MELBOURNE (BLOOMBERG) - China has warned that criticisms levelled at the nation's government by Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton risk damage to ties between the key trading partners.
Dutton's assertion that the Communist Party of China's policies are inconsistent with Australia's values, and other comments on risks of cyber attacks and theft of intellectual property are "shocking and baseless," China's Australian embassy said in a statement posted on its website.
"We strongly condemn his malicious slur on the Communist Party of China, which constitutes an outright provocation to the Chinese people," the embassy said in the statement. "Such ridiculous rhetoric severely harms the mutual trust between China and Australia and betrays the common interests of the two peoples."
Dutton, who lost out to Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a 2018 contest for the leadership of the Liberal Party, said Friday (Oct 11) that Australia plans to be more vocal in publicly criticising perceived hostile actions by China's government. Morrison said Saturday that the remarks shouldn't be "over-analysed" and pledged the relationship would remain positive despite differences between the nations.
"We have a very important trading relationship with China," Dutton told reporters in Canberra. "But we're not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced, we're not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we're not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into."
Australia, which counts China as its largest export market and trading partner, has seen relations with Beijing deteriorate after it banned Huawei Technologies from bidding for 5G contracts and introduced anti-foreign interference laws aimed at China.
Exporters in Australia have previously expressed concern that the political tensions are having a direct impact. Mining giant Glencore earlier this year blamed the dispute for delays to coal imports, while Australian beef and wine suppliers have said frictions led to their products being held up at Chinese ports.
"It is vital that the China relationship is managed with sophistication and that's not what we've seen from the Morrison government," Andrew Leigh, a lawmaker with the opposition Labor Party, told reporters Saturday in Canberra.
Managing Australia's relationship with China is critical and both government and businesses should focus on "how we best sustain that trading partnership for the future," Elizabeth Gaines, Chief Executive Officer of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, which gets more than 90 per cent of revenue from China, said Thursday at a speech in Melbourne.
"Our relationship with China will always remain positive, because it is focused on the things that we agree on and that benefit each country," Morrison told reporters Saturday on a visit to Suva, Fiji. "Of course, there are clear differences, they are different countries with different systems."