Is Australia finally adjusting its attitude toward China?

By Chen Hong Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/26 20:11:14

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Photo: IC

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a virtual meeting of a British think-tank on Monday that Australia is pleased to see China's rise and hasn't done anything to contain its economy rise of China, but Canberra's actions were misinterpreted.

Morrison eagerly expressed the hope to have direct dialogue with China to solve geopolitical and trade tensions. After the speech, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article under the headline: Happy coexistence: Scott Morrison offers China an olive branch in London speech.

But has Morrison really changed his attitude toward China? Just last week, while responding to the seriously concern of Chinese embassy to Australia over the deterioration of  China-Australia relations, Morrison improperly claimed that China's "increasing hostility" is due to "Australia being Australia," and Canberra refuses to compromise on its claims of so-called Chinese coercion. Morrison's current claim of being misinterpreted is indeed unconvincing, and was said with little sincerity.

Morrison's attitude shift indeed shows that he is under a lot of pressure in terms of China policies. On one hand, as the US presidential election's result is clear, Morrison has finally started to realize that the Biden administration likely won't continue the Trump administration's radical policies toward China.

Morrison, who Trump called "man of titanium" because he decisively cooperated with the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy, has realized that in the future, the Biden administration will cooperate with a wider range of allies rather than being confined to a few extreme anti-China allies. Australia's position has become more awkward.

What worries Morrison more is that the people of Australia realize there is no basis for hostility and discriminatory policies against China. Chinese companies, businesspeople and investors are rapidly losing confidence in Australia. Chinese consumers' sentiment toward Australia products is also worsening. Australia's practical economic interests are suffering increasing losses.

At the same time, some scholars from high-level government and opposition parties, business circles, and think tanks have recently made different voices. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently said that Australia "can work with China," according to media reports. This represents a rational voice within the Australian government, showing that few rational people have started to speak out.

Some politicians from Australia's Labor Party recently criticized Canberra's wrong and clumsy policies toward China, requiring the Morrison government to make clear plans and respond to the consequence of Australia's wrong policies toward China.

People in business and academic circles also bluntly point out that the Australian government needs to make immediate and practical policy adjustments to save the bilateral relations before they enter the ice age.

In short, it is useless for the Morrison administration to argue about "misunderstandings." What the Morrison administration needs to do is to truly return to rational action. Otherwise, Australia's China policy will continue to move toward a dead end.

The author is the director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai.


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