Australia should take concrete steps to mend China relations

By Liu Qing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/12 21:13:40

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

To seek regional cooperation and integration in Asia, Australia released the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper in 2012, in which Australia recognized the economic prospects of Asian countries and emphasized the development of Australia's economy should leverage the rise of Asia.

At the time, it was a visionary, strategic and profound national policy for Australia, which was also driven by the collective will of the Australian government at higher and lower levels. 

In terms of geography, Australia and Asian countries are closely related to each other. In economics, Australia and Asia also have close relations and strong complementarities.

As a resource-based country to a large extent, Australia must look for export markets. Asia, especially East Asia, is a locomotive for economic development in the world. It needs such resources and has a huge market. Therefore, trade and investment between Australia and Asian countries are surging, and this is a great opportunity for Australia.

In 2015, China and Australia signed a free trade agreement. Back then, Australia also treated the free trade agreement as an important strategic direction. It was indeed a huge economic breakthrough for Australia.

The relationship between Australia and China got even closer since then. The two countries have moved from a strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, and economic and trade cooperation has been on the rise.

However, since the Trump administration comprehensively strengthened its competition against China and suppressed China geopolitically and economically, Australia failed to strike a balance between its closest trading partner China and security partner the US. Australia chose to follow the US' irrational China policy.

In this regard, Australia has an undeniable responsibility for the decline in China-US relations. When China-US relations have deteriorated and it is necessary to return to rationality, Australia has been a catalyst for the deterioration.

The Morrison government's reckless provocation against China worsened political relations with China and brought bilateral relations to a freezing point. Since the foundation of people-to-people exchanges and public opinion toward each country is weakening, the choices of Chinese investors, tourists or scholars in Australia are affected by the sentiments, which are bound to have a negative impact on China-Australia economic and trade relations. The main responsibility for the deterioration in bilateral ties lies with Australia. Therefore, it's Australia that needs to make efforts to solve the current problem.

The 23rd China-ASEAN (10+1) leaders' meeting, the 23rd ASEAN-China, Japan and South Korea (10+3) leaders' meeting, the 15th East Asia Summit, the fourth Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders' meeting, and the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit are held from Thursday to Sunday, and the RCEP agreement is expected to be signed.

In the multilateral platform, China, ASEAN, as well as Australia, Japan, and South Korea are all important pillars. Multilateral cooperation and free trade are common values for China and Australia, because both countries are large export-oriented countries. China and Australia have common interests in promoting regional economic integration. The multilateral platform provides Australia a new opportunity to seek economic integration with China and other Asian countries.

As for the bilateral channels for China-Australia economic and trade relations, if Australia takes constructive measures and sends a positive signal, it will help China-Australia relations get back on track.

It's hoped that Australia can take substantive improvement measures and take some concrete actions rather than just talking. If Australia continues to push China-Australia relations downhill as before, the future of bilateral relations looks pessimistic.

The improvement of bilateral political relations is beneficial to the restoration of bilateral economic relations, because political relations affect the basis of public sentiment. If economic relations are to be restored, both public opinion and political mutual trust must be restored at the same time. This is a comprehensive project.

China-Australia relations depend on the common efforts of both sides. Bilateral relations should not be negatively affected by third parties. It's hoped that Australia can continue to pursue an independent and friendly policy toward China and take concrete actions to repair bilateral relations.

The author is a vice president at the China Institute of International Studies.


blog comments powered by Disqus