New approaches needed to improve China-Australia relations

By Chen Hong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/2 10:16:01

During a reception held at the Australian Embassy in Beijing, Frances Adamson, Australia's top representative at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, discussed her country's outlook and position regarding the relationship with China, as Australia her country heads into their national elections next month.  

As Australia's former ambassador to China and current Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Adamson is au fait with the history and reality of the bilateral relationship, which has experienced a few ups and downs in the last two years.

The veteran diplomat is aware of the changes that need to happen to strengthen diplomatic relations. Adamson pointed out that "whatever the outcome of the election, Australia's national interest lies in a constructive relationship with China."

Adamson stressed the importance of more frequent and smooth communication and idea exchanges at various levels to clarify misinformation and prevent misunderstandings. 

When Premier Li Keqiang met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Singapore at the sixth annual meeting between the heads of government of the two countries in November 2018. During the meeting, Li noted there are far more common interests than differences between China and Australia, calling on both sides to see the bilateral ties from a perspective of win-win cooperation.

As comprehensive strategic partners, China and Australia have common interests and shared prospects. In today's global marketplace, both countries are indispensable to one another. 

China's reform and opening-up have benefited from its cooperation with Australia. And yet for Australia, China's economic emergence has served as the catalyst for uninterrupted development and prosperity. 

China continues to be Australia's top trading partner and biggest source of international students and tourists.  

Adamson recalled in 2011 when Australia announced it would attract 1 million Chinese tourists by 2020. Last year, the country surpassed that mark with 1.43 million Chinese visitors. 

Customs data show that China imported 28.26 million tons of coking coal from Australia in 2018, accounting for 43.5 percent of this country's total import of the fuel. The two countries have been proactively working in conjunction to tap their complementary strengths, promoting further and more rigorous cooperation and elevating the two-way investment and trade.

China and Australia do not have a history of conflict or territorial disputes between each other and have enjoyed longstanding government and people-to-people collaboration, communication, and exchanges that have generated significant profits for both sides. 

The positive development of bilateral ties has been conducive to peace, stability, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. 

China respects Australia's traditional alliances with other countries and would never impose its values or systems on any other country within the country or in any other nation. We agree with Adamson, the positive relationship relies on mutual respect and trust, as it is the cornerstone of practical and fruitful relations.

As Australia's envoy to the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Adamson indicated that Australia welcomes China's contribution to infrastructure development through BRI. 

Indeed, China is engaged in mutually beneficial efforts with nations in the Pacific region to improve infrastructure and provide a higher quality of life and well-being. We do share the understanding that all countries need to observe the rules of transparency and international governance, crucial for world order and international cooperation. 

China is open to constructive feedback and comments from any country, including Australia, regarding BRI projects. China also welcomes Australia to become more involved with BRI at various levels and in multiple forms.

The changing world calls for new methods and ways of thinking. Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule, once said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world." 

China and Australia need to find innovative and proactive ways to steer bilateral relations on the right course. The Australian government's recent initiative to create a new National Foundation for Australia China Relations aims at strengthening “one of Australia's most significant bilateral relationships.” 

The Foundation can serve as a conduit for increased mutual understanding that will lead to trust and positive relations. We hope the new steps taken by Australia to thaw and improve bilateral relations are sincere and deliberately long-term. 

The author is a professor and director of Australian Studies Centre and New Zealand Studies Centre, East China Normal University.


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