Albanese gives wrong reasons for difficult China-Australia relations
Published: Jan 26, 2022 10:41 PM
the leader of Australia's opposition party Anthony Albanese.Photo: IC

the leader of Australia's opposition party Anthony Albanese.Photo: IC

When addressing Australia's National Press Club on Tuesday, the leader of Australia's opposition party Anthony Albanese said that Canberra's relations with China will remain "difficult" even if his Labor Party wins the upcoming elections. "It will be difficult because the posture of China has changed. It is China that has changed, not Australia that has changed," he noted.

Albanese's assertions about China are obviously repetitions of the platitudes of the anti-China forces. Under heavy pressure from the US and some Western countries, including the anti-China elements in Australia, both the current ruling Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party hold similar stances toward China. They both replicate the clichés of "blaming China" to identify with Washington's strategy.

The Australian opposition leader is not off beam to say that China-Australia relations will still remain difficult. Since mid-2017, Canberra has been persistent to undermine its formerly mutually beneficial relations with China. It is plain to any eye that the bilateral relations have spiraled downward to a record low. But the causes to the deterioration of the China-Australia relations have nothing to do with Beijing. The current difficulties in the China-Australia relations are in fact the symptoms, but what brought about the diseases are the responsibilities of the far-right politicians in Canberra.

Albanese promised that a Labor government would deal with China "in a mature way," not by being provocative for the sake of it to make a domestic political point. What he might be inferring could be an improvement of Australia's relationship with China if his party wins the federal parliamentary election by the end of May. There is indeed a degree of sincerity when he noted that the economic and trade relations between our two countries are cornerstones of the bilateral relations. Such exchanges and cooperation are beneficial to both sides despite the differences in multiple areas between the two sides. To some degree, Albanese's remarks actually reflect the truth about the importance of improved bilateral relations and their values to Australia.

When taking Australia's long-term core interests into rational consideration, any politician in Canberra with political wisdom has to recognize that the relationship with China is of crucial strategic importance to Australia's future.

However, this does not mean that China should become a card to play in the Australian elections, though. Some Australian politicians seem to be wrongly instrumentalizing the China issue for their political gains, which is simply imprudent and immature. Even the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's recent disputes about the ownership of his WeChat account has been exploited and weaponized for a new round of political accusations of Beijing.

Demonizing China and hyping up the "China threat theory" will not bring about any political benefits in election campaigns. In fact candidates could actually win more appreciation from their voters if they could manage to salvage the bilateral relations amid the current disastrous deterioration. Some myopic political figures in Australia imagine that they have to play tough and rough on China in order to get elected. Such foolhardy and irresponsible tactics simply reflect the immaturity of the political mindset among some of Canberra's politicians.

Blaming Beijing for the downswing of Australia's relationship with China is in fact a great distortion of reality. Such falsification would lead to specious misjudgments of the direction of future China-Australia relations with serious consequences.

Bilateral relations between China and Australia seem to be in an unprecedentedly dark abyss, but there have always been glimmers of light of judiciousness and wisdom. The former Australian prime minister Paul Keating's insightful voices have been persisting and resonating in Australia's political scene. Such faint flickers and sparks are bound to coalesce into a brighter light to illuminate the road ahead.

China has been sincere and consistent in its desire to reset and improve the relationship despite the upheavals in the foregoing years and at present.

This can be attested in the message from China's new ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian on Wednesday. "A sound China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples. China and Australia differ in history, culture, social system and stage of development, but as long as we adopt a long-term and big-picture perspective, adhere to the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, stay firm to the right direction of bilateral relations, the China-Australia relations will keep moving forward and make further progress."

The author is president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn