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Australia urged to exercise wisdom in ties with China

By LIU JIANQIAO | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-04 09:41

The Chinese and Australian national flags in Sydney, Australia. [Photo/Xinhua]

Australia needs to continue its positive efforts and maintain its commitment to fostering a stronger relationship with China, rather than allowing previous progress to be wasted, experts say.

During a visit by Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to China last month, including his attending the sixth China International Import Expo in Shanghai, there were encouraging developments in bilateral ties, they said.

However, recent events have been used by anti-China elements both in and outside Australia to undermine the constructive prospects for the strengthening relationship between the two countries, they said.

On Nov 20 China rejected allegations by Australia that a Chinese warship acted improperly during an interaction with an Australian vessel in international waters near Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Four days later Australia confirmed that one of its warships had passed through the Taiwan Strait. China's Foreign Ministry urged Australia and others not to engage in provocations or disrupt the peace and stability of the region.

Chen Hong, director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, said disparities should not define the Sino-Australian relationship.

He suggested that Australia exercise more caution and take a proactive approach in handling bilateral ties.

"Australia needs to bear in mind that provoking China by challenging its national interests is both unwise and risky. The Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue are red lines that should not be crossed.

"A healthy and sustainable China-Australia relationship is beneficial to Australia's long-term national interests. The recent improvements in bilateral relations should be cherished and carefully nurtured."

In recent years Western countries have intensified their focus on the Taiwan question and the South China Sea issue in an attempt to escalate regional tensions and hinder China's development, Chen said.

"Faced with the anti-China strategies proposed by Washington, Canberra needs to demonstrate strategic resolve rather than blindly following the United States on China-related issues."

Despite complexities that may arise in further improving the relationship, Chen said, he believes the two sides can find ways to bridge gaps and minimize differences.

He pointed to the complementarity of the Chinese and Australian economies, China being Australia's largest trading partner in goods and services. This indicates significant potential for sustainable cooperation between them, he said.

"As two important countries in the Asia-Pacific region, China and Australia should adopt a pragmatic approach in managing their differences and provide support to each other to promote mutual development, thereby making greater contributions to the entire region."

Daryl Guppy, an international financial technical analyst and former national board member of the Australia China Business Council, said it is important for Australia to respect China's sovereignty and legitimate rights while approaching the bilateral relationship on equal terms.

"Australia has long held the belief that its interests align with those of the United States, leading to active promotion of (the trilateral alliance) AUKUS and the integration of Australian defense forces planning with the US."

'Unacceptable' actions

So-called freedom of navigation was in fact a series of military exercises designed to test China's military response, Guppy said, adding that these actions are unacceptable in any context.

"Australia should step back from the current aggressive actions that provoke China and move back to cooperation and negotiation."

It is necessary for the two countries to solve disputes through multilateral mechanisms, he said, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the World Trade Organization.

"The recent trade disputes between China and Australia have been resolved under the WTO framework, indicating mutual respect for international rules and an improvement in the business and political relationship."

Guppy suggested Australia take part in the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China because it has emerged as the "most important initiative" in the region.

"Many Australian businesses have embraced the BRI protocols and standards, which has facilitated their market entry into the countries involved. If Australia truly desires to enhance trade and economic collaboration with China in the future, joining the BRI is inevitable."

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