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Australia in grip of fear of change: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-01-26 20:30

People are silhouetted against the Sydney Opera House at sunset in Australia, on Nov 2, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

It seems that adopting a hard line toward China is the new orthodoxy in Australia, with China bashing de rigueur for politicians and media on both sides of the political spectrum.

Given such an atmosphere, reasonable and objective views calling for a more balanced evaluation of Australia's ties are rarely heard. Hence, it is a real blessing that a few Australians, notably former Australian prime minister Paul Keating, still have the courage to speak out.

In a scathing op-ed article published over the weekend, Keating criticized United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for making "demented" comments about China and urged the UK foreign secretary to hurry "back to her collapsing, disreputable government".

During her visit to Australia last week, Truss made heaps of remarks about China, which were clearly intended to fan anti-China sentiments in Australia. Apart from repeating the clichéd accusation of China exerting "economic coercion," she reportedly warned that China could use a Russian invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to launch aggression of its own in the Asia-Pacific region.

Such talk is nothing but alarmist scare-mongering. But, as a well-respected and far-sighted politician, Keating clearly knows the impact such wild rhetoric may have in Australia where it will find a receptive audience.

Not to mention that in last week's high-level talks with Australian officials, Truss made it clear the UK government will advance both AUKUS, the new security alliance the United States has formed with Australia and the UK, and ideological confrontation with China and Russia.

Due to the cultural bonds among Australia, the UK and the United States, and their common Cold War mentality, many Australians, politicians included, still cannot embrace the idea of an Asia-Pacific that is not a sphere of influence for the Anglophone nations.

Australia has a federal election in 2022 which means it might have a chance to reset its ties with China later this year. On Wednesday, Xiao Qian, the new Chinese ambassador to Australia, arrived in Sydney, vowing to strengthen communication and build more mutual trust with Canberra.

Yet despite China's sincerity in seeking to improve ties, many Australian politicians are crafting political tricks to poison the bilateral relationship.

There is no fundamental conflict of interest between the two countries, and no major historical irritants to be calmed, so it is high time more reasonable voices like Keating's held sway to prevent China-Australia ties from deteriorating further, which would serve neither side's interest.

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