The Thaw in Australia’s Relationship with China: Out of Deep Freeze?

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Although recent talks have decreased the hostility, continuing disagreements mean that mending the relationship will take quite some time between Australia and China.

Hundreds of people have gathered at the Chinese embassy in Canberra to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between China and Australia. Australian and Chinese flags line the perimeter of a podium where speeches will take place.

Towards the back of the garden, a large oil painting depicting a 1973 meeting between Gough Whitlam and Mao Zedong in Beijing catches everyone’s attention. Whitlam was the Australian leader who opened diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China on 21 December 1972.

Upon reflecting on the recent meeting between Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping, China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, appeared optimistic as he described it as “positive,” “constructive,” and “encouraging.”

“China and Australia are two amazing countries with amicable people. Our nations have always had a warm relationship, and I hope it stays that way.”

Xiao is ignoring the recent deterioration of diplomatic relations between China and Australia. This included Beijing issuing tariffs and unofficial bans on Australian exports and freezing high-level talks. The former Coalition government even went so far as to say that China was purposely trying to pressure Australia into submission by hurting its economy – an “economic coercion” campaign, they called it.

However, since he started this year, Xiao confidently believes that the two countries will remain friends and partners based on his active relationships with politicians, industry members, and academicians.

“I am confident that with the concerted efforts of our people, China-Australia ties will continue to improve in the years ahead,” he says.

Others are more sceptical and believe it will take more than one meeting between high-level officials to thaw this deep freeze. Some analysts argue that Beijing has always had its interests at heart and will only agree to talks that further these goals. In contrast, others believe that Canberra is still too focused on its defence with the United States and its regional allies.

At this point, it’s unclear exactly how long it will take for Australia and China to mend their relationship fully, but one thing is sure: both nations will have to work hard and be willing to compromise to make progress. Until then, this deep freeze will continue for the foreseeable future.

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