Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that his country “doesn’t respond to demands” in regard to a list of conditions China recently laid out for improving strained bilateral relations. File Photo by Paul Braven/EPA-EFE
July 11 (BP) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rejected a four-point plan from China to improve strained bilateral relations on Monday, saying that his country “doesn’t respond to demands.”
His comments came after a call from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for Australia to “reshape a correct perception of China.”
Wang met his Australian counterpart Penny Wong on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Bali on Friday, and outlined four conditions for the countries to get back on track.
“Stick to regarding China as a partner rather than a rival,” Wang said, according to a readout from China’s foreign ministry.
His other demands included “not targeting any third party or being controlled by any party” and “building positive and pragmatic social foundations and public support.”
“We respond to our own national interest,” Albanese told reporters Monday.
Diplomatic relations between Beijing and Canberra soured in 2020 when the administration of then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison led international calls for further investigation into the origins of COVID-19. China restricted the import of Australian coal, barley, wine, beef and other products in response.
Beijing also bristled at the Australian government’s decision last year to join the United States and Britain in the AUKUS security pact amid growing military competition in the Asia-Pacific region. The agreement allows Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and other advanced weaponry in a major upgrade for its defense forces.
In recent years, Australia has accused China of interfering in its elections and launching cyberattacks against government agencies and public institutions.
Wang criticized Morrison’s government for “regarding China as a rival or even a threat,” and accused it of “a series of irresponsible words and deeds against China.”
Communication lines between Beijing and Canberra have gradually opened up since the Albanese government was elected in May. Last week’s meeting between the foreign ministers was the first exchange at that level since 2019.
“It was a constructive meeting. It was just a step forward,” Albanese said Monday.
“I want to build good relations with all countries. But we will stand up for Australia’s interests when we must.”
Canberra has expressed concern over Beijing’s growing military presence in the region, including a recent security deal with the Solomon Islands that has created fears China will gain a foothold in the tiny nation just 1,200 miles away from Australia.
Australia also complained about a Chinese fighter jet harassing its aircraft in international airspace last month.
At a NATO conference in Spain, Albanese sounded the alarm over China’s assertive moves.
“China has been prepared to make sanctions not just against Australia, but to be more aggressive in its stance in the world,” Albanese said.