China details reasons for worsening ties with Australia

It urges Canberra to stop imposing its will on others, says its actions hurt Chinese feelings

Ties between Australia and China have been strained since 2018 when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network.
Ties between Australia and China have been strained since 2018 when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • China has given one of its most detailed explanations yet for the souring of ties with Australia, calling on the nation to stop trying to impose its will on others.

"Looking back on China-Australia relations in the past few years, we see some people in Australia adhere to a Cold War mentality and harbour ideological prejudice, regard China's development as a threat, and have then made a series of wrong moves related to China," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a daily briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

"This is the root cause for China-Australia relations worsening to the current difficult situation," Mr Zhao said.

In a sign that some senior members of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government want to find a circuit-breaker to ease the tensions, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was to deliver a speech yesterday saying his nation is ready to re-engage in dialogue with Beijing after ministerial contacts were put on ice.

Ties between the two key trading partners have been strained since 2018, when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network.

But relations have really been in the deep freeze since Mr Morrison's government in April led calls for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak - a move that bruised China's pride and unleashed a torrent of criticism that Australia is a puppet of the United States.

Mr Zhao also rejected comments from Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham that "the ball is very much in China's court to come to the table for that dialogue", making clear that Beijing expected Canberra to act first.

He added that the actions of Canberra and some Australians had "seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people". Mr Zhao's comments came as Mr Morrison was in Tokyo to sign a defence agreement with Japan and strengthen the already close ties between those two nations.

Japan and Australia are trying to build a coalition of "like-minded" democracies in the Indo-Pacific to push back against what they view as Beijing's increasing expansionism in the region.

"The current difficulties facing China-Australia relations are not something China wants to see. Responsibility for causing this situation has nothing to do with China," Mr Zhao said.

"We hope the Australian side will admit to the real reason, look at China and China's development objectively, earnestly handle our relations based on principles of mutual respect and equal treatment and do more to enhance mutual trust and cooperation," he said.

In a radio interview yesterday, Mr Birmingham repeated his assertion that the "ball is very much in China's court".

Mr Zhao also reeled off a list of ways in which the Australian government or its people had damaged relations with Beijing: Australia, in violation of basic norms governing international relations, "has repeatedly made mistakes on issues involving Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and other issues relating to China's core interests".

He said that despite a lack of evidence, some in Australia "slandered and accused China of engaging in so-called intervention and infiltration activities" in the country.

They "politicised and stigmatised normal exchanges between China and Australia without justification", he said. Australia engaged in "political manipulation" on Covid-19 and "promoted the so-called independent investigation and interfered in international cooperation", Mr Zhao said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline 'China details reasons for worsening ties with Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe