Should China-Australia trade be disturbed by Western-style pessimistic voices?
Published: May 08, 2023 10:25 PM
Illusration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

Illusration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

China's customs authority is about to release trade figures for April soon, with bilateral trade between China and Australia in the spotlight. Among the discussions surrounding future possibilities and challenges facing China-Australia relations, Australian exports to China has become a focus of media attention.

In the midst of the languishing global economy, Australia logged record-high exports to China in March. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said on Thursday that exports of Australian goods to China hit $12.71 billion in March, up nearly one-third from one year earlier. The figure highlights the huge potential for trade growth and the importance of the Chinese market for Australian exporters. 

However, it's a little bit ironic that the warmer China-Australia trade gets, the more vigorously some Western media outlets act in bad-mouthing the future economic ties between the two countries.

Several Western media outlets in recent weeks published articles hinting that it may be hard to improve China-Australia trade to its past highs, because the so-called economic coercion has forced Australia to diversify its trade partners in the past few years when China-Australia ties encountered difficulties and setbacks. The latest example is a Deutsche Welle article on Friday saying that restoring trade will be more difficult than people have imagined.

In recent years, some Western elites have labeled Australia as a vanguard for the US' anti-China campaign. Now, it's understandable they don't want to see China-Australia relations return to a normal and mutually beneficial state. The Australian people should remain clear-minded amid pessimistic voices in the Western media against China-Australia economic ties. There is no need to fall into Western media's narrative trap.

It is a false proposition to discuss whether China-Australia trade can restore to its former glory, because in fact, bilateral trade has surged to record highs. Some have claimed the origin of the fallout between China and Australia can be traced back to when Australia banned China's Huawei from its 5G wireless network in 2018. Added to this, Australia has launched a series of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against Chinese products. However, customs data showed China-Australia trade totaled $58.79 billion in the first quarter of 2023, up 65 percent compared to the first quarter of 2018. China's imports from Australia totaled $39.12 billion in the first quarter of 2023, up 54 percent from the first quarter of 2018. The surge in the bilateral trade demonstrates strong resilience of the bilateral trade.

Both as important economies under the framework of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, known as RCEP, China and Australia face big opportunities in expanding economic and trade cooperation. The China-Australia trade has already achieved rapid growth driven by the bilateral free trade agreement. It is in line with the essential interests of businesses from both sides if the two countries continue to push economic and trade cooperation and defuse potential risks.

Although Australia's exports to China hit a record high in March, the potential in bilateral economic and trade cooperation has not yet been fully released. 

If the media in Australia turned around and became positive, if the mind-set among Australian leaders changed, then the relationship would take off, former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh, said in an interview with the Global Times in March.

A pragmatic attitude needs to be adopted: It is necessary to face up to and properly handle trade frictions and divergences, as well as to have confidence in the future development of bilateral trade. China-Australia relations have gone through the most difficult times and regained positive momentum. We should cherish the hard-won situation to further expand cooperation. It requires joint efforts from both sides - not only China but also Australia.

The window period to improve bilateral relations should not be wasted. Hopefully Australia can meet China halfway and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises such as Huawei to bring economic relations back on the right track.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.