Morrison's 'kindness' not sincere, only tactics with no more cards to play: observers
Published: Sep 28, 2021 11:52 PM
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: VCG

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: VCG

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who seemingly took a "soft" attitude toward China during his latest interview by claiming Canberra is "always open" to hearing from Beijing but Beijing is not interested, faces a backlash from China. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday questioned Morrison's sincerity in restoring relations with China while Chinese observers said that Morrison's soft remarks were part of Canberra's "tactic shift" while its China-bashing strategy hasn't changed. Observers warned Australia of being stuck in an impasse as its economy and trade are hit hard by China-Australia tensions while having no more cards to play to attack China.

Morrison said during an interview with CBS News on Sunday that there is no obstacle from Australia to direct dialogue with China, but China "doesn't want to take a call" when asked if he has engaged in any phone call with Chinese top leader over nearly the past two years. 

In response to Morrison's remarks, Hua Chunying, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference on Tuesday that China has its own judgment on whether Australia is sincere in improving and developing its relations with China, or whether it is saying one thing and doing another or even backstab China.

Hua pointed out that the difficulties in China-Australia ties were caused by Australia, which is not what China wants to see, and Australia is aware of that. "The top priority is that Canberra should view China and its development in an objective and correct way." Hua also urged Australia to correct its mistaken words and deeds toward China and take concrete action to create conditions for the restoration and improvement of bilateral ties.

Speaking of whether Australia is heading toward conflict with China, Morrison "doesn't think that's inevitable," stressing the term "happy coexistence" where countries can respect their differences and focus on the things to work together on.

It cannot be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill, analysts said.

Days after Biden emphasized the US did not want "a new Cold War" in his first speech as president to the UN General Assembly, Morrison made such remarks. On the one hand, he intended to show his loyalty to the US in Australia's China policy as Canberra has always feared abandonment by Washington; on the other hand, he was providing "lip service" to show that he wants to improve economic and trade ties with China and recover the local economy to gain more support in the upcoming election, Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Morrison is trying to gain support for the 2022 federal elections, with expressions that seek the "moral high ground" and reap benefits, Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the research center for Pacific island countries of Liaocheng University in East China's Shandong Province, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Canberra, from "vanguard" of the US' anti-China bloc to now eagerly expressing an "open and friendly" attitude to China, does not show any sincerity and has always been the initiator in damaging China-Australia ties, Chen pointed out.

The Morrison administration has made Australia stuck in an impasse, Chen said.

Due to its small economic size and single economic structure model, its economic advantage to China is very limited and has a strong substitutability, Chen said. What's more, Australia's economy is faced with mounting pressure when losing China's markets. "The Morrison administration thought there were replacements such as the Indian and Vietnamese markets, but it turned out to be a huge mistake." 

Canberra has no more cards to play in its hysterical anti-China policy and it has fallen into passivity as China-US ties saw certain degrees of easing, Yu noted. 

Chen gave an advice to Morrison if he and his officials really want to talk.

"He can come to attend the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in 2022, because China has sent invitations to leaders around the world. If Morrison really wants to fix ties, he can show support to the Games and come to Beijing. I don't know whether this would bring China-Australia ties back on track or not, but he will surely meet the Chinese leaders and talk at least," Chen noted.

Dan Tehan, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment can also lead a delegation to the fourth China International Import Expo in November, and that would be helpful for bilateral exchanges as well, Chen noted.