GT Voice: China-Australia summit may herald new turn in relations
Published: Nov 15, 2022 11:36 PM
China Australia Photo: VCG

China Australia Photo: VCG

A landmark meeting between the leaders of China and Australia, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, injected precious stability and new impetus into bilateral relations.

It is the first formal bilateral meeting between the leaders of the two countries in six years and comes at a time when the global economy is facing a period of extended turbulence. Many have urged the new Australian government headed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to get the relationship with China, Australia's biggest trading partner, back on track. It is in the interests of both the Australian and Chinese business communities for the relationship to continue to be stabilized.

Relations between China and Australia deteriorated over the past few years when former Prime Minister Scott Morrison adopted a strong anti-China attitude and attempted to provoke China on issues concerning China's core interests. Since Albanese took office in May, bilateral relations have shown signs of thawing. Amid rising global protectionism and escalating geopolitical tensions, practical efforts made by the Australian side toward resetting bilateral ties by focusing on areas of common interest between the two countries are commendable.

Economy and trade has always served as a major driving force for advancing bilateral ties. Over the past decade, China has been Australia's largest trading partner, as well as an increasingly important source of foreign direct investment. The Australia-China bilateral relationship is based on strong economic and trade complementarities and longstanding community links. These economic complementarities mean the two sides are able to find a breakthrough to bring bilateral ties back on the right track.

Some have claimed the origin of the fallout between the two countries can be traced back to when Australia banned Chinese telecom giant Huawei from its 5G wireless network in 2018. Added to this, Australia has launched hundreds of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against Chinese products. As the saying goes, "whoever starts the trouble should end it." Only if Australia gives Chinese companies fair treatment can the country promote efficient and mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation with China.

The Chinese market has huge potential, and presents opportunities that Australian companies need should they wish to share in the dividend of China's steady economic growth. Business communities on both sides should have confidence in the future China-Australia economic and trade cooperation, and meanwhile, the Australian side needs to make more concrete and substantive efforts in fixing ties with its largest trade partner, providing a fair and open business environment for Chinese companies to invest and operate in the country.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Monday that China hopes the Australian side will follow the principles of mutual respect, seek common ground while reserving differences, and work with China in the same direction and endeavor to achieve mutual benefit.

We should remember that Rome wasn't built in one day, and the differences and divergences will not be solved overnight. In dealing with the bilateral relationship, it is impossible to solve all problems with just one meeting. The Australian side should continue to work with China to implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state and enhance substantial cooperation in various areas.

However, the most difficult time for China-Australia relations has passed. We hope the meeting between the two heads of state in Bali will become a new starting point for broader communication between the two sides to resolve their differences and promote healthy and stable development of trade and economic relations. Whether this wish can be realized depends on whether Australia can properly handle its relations with China in the future and respect China's core interests and major concerns. It requires more patience to tease sensitive issues out.