Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has hit out at China’s President Xi Jinping following his eyebrow-raising bullying comments at the World Economic Forum event earlier this week.
In what is a robust move from the Morrison government and one that is unlikely to go down well with the Beijing hierarchy, Mr Frydenberg suggested Xi’s comments were hypocritical.
On Monday, Xi called on other nations to put their differences aside and instead of ganging up on one another, the world should adopt a multilateral approach during economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We agree with that sentiment that big nations should not bully small ones, but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the words and the actions," Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“The reality is Australia has been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh actions [from China] when it comes to trade.”
China, the biggest consumer of Australian products, has without credible explanation decimated Australia’s export industry, much to the dismay of Canberra.
Yet on Monday, Xi used his speech to insist principles and rules should be followed.
The raft of trade sanctions slapped on exports such as beef and wine have come after the two nations clashed over Australia’s stance on a series of matters including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang while fearing some Chinese investments posed a risk to national security.
And on Wednesday, a fired-up Mr Frydenberg reiterated Australia would not back down from those positions.
“The fact that a politician elected democratically into the Parliament should have the right to speak as they see fit,” he said.
“The fact that we are taking decisions on foreign investment that are very much in our national interest.
“And of course, on human rights, we‘ll continue to speak out where there are injustices as we’ve done in the past.
“[They’re] “non-negotiable issues for us.”
Mr Frydenberg’s comments come days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned Australia would only participate in relationship-saving discussions with Beijing if it meant not making concessions on their positions, as per Beijing’s repeated request.
Former Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s woes in his bid to get his Chinese counterparts on the phone have been highly publicised, going the entirety of 2020 without dialogue.
Yet Xi’s message on Monday promoted a completely different approach to the one Canberra has been subjected to, in which he said China was “working hard to bridge differences through dialogue”.
China makes own WTO rules complaint
Canberra has taken China to the World Trade Organisation over its barley tariffs in a hope of making some sort of inroad into what has been a helpless situation to date.
On Monday Xi called for a revamp of the WTO, yet Beijing, in yet another ironic complaint, has cried foul to the agency over India’s banning of 59 Chinese apps.
It said the move was a violation of the WTO’s fair rules of business and would hurt Chinese firms.
The ban dates from last year when political tension between the neighbours rose over their disputed border.
This month the Indian government decided to keep the ban on TikTok and other apps.
“We urge the Indian side to immediately correct its discriminatory measures and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation,” Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong said in a statement.
Of course, China is well known to have blocked a raft of Western apps and websites including Facebook, Google and Twitter to its public.
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