China-Australia ties won’t be back on track soon: political analyst
Sino-Australian relations are not resuming anytime soon – after Beijing’s decision to indefinitely suspend high-level economic talks with Canberra, according to a political expert.
James Laurenceson, director of the Institute for Australia-China Relations at Sydney University of Technology, called Canberra-Beijing’s strained relationship “complicated.”
“I see no prospect on the horizon for this relationship to get back on track,” he told CNBC on Friday, adding that the two sides blamed each other for the breakdown in dialogue.
The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s economic planning agency, said on Thursday that it would “indefinitely suspend all activities under the China-Australia strategic economic dialogue.”
The move comes after some Australian officials launched unspecified measures “in a Cold War mindset” to disrupt cooperation with China, the NDRC statement said.
The national flags of Australia and China are displayed in front of a portrait of Mao Zedong facing Tiananmen Square.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP via Getty Images
China’s decision to stop all activities under this framework is more than just a token decision, Laurenceson said.
“I think to say that it is only symbolism and that it does not amount to anything meaningful is wrong. Symbolism matters in international relations – especially when it is negative,” he said on Friday. at CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia”.
He called Beijing’s latest move a “tit-for-tat” retaliation to show his displeasure after Australia abandoned two Belt and Road agreements last month.
“We know China’s foreign policy moves are fried, so after Canberra tore up that deal a few weeks ago, there was still a prospect,” he said.
Australia’s Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan expressed disappointment at the suspension of talks on Thursday.
“The Strategic Economic Dialogue, which was last held in 2017, is an important forum for Australia and China to work on issues relating to our economic partnership,” he said in a statement. . “We remain open to dialogue and engagement at the ministerial level.”
Relations between the two countries have been strained since Australia blocked Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from its 5G network in 2018.
It worsened last year when Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak, triggering Beijing trade sanctions on Australian wine, coal and barley in retaliation.
“At the moment, what we are seeing is a doubling of the hardening positions in Beijing (and) in Canberra,” Laurenceson told CNBC.
“In Australia, at the moment, there is no domestic political pressure for the Morrison government to change course. In fact, public support in Australia has rallied around it.”