China shows ‘warm’ side to Australia

DIPLOMATIC DEALINGS::An Australian official said that private talks with the nation’s most important economic partner were ‘candid and constructive’


Fri, Jun 01, 2018 - Page 5

An Australian official yesterday said that China used a different tone in private talks than it used in a recent public statement that demanded Australia take “concrete actions” to improve bilateral ties.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Frances Adamson was being questioned by a Senate committee on the vastly different accounts that the Australian and Chinese foreign ministers gave of their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of a G20 minister’s conference in Argentina last week.

Australia has been talking down media reports of diplomatic disruptions over Chinese anger at Australian policies, including a proposed legislative ban on foreign interference in politics.

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop described her meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) as “very warm and candid and constructive.”

Wang said through a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman that he told Bishop that Australia needed to “take off tinted glasses and see China’s development from a positive perspective” if it really wanted to get relations back on track.

“Tinted glasses” is Chinese diplomatic shorthand for what it sees as Western bias.

However, China took a different tone in private talks with Australian officials, Adamson said.

“I think the [Chinese] public characterization of the meeting in tone is consistent with the recent tone adopted in the Chinese media, but I do draw a distinction between that tone as depicted publicly and the tone that we discern through direct conversations with the Chinese,” she said.

“I think the Chinese very much want to encourage a respectful public discourse about their role in the region, about our bilateral relationship, and this is not unique to Australia,” Adamson added.

The spat is affecting Australia’s trade as well as diplomatic relationship with its most important economic partner.

Australia is regarded the developed country most dependent on China, which is the largest market for Australia’s most lucrative exports, iron ore and coal.

Australia-based Treasury Wine Estates, one of the world’s largest wine companies, last month told the Australian Securities Exchange that it was experiencing delays in getting Australian wine through Chinese customs.

Department first assistant secretary Graham Fletcher told the committee that he was aware of “three or four companies” in the Australian wine industry that were experiencing similar delays.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) signed an agreement when he visited Australia in March last year that would give Australian ranchers greater access to the Chinese chilled beef market.

Australian beef producers are frustrated that the agreement has yet to take effect.

The agreement had not progressed “as quickly as we wanted,” Fletcher said.

Australian Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo visited Shanghai last month, but did not meet his Chinese counterpart.

Adamson, a former ambassador to Beijing, told the committee that a meeting “wasn’t convenient, wasn’t suitable” for the Chinese.

Australian media reported this week that a classified government report commissioned in 2016 found that the Chinese Communist Party had tried to influence Australian policy, compromise political parties and gain access to all levels of government for a decade.