The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison recently announced plans of a $44 million foundation which experts believe that an attempt by the government to reset the strained relationship that the country has with China. The Prime Minister announced that the foundation is put in place to improve the bilateral ties between the two countries. Coupled with this is announcement is the appointment of a top diplomat who is considered as an expert on China as the new ambassador to the government.
If you may recall, the Conservative Party has been calling for the government to establish a royal commission that will look into the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Australia. This call is based on recent revelations which show that there is a need to answer questions that deal with the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Australia. The need for a Royal Commission is premised on the fact that we cannot trust the major parties to objectively review its conducts and present a report that will satisfy Australians.
The report of the Prime Minister’s announcement comes at a time when there are growing tensions between the two parties. The major reason for these tensions is the ban on Chinese technology companies from participating in Australia’s 5G network as well as the recent foreign interference laws.
It is believed that establishing this new foundation that will deal with Australia-China relations and how to harness the Chinese community in Australia as well as the cultural organisation and big businesses to propel the engagement with China. This appears to be very necessary at this point when the country’s largest trading partner has chosen to turn the heat up on Australian exporters.
Graham Fletcher, a career diplomat and fluent mandarin speaker who have been on three diplomatic assignments to Beijing in the past will replace Jan Adams, the outgoing ambassadors. It appears this is another diplomatic move taken to improve a bilateral relationship that continues to be threatened by different hard-line policies from the government.
This new foundation is geared to replace the forty-year-old Australia-China council, an organisation that focused on culture, the arts, and education with a widened remit that lets it promote ties in health, ageing, environment, energy, and agriculture.
In recent weeks preceding these announcements, there has been a Chinese go-slow on the processing of Australian coal imports which has spread to various ports, forcing Chinese buyers to find other supply sources.
Australia-China relations is one of the key domestic issues ahead of the Federal elections. During this week, Bill Shorten reassured Beijing and Australian-Chinese voters that he welcomes the rise of China as a global power. On the other hand, the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull mentioned during a debate on foreign interference that Australians must stand for the sovereignty of their nation.
It remains to be seen how the bilateral relations will turn out and if it will be to the advantage of Australia.