Friday, May 25, 2018

Aussie Rules Diplomacy; Playing to Repair Political Relations

Renée Gray Beaumont, thenanjinger.come

Image from article, with caption: The Port Adelaide Football Club devotes part of its website to its China strategy

A new beginning for relations between Australia and China has has materialised as diplomacy efforts from the Australian Football League (AFL) saw the Gold Coast Suns play against Port Adelaide, at the Adelaide Arena in the Jiangwan Stadium in Shanghai.

Expat fans who support the Gold Coast Suns would have been sorely disappointed as the Northerners were taken to the cleaners by Port Adelaide with a whopping 72 point margin. The game itself was also a smashing diplomatic success, whereby a packed 10,118 person audience revelled in the match.

Now in only its second year, the game is the only AFL match to be played for premiership points outside of Australia. The brains behind the event, unsurprisingly, falls inline with Australia’s Sports Diplomacy Strategy, which states that, “Australia has potential to capitalise further on its full suite of sporting credentials by engaging with neighbouring countries and achieving public diplomacy [JB emphasis] outcomes in the Indo–Pacific region and beyond”.

The move comes after a highly publicised recent cooling of Australia’s strong relationship with China. Speculation in Australian media surrounds recent unrest amid the public with regards to, “excessive Chinese interference”, in Australian politics and economy. According to The Australian, fears were directed toward mainland Chinese interference in, “local Chinese language media, and Australian Universities”, among other things.

While Australia has been sensitively dealing with its domestic affairs and cooling its political and economical relationship with China, observers have worried that this could create unwanted trouble with Australia’s largest trading partner. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation recently reported that, “China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it clear that Wang Yi was not happy with Australia. In fact, he was so unhappy that he delivered a brief lecture to Ms. Bishop about our shortcomings”.

Historically, China and Australia have been the best of mates, looking after each other when the chips were down and supporting each other politically and economically. All hopes appear pinned on Australia’s footballing diplomatic approach for a thaw in an otherwise flourishing relationship with China.

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