the candidates.

In stark contrast the leadership of China is not contested at the ballot box but is controlled in secret within the ruling Communist Party.

Barring some unimaginable event, the Congress will see President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao hand over to the next generation of leaders of Xi Xinping and Li Keqiang.

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About the Author

Julie Bishop is the Federal Member for Curtin, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

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