Australia responds to China's 'blatant' move of retaliation

·Assistant News Editor
·3-min read

Federal Trade Minister Dan Tehan has labelled China's latest diplomatic attack on Australia as "disappointing" amid rapidly deteriorating relations. 

On Thursday, China announced it was scrapping a previously agreed upon framework for economic cooperation between the two nations. While a largely symbolic move, the strong language represented a notable shift in China's ongoing antagonism of the Australian federal government. 

Hours after the announcement from China, Mr Tehan said Australia remains open to working with the world's second largest economy at a diplomatic level. 

"It is disappointing to hear that the NDRC [National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China] has made this decision," he said. 

Australia and China's relations continue to plumb new depths. Source: Getty
Australia and China's relations continue to plumb new depths. Source: Getty

"The Strategic Economic Dialogue, which was last held in 2017 is an important forum for Australia and China to work through issues relevant to our economic partnership. 

"We remain open to holding the dialogue and engaging at the Ministerial level."

In suspending the arrangement, China described Australia as exhibiting a "Cold War mindset" and accused the Government of "ideological discrimination".

"Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia," it said in a statement. 

The move comes in the wake of a long line of diplomatic trade disputes with China seeking to punish various Australian exports including wine, barley, beef, lobster, timber and more. 

China move a 'blatant aside' as relations worsen

The ABC's China correspondent Bill Birtles, who was recently rushed out of the country over safety concerns, said the latest move was a "blatant aside" from China, which has been giving Australian ministers the cold shoulder throughout the pandemic. 

"It is largely symbolic, because this is sort of like an agreement the two governments made roughly about seven years ago, where they are basically saying the trade minister and the treasurer should hold regular talks on economic issues," he said Thursday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen an increasingly antagonistic China. Source: Getty
Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen an increasingly antagonistic China. Source: Getty

He characterised the move as "retaliation" for the federal government cancelling a deal between the Victorian state government and China last month, but noted the pointed language was a noticeable shift in China's diplomatic brinkmanship.

With trade matters, China has routinely pointed to legal technicalities or purported quality issues to justify blocking or putting tariffs on Australian goods.

"Technically speaking, plausible deniability," Mr Birtles explained.  

"China can say we're not doing this for political reasons, it is legitimate.

"This time there is no mucking around ... It is a blatant aside from the Chinese government."

On Thursday, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese described the deepening diplomatic freeze as unfortunate and regrettable, saying Australia needed to maintain dialogue with China.

The Morrison government's rhetoric has grown increasingly hawkish in the past fortnight, with a number of senior officials raising the prospect of war with China over its stated intention to reclaim the democratic nation of Taiwan.

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