In a recent online discussion, Bill Shorten, the front-runner in the race to be Australia's next prime minister, left little doubt about where he stood on the politically delicate issue of relations with China — and where the world's other superpower fits into his reasoning.

"If I'm PM, I welcome the rise of China in the world," he said in a post on Chinese social media platform WeChat that was aimed at Australia's 1.2 million voters of Chinese descent.

Shorten, leader of the Labor Party, added that he saw China not as a "strategic threat," but as a "strategic opportunity".

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