China has hit out at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accusing him of playing dumb over the state of badly-depleted Sino-Australian ties and what has led to their deterioration.
Pressed on recent remarks Mr Morrison made to The Sydney Morning Herald where he said there was still "great value" in the two nation's relations, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who infamously enraged Mr Morrison over a provocative tweet hinting at Australia's alleged war crimes last year, revealed Beijing's disapproval of his comments.
"This is what we Chinese call 'feigning ignorance'," he told reporters.
In yet another defiant public display, Mr Zhao once again stressed the blame for the struggling relationship lay solely with Canberra.
"The root cause of the current serious difficulties in China-Australia relations lies in Australia's gross interference in China's internal affairs, impairment of China's interests and unwarranted restrictions on bilateral exchanges and cooperation in various fields.
"The responsibility doesn't rest with China at all."
Mr Zhao's latest remarks are yet another stern reminder China is unwilling to budge on what it demands from Australia.
Defiant governments showing no signs of compromise
Beijing has repeatedly called on Canberra to publicly step back from its positions on a series of matters China claims are internal affairs such as Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
And while Beijing's exact demands are not readily publicised, China’s deputy ambassador to Australia Wang Xining said it would involve "concrete actions" from Canberra.
"What is pressing now is for the Australian side to face squarely the root cause of the setbacks in bilateral relations," Mr Zhao said on Wednesday.
"[Australia needs to] view China and China's development in an objective and rational way, return to the track of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership, and do more to enhance mutual trust and promote practical cooperation between the two countries."
Such comments, which are now commonplace at the foreign ministry's daily press conferences, are a result of Australia's antagonising decisions to block key Chinese investment such as Huawei's 5G rollout and China President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative, antagonising Beijing.
Mr Morrison has repeatedly stressed Australia would not sacrifice its values or its national security to appease Beijing.
Relationship with China still exists, PM says
Despite China's retaliatory moves to slap trade sanctions on a raft of Australian exports, Mr Morrison said sales of other commodities illustrated the relationship had not broken down.
"The relationship still exists, look at trade alone – there have never been bigger volumes," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.
"That's a bit of a proof point. When all's said and done, there's still great value in the relationship."
China is Australia's largest trading partner. In the 12 months to March, Australia exported $149 billion worth of goods to China, down 0.6 per cent from the previous year. Exports, however, have been supported by strong prices for iron ore, the largest single item in trade with China.
On Wednesday, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong accused the Morrison government of war-mongering for political advantage.
Her comments come as a group of eminent Australians published an open letter to Mr Morrison, labelling the federal government "irresponsible" for "overheated war talk".
They called for legislative change to require a parliamentary vote before Australia enters any international conflict.
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