Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop on Monday at a sideline event during the G20 Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
During the meeting, Bishop said that the recent spate of negative reports on China from Australian media are not accurate and do not represent the viewpoints of the Australian government. Wang said that the Australian side should remove its tinted glasses against China and make efforts to push forward bilateral cooperation rather than dampen prospects.
Sino-Australia relations have remained on a steady downward slope since last year due to distorted reporting on behalf of Australian media and remarks made by Australian politicians on China’s alleged interference and infiltration in Australian internal affairs.
Such remarks have not only created obstacles in the development of bilateral relations between the two countries, but also have had a negative impact on Chinese living in Australia. Australian officials recently made unfriendly remarks toward China, actively hurling accusations.
Since the beginning of this year, Australia has revealed a friendly attitude on a few occasions in apparent attempts to soothe China relations. However, it is necessary for China to leave Australia hanging for a while. China should not be too hasty about burying the hatchet simply every time Canberra puts on a smile.
Some Western media outlets noticed China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi's serious facial expressions in photos with Australia's Julie Bishop at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Wang's speech also matched his facial expressions perfectly as they revealed China's attitude.
Geographically, Australia is a long way from China. The two nations are divided by Southeast Asia, and therefore do not share any geopolitical conflicts. China has remained Australia’s biggest trading partner and due to the vast amount of Aussie exports entering China, Australia has been able to retain a strong trade surplus.
In the past two years, Australia has experienced a few difficult moments with China and has created challenges on topics including the South China Sea and other ideological issues.
Disagreements between the two countries may contribute to their different values. This is a common situation among Western countries that have a relationship with China, and yet Australia has done a particularly prominent job in this area.
It is high time China demonstrated how it sticks to its principles in regard to its relations with Australia, so as to make Australia pay for its arrogant attitude toward China over the past two years.
China has plenty of legitimate reasons to cool bilateral relations with Australia. Since the Land Down Under is not a neighboring country and has limited strength and influence globally, a cooling period will only have a miniscule impact on China's interests.
Such a similar initiative wouldn't work with other countries because the potential outcomes could be too heavy for both sides. But with Australia, China has just enough confidence to withstand any cooling action.
China should slow the relationship down for a period. For example, it is unnecessary for the Australian Prime Minister to visit China this year. In fact, he can visit a few years later. China’s ministerial officials, other than those in economic and trade departments, could postpone interactions with Australia.
Non-government related exchanges between the two nations should be maintained. Chinese students and tourists in Australia should not be bothered.
China has promised to increase its imports from the US, according to the recently concluded Sino-US trade talks. It is reasonable to cut a few imports from Australia to implement the China-US trade agreement. It will benefit China anyway. By doing so, China will be able to keep its promise to the US, and while helping Australia to reconsider the ways in which they can balance relations with their Western allies and China's interests.
The scope of import reductions could be limited. Last year, Australia exported $76.45 billion in goods to China. Lowering Aussie exports by $6.45 billion would send cold chills up and down the spine of Australia. Of course, it would be an even greater shock if the import reductions totaled $10 billion.
China has been very friendly toward Australia, but their arrogant attitudes in return over the past two years have become a virtual example of what it means to "bite the hand that feeds."
Australia's image among Chinese people has grown increasingly negative due to its warped accusations hurled at China. China does not need to spend time and effort seeking out revenge against Australia.
The cooling of bilateral relations between the two may last for a while, perhaps a few years or even longer. That would be a good lesson for Australia to learn, while also setting a precedent for other nations to follow in that there are no benefits for any country that chooses to take provocative measures against China.