Morrison declines to meet new Chinese envoy, continues anti-China rhetoric to boost re-election bid
Published: Mar 27, 2022 10:21 PM
File picture of Australia PM Scott Morrison. /Xinhua

File picture of Australia PM Scott Morrison. /Xinhua

 Although the new Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian has been generating obvious goodwill toward Australia since he took office in January, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison still ruled out a meeting with the ambassador, giving the excuse that "Beijing's diplomatic freeze has yet to thaw."

China has demonstrated a magnanimous and responsible image as a great power with its new ambassador holding out an olive branch to Australia, which is beneficial to breaking the ice between the two countries, while in contrast, Morrison again shut the door to communication and is taking a gamble by using this meeting request from Xiao as another opportunity to show his anti-China stance, hoping that the behind-the-scenes forces from the US will help him in the upcoming election as they did last time, Chinese analysts pointed out.

According to Australian media reports, Morrison told reporters on Saturday that it would be inappropriate for him to meet with China's new ambassador to Australia while Beijing's diplomatic freeze continues. 

"So long as China continues to refuse to have dialogue with Australian ministers and the prime minister, I think that's an entirely proportional response," Morrison claimed, noting that "That [meeting with Xiao] would be a demonstration of weakness."

Morrison's refusal to meet with Xiao shows great disrespect not only to Ambassador Xiao himself, but also to China, which exposes his increasing hostility toward China, Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Citing the more friendly and conciliatory tone struck by the new Chinese ambassador since he took office in January, Chen said Xiao is committed himself to improving China-Australia ties, noting it is normal, customary and reasonable for a new ambassador to meet the head of the host country.

Morrison's refusal again reflects that Canberra is responsible for the sluggish China-Australia relations, Chen said.

The Morrison government is going full throttle on anti-China rhetoric to boost his re-election bid, and this refusal to meet Xiao is one of its tricks, Yu Lei, chief research fellow at the research center for Pacific Island countries at Liaocheng University in East China's Shandong Province, told the Global Times.

According to public opinion in Australia, Morrison was widely expected to step down before the upcoming election given his plunging popularity and poor economic recovery and diplomatic performance, so Morrison is taking a tough rhetorical line against China to show his loyalty to some forces in the US, gambling they will help him in the election as they did last time, Yu believed.

Morrison's refusal came after some Western media hyped "the leaking of a draft security deal between China and the Solomon Islands," with rumors claiming the deal could "pave the way for China's ships to be based in the Pacific and to have a navy base."

Western media reports said the deal has triggered geopolitical anxieties for Australia and the US.

The rumors are a malicious distortion, aimed at further fanning the "China threat" theory and creating the impression that China is aggressively expanding its military, Chen noted. 

In response, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at Friday's press conference that in November last year, serious unrest broke out in the Solomon Islands, putting the lives and property of the people at great risk. China firmly supports the Solomon Islands government in ending the violence and chaos and maintaining stability. China has provided multiple shipments of police equipment and sent an ad-hoc police advisory team to the country to conduct training and help its police strengthen capacity-building, which has been widely praised by the Solomon Islands government and all sectors of society. 

As two sovereign and independent states, China and the Solomon Islands conduct normal law enforcement and security cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, which conforms to international law and customary practice. Such cooperation is conducive to maintaining stability in the Solomon Islands, promoting regional peace and stability, and enhancing the common interests of China, the Solomon Islands and other countries in the region, Wang stressed.

Such policing and security cooperation between the two countries has precedent, Chen said, citing an example between China and Italy to enhance police and security exchanges.

Australia has long considered Pacific Island nations as its "backyard," but the fact is that as a sovereign and independent state, the Solomon Islands has the right to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with China and other countries, Yu pointed out. 

 "To develop relations with China is the common aspiration of the island nation, not China's unilateral aspiration," Yu said, noting that the island nation believes this can help counter the hegemony of Australia.

The island nation needs to improve its economy, but what they received from Australia was only economic exploitation and plunder while developing mutually beneficial cooperation with China is conducive to its sustainable economic development, Yu said.