China's four demands to Australia to fix damaged relationship

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·Associate News Editor
·3-min read
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Beijing has urged the Albanese government to treat China as "a partner" instead of "a rival", taking a swipe at former prime minister Scott Morrison in the process.

Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi met with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong late on Friday in what was a significant meeting after a lengthy diplomatic freeze amid a torrid two-year period for Sino-Australian relations.

The meeting has been welcomed as a positive step, however Mr Wang once again called on Australia to make the first move to improve relations by adding "positive energy" to the relationship.

Wang Yi says China wants to improve the relations with Australia quickly. Source: Getty
Wang Yi says he wants to see relations back on track. Source: Getty

"China hopes that Australia will seize the current opportunity, take concrete actions, reshape a correct perception of China, and reduce negative assets and accumulate positive energy for improving China-Australia relations," he said.

He gave four actions Australia could take to improve relations:

  • First, stick to regarding China as a partner rather than a rival.

  • Second, stick to the way we get along with each other, which features seeking common ground while reserving differences.

  • Third, stick to not targeting any third party or being controlled by any third party.

  • Fourth, stick to building positive and pragmatic social foundations and public support.

Australia's Foreign Minister Penny Wong (L) bumps elbows with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on July 8, 2022.
Penny Wong bumps elbows with Wang Yi on Friday. Source: AFP

China's swipe at Coalition

And Mr Wang could not resist pointing the finger at the Coalition over the downturn in relations, with the Morrison government repeatedly riling Beijing right up until its departure in May.

"The root cause of the difficulties in Chinese and Australian relations in recent years lies in the insistence of previous Australian governments to treat China as an 'opponent' and even a 'threat'," Mr Wang said.

Mr Wang called the words and actions of the Morrison government "irresponsible" – a word his department's spokespeople regularly used to describe certain members of the Morrison cabinet, particularly Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

Sino-Australian relations rapidly deteriorated in 2020 under the Morrison government, with China blaming Mr Morrison's calls for a Covid origins investigation, the banning of Chinese investment and 5G technologies as well as several accusations of interfering in "internal matters".

Ex-PM Scott Morrison has been blamed for the China's poor relationship with Australia. Source: AAP
Ex-PM Scott Morrison has been blamed for the China's poor relationship with Australia. Source: AAP

China retaliated by slapping Australia with several trade sanctions, however former trade minister Simon Birmingham, and then his successor Dan Tehan, were unable to get their Beijing counterpart on the phone to work through their disagreements.

Mr Birmingham, now Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, has since responded to Mr Wang's remarks, saying his government's actions towards China were "entirely appropriate", The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“To suggest that Australia acted in isolation would be a rewriting of history," he said.

While Mr Birmingham welcomed Ms Wong's meeting, he said the real test would be the outcome of the meeting.

Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy told the ABC on Monday morning his government's stance wouldn't differ greatly to the Coalition's position.

"While we've had a change of government, our national interests haven't changed and our approach to China hasn't changed," he said.

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