'Not friendly': Diplomat reveals China's icy reaction to Australian Olympic snub

China’s acting ambassador to Australia Wang Xining says the federal government’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics does not send a “friendly signal” to his country amid ongoing tensions between the two nations.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Wednesday Australia will join the US diplomatic boycott, and send no government representatives to the Winter Olympics in February next year due to China's human rights "atrocities". The UK and Canada have since also joined the boycott.

Speaking to Yahoo News in Canberra on Thursday, Acting Ambassador Wang said Australia’s decision not to send officials to the Beijing Games was disappointing.

“The decision came immediately after Washington made a similar decision, and it does not conform to the commitment from the federal government to pursue a constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with China,” he said.

China's acting ambassador Wang Xining speaking at the National Press Club in April, 2021.
China's acting ambassador Wang Xining says Australia's Olympic diplomatic snub sends an unfriendly signal to China. Source: AAP.

His comments follow that of Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin who on Wednesday said no one will care if Australian government officials don't attend the Beijing Winter Games.

"China hasn’t invited any Australian government official to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics," he said.

"In fact, no one would care whether they come or not, and Australian politicians’ political stunt for selfish gains has no impact whatsoever on the Olympics to be successfully held by Beijing."

Diplomatic channels remain open for 'high-level' dialogue

Relations between Australia and China have been strained over key differences including China’s ambition to reclaim Taiwan and the recent AUKUS nuclear submarine deal.

Mr Wang said while differences remain between the two countries, the aim is to keep talking on how to solve the disagreements.

“The diplomatic channels are always open,” he said, but not just talk “for talk’s sake”.

He said China would need to prepare for dialogue at the ministerial level.

“We hope to see substantial results coming from such a high-level dialogue.”

Wang had previously questioned Australia’s intended role in the Asia-Pacific region, last month branding Australia as a “sabre wielder” rather than a “peace defender”.

And now he sees Australia’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics as another hostile gesture.

“We believe it is not a friendly political signal, so it does not help ameliorate if you see some tension between the political establishments of our countries.”

Cultural diplomacy the first step to mending relationship

Wang was on Thursday representing China at the opening of a Chinese sculpture exhibition, “Sculpting the Soul” at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The exhibition is part of an ongoing partnership with the prestigious National Art Museum of China (NAMOC).

“We are confident, because like what happened today, people from these two sides have the same aspiration for a good relationship – a mutual beneficial collaboration,” he said.

“We will see what we can do in the future but it takes some patience and some degree of perseverance dealing with some difficult issues.”

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