Australia will not capitulate to the demands of China as it seeks to mend it’s “complex relationship” with Beijing, Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said.
Addressing a meeting of the Australia China Business Council on Thursday, Senator Payne rejected claims the Morrison government was “anti-China”.
“This is a complex relationship which is inevitably changing, and it will continue to change,” she said.
“Where we do raise certain behaviours or challenges to long-agreed rules, that does not mean we are anti-China or anti any other country.
“We have been advised by China that they will only engage in high-level dialogue if we meet certain conditions. Australia places no conditions on dialogue,” she told the annual Canberra gathering.
“We can’t meet the conditions, such as the now well-known list of 14 grievances raised in the media last year.”
Officials from China’s embassy in Canberra last year sensationally circulated a list of grievances it had with the government. It included a Australia’s call for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, taking sides over the South China Sea territorial dispute, the ban on Huawei’s involvement in the 5G rollout and the passage of foreign interference legislation.
Canberra’s relationship with Beijing has become increasingly fraught and plummeted to an all time when China imposed a ban on Australian wine, barely, coal and lobster last year.
The foreign Minister argued China must come to the table and work within the already well established rules.
“There are challenges arising from the much greater role that China is now playing in global affairs. China’s outlook and the nature of China’s external engagement both in our region and globally has changed,” Senator Payne said.
“Many countries in the world are responding to these shifting dynamics, accelerated by this once-in-a-century global pandemic and to the challenges China has presented to the agreed rules and norms that have underpinned our security and prosperity for so long.
“But with economic rise comes broader strategic responsibility … In seeking a relationship with China that works in the interests of both countries, we will stand firm to protect our sovereignty, our rules and principles. They’re not matters on which Australia will compromise, as the Prime Minister has made clear.”
The Foreign Minister was also asked if next year’s Winter Olympics – due to be held in Beijing – would be a good opportunity for diplomatics to “break the water.”
Senator Payne agreed, telling the meeting she hoped the chance for a meeting was taken.
“I think this is a very interesting issue for many in the community … there will be strong international discussion on the Olympics. But sport is supposed to bring us together. So let’s hope that we can move through that,” she said.
“These ultimately will be decisions for Olympic committees around the world, but I do agree with you – it’s an opportunity to have appropriate representatives in-country, and we would hope that chance is taken as things proceed.”