The 'Know Your Region' series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the South East Asian region. It's important for all serving members of our military to have a foundational knowledge of the countries and issues in the Indo-Pacific.


On this page:

  • Summary
  • Politics and the Chinese Communist party
  • China and Australia
  • China and the USA
  • China and its neighbours



For more than two millennia, China saw itself as the cultural, political and economic centre of the world. This has in many ways shaped China’s outlook on global governance—the rules, norms and institutions that regulate international cooperation. The decline and collapse of imperial China in the 1800s and early 1900s however, diminished Chinese influence on the global stage for more than a century. In the past two decades, China has re-emerged as a major power, with the world’s second largest economy and a world-class military. It is increasingly seeking to assert itself in the international system and in global governance institutions. The relationship between China and the rest of the world is changing.  What underpins China’s global push is President Xi Jinping’s commitment to transform China into a fully-developed, industrial country and to advance Chinese power in the world. For Xi, it is time for China to have a place under the sun.


Politics and the Chinese Communist Party

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is the founding and ruling political party of modern China, officially known as the People’s Republic of China. The CCP has maintained a political monopoly since its founding nearly a century ago, overseeing the country’s rapid economic growth and rise as a global power.

For further reading on China's politics, see the resources below:


China and Australia

After establishing diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in 1972, Australia established an embassy in Beijing in 1973.  The Australia-China bilateral relationship is based on strong economic and trade complementarities, and longstanding community and cultural links. China is Australia’s largest trading partner, while Australia is a leading source of resources for China. Both sides acknowledge that Australia and China have different histories, societies and political systems, as well as different viewpoints on some important issues. Australia's diplomatic network in China includes the embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Shenyang and Hong Kong.

For a timeline of events to-date concerning Australia and China relations look here, and for further information see the resources below:


China and its Neighbours

China, ASEAN and other countries in the region are highly integrated. From an economic perspective, this is reflected in the rapid increase in trade and investment flows. Few countries in the world have such complex and complicated neighbourhood relations as China, which today shares land borders with 14 countries and has eight maritime neighbours. The rise of China presents new challenges and opportunities for the development of its neighbourhood relations and its regional strategies, some of which are explained in the videos below:

China’s broader strategic issues including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet will be presented in a separate feature within the Know your Region content.  Links and articles below will give a brief overview of China’s relationships with some of its other neighbours, which have been selected specifically to highlight regional dynamics, relevant events, and historic and current relationships:


China and the USA

As highlighted in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, strategic competition, primarily between the United States and China, will be the principal driver of strategic dynamics in our region. As of 2021, the United States has the world's largest economy and China has the second.  Historically, relations between the two countries have generally been stable with some periods of open conflict, most notably during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Strategic competition between the United States and China is unlikely to abate in the near term.

For further information on China's relationship with the USA see the resources below:


Discussion Questions

  1. The current relationship between China and the US may impact the economic and military decisions of ASEAN nations. What sort of decisions will the ASEAN countries likely face, and how will this impact the stability of the region?
  2. The relatively young ages of both modern China and India has seen the world’s two most populous nations predominantly focus on internal and close regional matters as their economies and militaries grew. Now that they both seek to exert greater influence on the world stage, what will the impact of this be for South East Asia, and what role should Australia play both diplomatically and militarily?
  3. The Russian and Chinese relationship is a complex one that is often misunderstood and overlooked by western nations. What sort of relationship will China seek to have with Russia over the next decade, and how will that impact US and Australian influence in the Indo-Pacific?
  4. The documentary ‘How Xi Jinping changed China and the Communist Party’ suggests that China’s Belt and Road initiative could potentially link up to a third of the world’s countries, with China at the centre.  What do you think could be some of the impacts on both regional and global dynamics with this initiative?