Australia-China Diplomatic Thaw
Global Times (环球时报)
07 November 2019

The following is a translation of a Global Times (环球时报) editorial on the Australia-China diplomatic thaw.

Editorial: It is more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations

Australian Foreign Minister Payne visited China on Wednesday. This is the first time that an Australian Foreign Minister has visited China in more than two years. Before Payne came to Beijing, Australian Trade Minister Birmingham participated in the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai, marking a thaw of relations between the two countries.

It will be easier to resume high-level visits between China and Australia than it will to bring the two peoples’ feelings closer together. Australia has given a bad impression on Chinese people over the past two years. It is probably the worst among western countries. Trump launched an unprecedented trade war against China and Chinese people can at least grasp the logic of the US. But up to now, Chinese public opinion does not understand why Australia has been so tough toward China in the past two years.

In Chinese public opinion analysis, Australia is an example of being close to China economically and attached to the United States politically and militarily. Not only that, but Australia has actively stood at the front line in resisting so-called “infiltration” of China’s South China Sea. Not long ago, Australia was one of the first Western countries to announce that Huawei was excluded from constructing its 5G network. This was the latest spreading of salt on the wounds of China-Australia relations.

The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make fewer enemies. Therefore, it is rationally acceptable to improve relations between China and Australia. However, changing people’s understanding in a short time frame is difficult.

We believe that the terrible policies toward China by the Turnbull government during most of its time were based upon Australian public opinion. And it can’t easily be changed.

Therefore, we think the recovery of China-Australian relations is on the rebound, but it is uncertain how high it can go.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council country review meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, Australia and other Western countries accused China of setting up education and training centres in Xinjiang. Before her visit to China, Payne said in an interview that she would “talk about human rights” in Beijing. This shows that China-Australia relations will not be very calm in the future.

The process of warming up today from coldness of two years ago shows that neither country can change the other. Australia doesn’t have the strength to budge China, and China also faces a “stubborn Australia.” Avoiding confrontation and expanding cooperation between the two countries depends upon political will on both sides. This is the only way that shaking hands can become the chosen option for the relationship.

The example of Australia tells us that developing cooperation does not necessarily mean that countries will be friends with each other. You can still pull together if you have mutual doubts and major differences. As a big country, China faces a variety of countries in the world. We need to maintain cooperative relations with countries that are not very friendly without losing face and still gather as much national interest as possible from them.

Of course, we have to build greater leverage to drive this complex relationship. It doesn’t matter if Australia said a few disrespectful words to China, but if it takes actions that harm China’s actual interests, discriminating against and harming the interests of Chinese companies, such as excluding Huawei from participating in the country’s 5G network construction, we should respond. Let it pay a price and struggle to maintain cooperation.

If you look at public opinion in Western countries, you will find that none of them have reached the standard of “countries friendly to China” that we usually imagine. This raises a question for us. Are we too trusting in our friendliness, whether or not there are too few measures for public diplomacy that can express the pluralism of Chinese society?

Many opinions have always existed about Australia in Chinese society. They should be allowed or even encouraged to be expressed in various ways as a constraint on Australia’s complicated attitudes toward China.

Australia, a Western middle power country which is neither far from or near to China. Is neither important or unimportant to China. China should regard relations with Australia as a sand table for testing China’s relationships with western nations.


 

Translation by: Chris Lanzit, NAATI Certified Professional Translator (Chinese-English), NAATI Practitioner ID: CPN0BC84W

Date of Translation: 16 November 2018

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