China's surprising goal for relations with Australia

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

China’s foreign minister has revealed his desire for Australia-China ties to improve in the wake of a turbulent year for the relationship between the two nations.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi told former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd at an online private event hosted by think tank Asia Society he was keen for a swift resolution to the ongoing feud between the two countries.

“We hope that the relationship can come back to the right track as early as possible,” he said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

And while Mr Wang’s comments will give hope to Canberra that Beijing are finally willing to engage in constructive diplomatic discussions to rebuild the relationship, he reiterated once again Australia must change its stance and make concessions on matters the two nations have clashed on in the last 12 months.

"If Australia sees China not as a threat, but a partner, then for the issues between us there are better chances that we find solutions. So I would kick the ball to Australia.

Wang Yi says China wants to improve the relations with Australia quickly. Source: Getty
Wang Yi says China wants to improve the relations with Australia quickly. Source: Getty

“We would welcome efforts by all who want the relations to improve to make some efforts."

China has repeatedly clashed on a series of matters in 2020, with several detailed in a list of grievances handed to Nine newspapers by a Chinese diplomat last month.

Among the qualms were blocking Chinese investment in Australia including Huawei’s 5G rollout and the Belt and Road Initiative, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s vocal stance on investigations into the origins of Covid-19, interference with “internal matters” such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang and its funding for “anti-China” research led by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Expert skeptical over remarks

Such a call for action from Australia was a failure to recognise China’s role in the deterioration of the relationship, Rory Medcalf, head of ANU's National Security Colleges, told the SMH.

He said such comments should be met with a level of skepticism.

China’s foreign ministry spokespeople have been quiet on Australia in recent weeks after an ugly conflict in the wake of spokesman Zhao Lijian’s provocative tweet featuring an artwork depicting an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan child.

Mr Morrison called for an apology to the tweet and has been robust in his response to China, regularly stressing Australia would not abandon its morales and national interests.

When pressed earlier this month if a ban on Australian coal was a politically-motivated move, like other export sanctions placed by China are perceived, Mr Morrison said he was eager to engage in discussions with China but delivered a warning to Beijing.

"Let me be clear about something. Those discussions happen without condition,” he said.

“They don't happen subject to Australia getting rid of a free press. They don't happen with Australia giving away our rules regarding who can invest in Australia. I mean, that wouldn't be sensible at all."

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