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Nothing to fear from China: US envoy

AAP logoAAP 30/08/2016

There's nothing to fear from a rising China and more to fear if it was in decline, says outgoing US ambassador John Berry.

The US wanted China's economic growth to continue and was one of its strongest proponents.

It was not a future the United States was in any way afraid of.

"The president has made very clear that we feel there is nothing to fear by a rising China and, in fact, there would be more to fear from a declining China," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

China's sabre rattling over its claims in the South China Sea has elevated regional tensions.

The US has responded with a number of freedom-of-navigation exercises in which warships have approached some Chinese islands within their claimed 12 nautical mile limit.

Australia hasn't yet conducted such an exercise and Mr Berry said that was a matter for Canberra.

He noted the US raised no objections when Chinese vessels sailed near Hawaii and Alaska.

"The president has made clear we will fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows, period," he said.

Mr Berry said democratic nations needed to be on guard when non-democratic nations sought to intervene in the US election process.

"Democracy is a precious thing but it can be distorted when people hack into political parties like Russia has potentially done in the US," he said.

Former prime minister Paul Keating has also contributed his thoughts on foreign policy and China, warning that Australia's influence on the international stage is waning.

Australia couldn't ever be caught up in a policy of containing China, he said.

US strategic hegemony in the Pacific couldn't be preserved and Australia should be urging the US to move to a balancing and conciliating role, Mr Keating told the Australia-China Relations Institute in Sydney.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia's influence and role in the Indo-Pacific had never been greater.

The government had overseen the single largest expansion of our diplomatic network in 40 years including new missions in China, Thailand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Mongolia.

"With the American role even more valued now than it was a couple of decades ago, our special relationship with the US gives us an even greater standing and relevance in the region," Ms Bishop said in a statement.

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