Misinterpretation of interests behind China tension: Australian PM Scott Morrison

China is by far Australia's top overall export market, worth US$104 billion (S$139 billion) in 2019.
China is by far Australia's top overall export market, worth US$104 billion (S$139 billion) in 2019.PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Tension between Australia and China has been driven by incorrect assumptions shaped by rivalry between China and the United States, but Australia has its own interest and independent views, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday (Nov 23).

Australia's relationship with China soured in 2018 when it became the first country to publicly ban China's Huawei from its 5G network, and worsened this year when Australia called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

As ties deteriorated, China imposed tariffs on Australian barley and slowed its imports of Australian beef and coal.

But Mr Morrison said in a speech that Australia had been unfairly judged.

"Our actions are wrongly seen and interpreted by some only through the lens of the strategic competition between China and the United States," he said.

"It's as if Australia does not have its own unique interests or views as an independent sovereign state. This is false and needlessly deteriorates relationships."

Australian ministers recently said they wanted to improve communication with China. Its foreign ministry has said Australia needed to "take concrete actions to correct their mistakes".

China is by far Australia's top overall export market, worth US$104 billion (S$139 billion) in 2019, according to the IMF.

So disruption to trade ties could be costly for Australia's economy, which is already languishing from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The economy shrank 7 per cent in the three months that ended in June, the most since records began in 1959, while the unemployment rate hit a 22-year high of 7.5 per cent in July.