The 2019 Australian federal election might have ended with a dramatic surprise to Australian voters and international observers, with the Labour Party suffering a heavy defeat, which had sent the Liberal-National Coalition back to the throne in Canberra.
However, in spite of the unforeseen outcome, one definite certainty is that the newly elected coalition government will ultimately have to make more and further readjustments and improvements to Australia’s policies toward its relationship with China, which now remains at a low ebb.
As Australia’s comprehensive strategic partner, China does not have any partisan preference, because regardless of which party wins, China’s national interest converges with Australia’s.
A constructive bilateral relationship is conducive to ensure both countries’ development and prosperity in this stormy and changeable global economic climate. As Australia’s biggest trade partner, China’s collaboration with Australia has contributed to the economic growth of Australia.
China has no political or ideological presuppositions and preconditions in dealing with international relations, and makes no distinction among countries on the basis of their political systems.
We do not label one country as a friend while treating another as a cash cow. Mutual respect, common interests and shared prospects are the cornerstones of the healthy and constructive relationship with any country.
We believe some Western countries, including Australia, need to ditch the outdated Cold War mentality and embrace a more pragmatic, constructive and mutually beneficial approach in dealing with relations with countries like China.
In the last several months, we have noticed and appreciate positive signals and innovative measures from the Australian government to thaw and warm up the diplomatic freeze between our two countries, which has been going on for two years. Canberra recently announced the establishment of the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations.
It focuses on Australia’s relationship with China, which indicates Australia’s emphasis on the bilateral ties. Positive statements made by Australian political figures, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, before and during the election campaign, also showed a readiness to defrost and repair the diplomatic standstill.
It is believed the erstwhile administration’s strategic political misjudgement and mishandling of a number of issues are being prudently adjusted and corrected.
It is a fact that in the past two years, Australia has adopted a disappointingly hawkish and hostile approach on a number of China-related matters, which has made Beijing suspicious of Australia’s intention to clamp down on positive cooperation and interactions with China.
The ban on Huawei’s participation in Australia’s 5G upgrade, for example, not only works against China’s economic interests, but hinders Australia’s own telecommunications upgrade and development as well. We understand Canberra’s need to consider and accommodate pressure from the US, but more practical and expedient methods could be explored. Take the UK. It granted Huawei access to the construction of certain parts of its 5G network.
Furthermore, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been progressing in spite of unfriendly or even hostile voices and moves from some Western countries. China welcomes Australia to be more involved in cooperation under the BRI framework at various levels and forms.
It is deceitful that some countries attempt to disparage China’s aid programs and BRI-related infrastructure projects in South Pacific nations, or even to coax and coerce some island nations’ governments to edge out China’s business engagements there.
When delivered his victory speech at Sofitel Wentworth Hotel on election night, Morrison apparently had not expected such an overwhelming victory.
He exclaimed in joy and amazement that it was a “miracle” for himself and for the coalition. However, Morrison needs to understand that it was not a miracle, but a mandate from the Australian people with expectations for a better future.
A constructive relationship with China is important to Australia’s development and prosperity. We look forward to the new coalition government to demonstrate its political and diplomatic wisdom to work with China to steer the bilateral relationship on the right track.