Without reflecting, Australia can be walking into the dark

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By Mu Lu Source: Global Times

China Australia Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson on Wednesday warned China against resorting to “pressure or coercion,” The Guardian reported. Speaking at the National Security College of Australian National University in Canberra, Adamson said China would be wrong if it reaches “a point where it believes that it can largely set the terms of its future engagement with the world.”

Only two days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia will not pick sides between the US and China, Australia’s top diplomat stood up to accuse China of being increasingly assertive.

Why were their statements so different?

Yu Lei, the chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries at Liaocheng University, told the Global Times on Thursday that this actually reflects the consensus in the Australian government to contain China. Yu noted that the economic downturn has surpassed the Morrison administration’s anticipation. So, he changed his tune for the sake of recovering exports to China.

“But this is far from changing Canberra’s China containment stance. China must keep a sober head about that,” Yu said.

Nonetheless, Adamson’s accusation was obviously wrong-targeted. China has been respecting international rules and cooperation in its engagement with the world for win-win outcomes.

Adamson’s attacks showed how Australia treats China-related issues with double standards. When the Australian government blocks Chinese investments, cracks down on Huawei, and suppresses Chinese journalists and scholars, Canberra said they are domestic affairs. When China properly handles affairs with Australia, it is blamed by Canberra as resorting to coercion. Australia has never thought about how it has coerced China.

Australia has tied itself onto the US’ anti-China chariot. But it has suffered greatly from its own actions. Now, it has parroted the tone of Washington and blamed China for not reflecting on itself. This is nonsense. Has Australia ever thought twice before taking aim at China?

We hope the Australian government can draw lessons from its losses and take a proper stance toward China. However, from the perspective of Adamson’s words, Canberra is still overlooking the root causes.

Just as James Laurenceson, director of the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney, wrote in his Wednesday article “No wonder China is confused by us” for the Australian Financial Review, the Morrison administration’s understanding of developments in China-Australia relations is “strikingly one-sided.”

Discerning people can tell that Australia has been willingly playing the roles of US deputy sheriff and of hatchet man to the US’ geopolitical game in the region.

Adamson said countries such as Australia”have to acknowledge that the US cannot be expected to lead in the way it once did.” It implied that with changes in the US political situation, Australia faces a dilemma of choice. After president-elect Joe Biden takes office, Washington’s policies toward Beijing could be adjusted.

If Canberra cannot reflect on its previous moves against China and make adjustments, improving China-Australia relations will be far from visible. At that time, Australians will know how it feels like to walk into the dark.

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