‘Australia is responsible for all this’: China suspends economic dialogue with Canberra, blames ‘Cold War mentality’

Foreign Affairs

Beijing, casting itself as the victim of “insane suppression” from Canberra, suspended its participation in one of the few remaining high-level diplomatic forums between Australia and China. Relations between the two countries still might not have hit bottom.

The Australian flag flutters in front of the Great Hall of the People during a welcoming ceremony for then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Beijing, China, April 14, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Relations between Australia and China, already severely strained since last year after Beijing publicly aired grievances about a series of moves from Canberra it saw as hostile, have continued deteriorating in recent weeks.

China “moved a step closer to severing any future trade cooperation with Australia” today, as the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said (in English, Chinese) it had “indefinitely suspended” its participation in the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, the Australian Financial Review reports. The dialogue, though not held since 2017, was one of “few remaining channels open for high-level diplomacy.”

  • “Australia is responsible for all this…We would urge Australia…not to walk further on the wrong path,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said today (English, Chinese), accusing Australia of “insane suppression.”
  • Like Chinese ambassador to Australia Chéng Jìngyè 成竞业 in a speech last week (English, Chinese), the Chinese Foreign Ministry blamed deteriorating relations on Australia’s “Cold War mentality.”

Beijing’s move is retaliation for the “Australian government…scrapping the Belt and Road Initiative deal signed with China,” according to state-owned nationalist tabloid the Global Times.

  • When the Australian government canceled that deal, made by the state of Victoria, two weeks ago, it exercised new powers given to it by Parliament last year. Foreign Minister Marise Payne “said Australia isn’t seeking to target just one country, noting that officials also canceled two other deals involving Syria and Iran,” but Beijing remained unconvinced.
  • “Analysts said they expected further retaliation from China if the Morrison government scrapped a Chinese company’s 99-year lease on the Port of Darwin as expected,” the AFR adds.

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