'Will not work': China lambasts Australia's stance on damaged ties

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

Both China and Australia continue to refuse to budge from their positions as relations between the two countries show no signs of progress.

In what has become an all too predictable back-and-forth, China has routinely called on Australia to make sizeable concessions on a series of stances that inflamed relations last year, only for the Morrison government to reject such calls.

And while on the surface both governments have indicated they are willing to engage in proactive discussions, recent inaction shows the stubbornness of both Beijing and Canberra is deep-rooted.

In China’s latest warning to Australia, an editorial from state-run publication China Daily warned once again it would take “more than a verbal olive branch” to repair damaged ties.

On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the National Press Club Australia “remains committed to engaging with China”, but said its approach moving forward would not be focused on concessions.

Scott Morrison has warned China Australia will not compromise on its principles. Source: AAP
Scott Morrison has warned China Australia will not compromise on its principles. Source: AAP

Canberra has angered Beijing over a series of matters, including its stance on what China calls internal matters regarding Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.

Mr Morrison’s vocal stance on the need for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and the government’s continued rejection of Chinese investment on the grounds of national security have heavily contributed to the fallout.

China Daily calls on Australia to ‘show respect’

The China Daily said China “has never closed its door on dialogue with Australia”, despite former Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s well-publicised failure to converse with his counterparts over a raft of trade sanctions slapped on Australian imports.

”The tactic of Australian politicians repeatedly calling for China to change its ways, rather than reflecting upon and redressing their own wrongs, will simply not work, let alone serve the purpose of resetting ties,” the editorial said.

It branded Mr Morrison “disingenuous” for suggesting the fallout had occurred solely because of the two nation’s different economical and political systems, noting they didn’t hinder Australia signing a free trade agreement in 2015.

The editorial called for Australia to follow the advice of New Zealand and “show respect” in the same manner its trans-Tasman neighbour does.

“Australia has been confronting China on a number of issues, some of which concern China's core interests. This has eroded the trust which was the foundation for bilateral relations,” the editorial said.

“Hence, if it is sincere about wanting to repair ties, Canberra should begin by showing respect and trying to rebuild trust.”

Expert says Australia must shift stance

Nathan Attrill, a researcher focusing on Sino-Australian relations at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, believes the damage has already been done and Australia “must give up any notion of a ‘reset’”.

“There needs to be a greater acceptance that Beijing may not like us, but that does not preclude a workable relationship on issues of common interest,” he told The China Story blog by the Australian National University’s Australian Centre on China in the World.

“Cooperation, however, may require more ‘conveniently forgetting’ slights against national character or action that happened in the past, and not being baited by tweets from mid-level Chinese officials.

“Canberra should be clearer about what it wants from China in the Indo-Pacific region beyond just ‘rules-based order’ platitudes. Australia needs to have a plan for when actors do not follow the rules.”

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