China has conveyed its disapproval to Australia over a visit to Taiwan by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, according to a Beijing diplomat, with the trip threatening to undermine efforts by both countries to improve relations ahead of a state visit later this year.
(Bloomberg) — China has conveyed its disapproval to Australia over a visit to Taiwan by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, according to a Beijing diplomat, with the trip threatening to undermine efforts by both countries to improve relations ahead of a state visit later this year.
Speaking at the Asia Society event in Melbourne on Wednesday, Ambassador Xiao Qian said Morrison’s visit to Taiwan was a “serious concern” and hoped Australia’s politicians would be “sensitive” to China’s views.
After years of diplomatic tensions, relations between the two major trading partners have normalized ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s planned visit to Beijing later this year. However recent trips to Taiwan by Australian politicians may derail the warming ties.
Morrison met with Taiwan President Tsai Ingwen at the Presidential Palace in Taipei on Tuesday, according to the Central News Agency, where he delivered a speech saying that Australia would “always be great friends with the people of Taiwan.” Just last month, a delegation of Australian lawmakers visited Taiwan.
Although Taiwan has been self-ruled since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, the government in Beijing views the island as a renegade province. President Xi Jinping has said China will do what’s necessary to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.
China’s envoy on Wednesday said he wanted to see the relationship between Australia and China develop even further, adding the common ground between the two countries was greater than their differences. “We want to move beyond stabilization, and to further improve our relationship,” Xiao said
Relations between Australia and China reached their lowest point in 2020, after Morrison who was the prime minister called for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19 — a politically sensitive issue for Beijing. In response, the Chinese government imposed trade sanctions on a range of Australian exports, including heavy tariffs on wine and barley.
Following the election of Albanese’s center-left Labor government in May 2022, Australia and China saw significant improvement in their relations. High-level ministerial meetings between the two countries restarted, while a number of sanctions on Australian exports were lifted.
Albanese is expected to visit Beijing before the end of 2023, a trip scheduled to mark 50 years since the first visit of an Australian leader to China in 1973.
Asked about growing concerns over the state of the Chinese economy, Xiao said the worsening data in recent months was only temporary and that the overall trajectory of the country’s growth was positive.
“Australia should have confidence in China’s economy, and should have confidence in trade relations, economic relations between the two countries,” he said.
–With assistance from Zoe Ma.
(Recasts story to lead with comments on Taiwan.)
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