Bishop’s hypocritical remarks expose lack of commitment

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-17 0:43:04

According to media reports, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday called on China to respect international law concerning the South China Sea in a speech to Japan's Press Club in Tokyo. As she is flying to Beijing Wednesday to meet with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, she also intends to ask the Chinese government what the reclamation work in the waters "will be used for" and what public goods it will provide.

These remarks are not unexpected. In an October interview, Bishop called on all relevant parties to negotiate in accordance with international law. Given the rising tension surrounding the South China Sea now, her remarks seem to imply that China is the one that needs to comply with international law.

In a paper published in 2013, Ben Saul, a professor of international law at the University of Sydney, argued that many countries expect China to accord with higher standards of international law than Western nations, including the US and Australia. In fact, China has respected international rules by and large "comparable to other powerful countries."

Unsettled by the rapid rise of China, in recent years Australian officials such as foreign and defense ministers have switched from discretion to blatant criticism of China and enhanced coordination with the US and Japan. However, at the same time Canberra walks a fine line by promoting strategic and economic cooperation with China given the latter's sizable market and investment capability.

After the China-Australia free trade agreement came into force late last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that Australia's opportunities in the Chinese market would be "limited only by our imagination and enterprise," full of exhilaration for the potential flows of wealth.

How can these politicians believe that they can benefit enormously from relations with China and meanwhile feel free to castigate China in disputes? Perhaps these politicians feel they are under pressure from domestic public opinion and to balance other regional relationships, but such remarks only expose their lack of any real commitment.

China has repeatedly elaborated about the purpose of the construction on the islands in the South China Sea and Bishop does not need to manufacture such an excuse to find faults with China. Otherwise, such hypocrisy will amount to nothing but harm to Australia's relationship with China.

Posted in: Observer

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