Tony Abbott is preparing for his first trip to China as Prime Minister in early April, and is expected to attend the Boao Conference for Asia on Hainan island. At Boao, China’s attempt at regional Davos-like summit, Abbott will have to face Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The clincher for the Abbott’s itinerary will likely be talks with Chinese political supremo Xi Jinping in Beijing.
Far from a simple display of goodwill, Abbott’s trip to China will be a perilous minefield, make no mistake. In a surprise and rather extraordinary string of comments and events, Abbott has made it crystal clear that he has sided with the United States and its ally Japan against China. It’s even more extraordinary that it’s a choice that did not need to be made; previous Australian prime ministers, including Abbott’s mentor, John Howard, were emphatic that sides did not need to be chosen.