Australia and China Relations

OPINION: As 50 Years Of Australia-China Relations Approach, Will Things Get Warmer Or Colder?

The 21st of December, 2022 will mark 50 years of when the Australian Government officially and formally recognised and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), through the signing of a joint communiqué by the Australian and PRC ambassadors in Paris. This was a milestone achieved by the Gogh Whitlam Government and has seen a lot of great things which have mutually benefited both Australia and China, but it has also bought a whole host of problems and issues which till this day have not been resolved.

Former PM Gogh Whitlam in China – Image via City of Sydney

But the big question is, will relations between Australia and China improve with a new Albanese Government and will the Chinese Government react positively to warmer approaches to diplomacy as opposed to the confrontational methods employed by the previous Morrison Government.

At the recent G20 summit in Bali, Prime Minister Albanese met with Chinese President Xi Jinping breaking a 6 year diplomatic lull. This was a positive move with both leaders stating they had a productive meeting and indicated that relations are slowly getting a bit warmer.

PM Anthony Albanese meeting President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit – Image via YouTube

At the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations (NFACR) dinner last month, Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke about the relationship in her speech and there are tinges of positive moves on Australia’s part to rebuild a fragmented relationship. Before quoting some of what she said, let’s remind ourselves of the damage the Morrison led Government did with their incessant confrontational approaches on the “origins of COVID”, the military and submarine deals, the foreign interference and spy claims and accusations etc – mind you this is just a few of the things which had soured the relationship.

Australia Foreign Minister Penny Wong Meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently – Image via The Sydney Morning Herald

Essentially, in the years of 2018 all the way till May 2022, a lot of damage was done, with the then Prime Minister and the then Foreign Minister Peter Dutton and other members of the senior ministry not adhering to calls from the Chinese Australian community to tone down their attacks and to change their language and tone on how these geo-political issues were discussed.

Now this is not saying those accusations had no validity – like any other major global super power all those issues such as spying, foreign interference, human rights etc exist – so the Chinese Government shouldn’t be absolved from criticisms, but in those years there was a narrow focus and target placed on the back of China to be blamed for everything where countries such as USA who commits the same things were left unscathed. These targets by the former Government compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the “everything China is bad” global narrative have greatly contributed to the ongoing issues of anti-China and anti-Asian racism in Australia and in other parts of the world.

To Minister Wong’s speech at the NFACR dinner last month. Her words seem to indicate that there are plans to try and repair the relationship, but doing so doesn’t mean the Australian Government will stay silent on issues which conflict with its national interest.

Image via Facebook

We will look for mutual opportunities to cooperate with China, including in clean energy transition and other areas.

Growing our bilateral relationship need not be in conflict with upholding our national interest, if we both navigate our differences wisely.

To this end, we welcome renewed dialogue between our countries and look forward to it continuing.

Even when we have differences, by working together, and with mutual respect, we can help ensure our people, those of the countries in our region, and the wider world will enjoy the stability, peace, and prosperity we have been privileged to share over the past fifty years.

Anyways, let us know what you think!

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