Australia's inconsiderate remarks hurt ties

By Yu Jincui Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-9 0:28:02

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop encountered an unpleasant episode Friday on her first visit to China. Before a formal closed-door meeting in front of international media, Bishop was stunned by a rebuke from her counterpart Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi. Wang chided Australia for its critical stance on China's establishment of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), claiming its remarks and actions over the issue jeopardized bilateral mutual trust and "the entire Chinese society and the general public are deeply dissatisfied."

Bishop apparently wanted to play down the issue. She said Saturday that the spat over the ADIZ only took up "a small portion" of the Friday talks and didn't overshadow a "robust" discussion of a wide range of issues.

Inexperienced a diplomat as Bishop may be, the incident is another indication of Australia's position toward China.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to office with a willingness to grow closer ties with Japan and reposition the Australia-Japan relationship, which took a back seat in the previous administration. Abbott referred to Japan as Australia's "closest friend in Asia" after he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the East Asia Summit meeting in Brunei in October.

The Abbott administration stated they wouldn't take sides between China and Japan over territorial and maritime disputes, but many analysts hold that Australia, in fact, is going too far.

After China established its ADIZ, Australia lined up with the US and Japan to criticize China, and it even summoned the Chinese ambassador to Australia.

Renowned Australian scholar Hugh White argued in an op-ed that Abbott and Bishop failed to comprehend "China's growing power and confidence," at a time when exceptional diplomacy is needed to "avoid further escalating strategic tensions and a growing risk of major war" in the Asia-Pacific region.

As China is the biggest trading partner of Australia, the economic significance of Beijing to Canberra has been fully understood in recent years.

As economic interests are closely related to their interests, the majority of the Australian public doesn't want to see the country drift away from China in terms of the economy due to geopolitical disputes. In addition, China and Australia also deepened their bilateral relationship into a strategic partnership in April.

Australia is not directly involved in the East Asian territorial disputes and it doesn't have direct interests. The question now is whether the Abbott administration will restrain itself and repair the damage made to bilateral relations and not meddle in regional disputes.

Posted in: Observer

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