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Chinese state media has taken Joe Biden’s inauguration as an opportunity to call on Australia to free itself from the US’s “dictatorship” as a step to resurrect badly-damaged Sino-Australian relations following a torrid 2020.
Australia was regularly seen by Beijing as the US’s lapdog during Donald Trump’s presidency – a role which the Communist Party of China’s English-language mouthpiece, the Global Times, has urged Australia to abandon moving forward.
“To some extent, Canberra has chosen to follow Trump's stubborn anti-China campaign and tie itself to the chariot of US unilateralism, at the cost of its mutually-beneficial relation with its largest trading partner,” it said in an article compiled following analysis from Liu Qing, vice president at the China Institute of International Studies.
“Placing itself in a subordinate position to always listen to the dictates from Washington is clearly not in line with the long-term interests of Australia.”
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison often emphasises the importance of having the US as a key ally, he has refuted claims Australia takes orders from Washington.
Australia, like the US, has taken a hardline with China in the last year over a number of matters including national security, coercion and internal matters involving Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Such a stance has resulted in a swathe of trade sanctions being slapped on Australian exports, with Chinese officials repeatedly warning that Australia must take concrete steps in the shape of concessions on their positions for the relationship to stand any chance of improving.
Yet Biden is widely expected to follow Trump on his a hardline approach with Beijing, albeit without his predecessor’s erratic showmanship.
Chinese media encourages Australia to aim for independence
The Global Times believes Australia is desperately seeking reassurance from Biden’s administration that their alliance can continue to prosper, however it warned Canberra would fare better if it adopted a sense of independence.
“It is hoped that the Morrison administration will take action conducive to cooperation with China, so as to provide conditions to bring the frayed bilateral relations back onto the right track, instead of further clouding the prospect,” it said.
On Thursday however, Mr Morrison stated the Australia-US alliance has “never been more important”.
He went as far as to state the two countries were “best of mates”.
“Let me be clear about something. Those discussions happen without condition,” he told reporters.
“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."
However, he called on Australia to “make some efforts”, a stance experts warned showed Beijing’s stubbornness over the matter and a sign China fails to recognise its part in the deterioration of the relationship.
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