Albo’s visit a triumph, but Taiwan turbulence not far away


Wednesday November 08, 2023

Australia-China relations have drastically improved over the past year but a potential flashpoint over Taiwan is cause for concern, foreign policy experts say as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wraps up a diplomatic visit.

Wednesday November 08, 2023

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Mr Albanese lauded his historic three-day trip to China, which ended on Tuesday, as the result of a more stable relationship with Australia’s biggest trading partner since he took office last year.

He held meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Qiang and the two nations agreed to restart the annual leaders dialogue between the Chinese Prime Minister and the Australian prime minister.

Tariffs have already been removed on Australian barley and timber exports to China and the government is betting on China removing barriers on wine and other products in the coming months.

“The government’s approach to stabilizing our relationship has led to progress on issues affecting trade in a range of products,” Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres said on Wednesday.

“We expect over the coming months (movement on) wine and a range of other affected products.”

Impediments on Australian lobster and beef remain in the government’s sight.

A report by China Matters and the Australian Institute of International Affairs said Mr Albanese’s trip, the first of a sitting Australian leader since 2016, showed the relationship had settled down in the past year.

But the perception by China that Australia is in the pocket of the United States will continue to strain the relationship in the longer term as “they don’t have much optimism for the US,” report author Yun Jiang said.

Taking in comments on the bilateral relationship by academics and analysts in the People’s Republic of China, Ms Jiang found most scholars were not optimistic about the long-term prospects of the relationship.

This makes a stable, longer term relationship challenging “because the PRC believes Australia is not capable of pursuing an independent foreign policy and remains hosting to its alliance with the US”.

“The victim mentality is still very much prevalent in China – many experts there believe that China is a victim of US containment,” she said at the official launch of the report in Canberra on Wednesday.

While some scholars acknowledge Chinese policy and actions had affected how it was perceived by other countries, they are in the minority, they added.

Australia would also need to ensure it mitigated any perception among Chinese leaders that they were being disrespected, as they often took actions based on emotion “rather than wholly a rational calculation of risk and reward”.

Ms Jiang added building mutual trust was important to mitigate over-reactive responses.

China Matters deputy chair Linda Jakobson said there was one flashpoint that could lead to conflict between the US and China, and that was Taiwan.

“I was told by a couple of scholars who lecture for the (People’s Liberation Army) that ordinary soldiers are ready to fight they’re hankering to fight,” she said.

“Everyone mentioned the fact that the United States has broken its promises, has crossed the red line by … training Taiwanese troops.

“Also they are arming Taiwan to the teeth.”

This added to the perception by China that other countries were meddling in Beijing’s domestic affairs, as it considered Taiwan a part of China, Ms Jiang said.

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Tags: Albos visit triumph Taiwan turbulence


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