Commentary: It's time for Australia to decide what kind of relationship it wants with China

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-08 18:14:05|Editor: ZD
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by Xu Haijing

CANBERRA, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia, on Dec. 21, could have been a perfect moment for both countries to reflect on the great achievements of bilateral relations. However, due to the current anti-China chorus in Australia, it should instead be a time for Australia to think through what kind of relations it really wants with China.

China and Australia have strong economic complementarity. For instance, Australia's iron ore has been a much-needed raw material for China's infrastructure. Closer economic ties have led to deeper political trust, more people-to-people links and more cultural exchanges.

China has become, for eight consecutive years, Australia's largest trading partner, largest export market and largest source of imports.

Statistics show that in 2016, the total volume of bilateral trade between China and Australia reached 107.9 billion U.S. dollars, 1,300 times the volume reached when diplomatic ties were first established.

Implemented in December 2015, the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has been warmly welcomed in both countries. Thanks to ChAFTA and its tariff reduction arrangements, China has replaced the United States to become the largest export market for Australian wine.

There are about 200,000 Chinese students studying in Australian universities and schools, which is a good source of fund for those Australian institutions.

Moreover, two-way travels totalled two million in 2016, among them more than 1.3 million were Chinese travellers who visited Australia, making the greatest contribution to Australian tourism revenue among all international visitors.

All these facts and figures are what both governments could be proud of. However, Australia seems to care little about it. Over the past 11 months, some Australian politicians and media have been obsessed with one thing, that is, criticizing China.

A quick review of the comments on China by leading Australian political figures tells us how negatively they viewed China, China's political system and the prospect of its development.

In March, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said bluntly that China will not reach its full economic potential, if China maintains its current political system.

In June, the country's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pointed fingers at China's South China Sea policy. Yet the allegation that the commercial route through the South China Sea might be threatened by China has long been proved groundless by Australian experts.

Australian media quickly sensed the smell and bombed the public with fabricated news about the so-called Chinese influence and infiltration in Australia.

In their reports, Chinese investments were ill-intentioned to grab Australia's strategic assets, when they tried to invest in Australia's cattle stations. Chinese students were ill-intentioned to undermine Australia's academic independence, when they dared to challenge their teachers with China's official opinions.

Moreover, Chinese living in Australia were ill-intentioned to interfere with Australian domestic politics, when they made donations to Australian political parties, despite the fact that political donations are legal in Australia.

Some Australian political figures and media are going even further to hype China resentment and China containment. In this sense, the strongly-worded statement by the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Australia serves a wake-up call in time.

Australian strategist Hugh White said Australia is learning how to live with a powerful China, which will be very important to Australia in the future.

"We don't know what it (China's rise) will mean politically, economically and even culturally ... We are anxious about where China is going," he said.

The great economic complementarity between China and Australia is still there. The two countries could enjoy even greater bilateral relations in the next 45 years. But it will not be possible if Australia continues to undermine bilateral political trust and poisons the people-to-people relationship.