China publicly warned Australia on Wednesday against being an “enthusiastic bandwagoner of the U.S. strategy” in the contentious Indo-Pacific region after Foreign Minister Penny Wong concluded her visit to Beijing.
Wong’s diplomatic foray was the first by a minister from Canberra in almost four years, even as China remains Australia’s single biggest trading partner.
Beijing chose China’s state-run media outlet China Daily to warn Australia to be cautious.
Titled “Canberra should not be swayed by US in handling its relations with China”, the editorial affirmed Australia’s new left-wing Labour government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and its efforts to thaw relations with Beijing.
However, it placed the blame for the relationship’s previous breakdown squarely at the feet of Australia, coming as it did during the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.
The “anti-China rhetoric” which was present in the former conservative government’s handling of Beijing was cited as a key reason for the diplomatic freeze. The editorial stated:
Bilateral ties have encountered difficulties in recent years, as Canberra drew closer to Washington as the US gave greater attention to the region.
Under the previous government of Scott Morrison, Australia often enthusiastically served as a forerunner in the US’ ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ aimed at containing China’s development.
Some ideologically-obsessed Australian politicians and media deliberately spread the US’ confrontational narrative against China in Australian society and thus created a poisonous atmosphere for what used to be robust and mutually beneficial ties between the two countries.
Wong’s trip to Beijing was ostensibly a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. She unveiled a commemorative envelope on Wednesday to mark the anniversary together with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In meetings afterwards, both parties agreed to new bilateral dialogs on diplomatic relations, consular affairs, trade and economic issues, climate change, defense, and regional and international issues.
China has been highly critical of Australia’s AUKUS defense deal with the U.S. and United Kingdom, having published several editorials in state-run media calling for the deal to be scrapped.
Last year Canberra announced it will invest $580 million to upgrade four northern military bases and expand “war gaming” exercises with the United States, as Breitbart News reported, partnering Australia’s ambitious plans to continue engaging with regional allies and build its defense capabilities accordingly.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stands with newly appointed Foreign Minister Penny Wong, at the door of their plane on May 23, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (David Gray/Getty Images)
“Our focus is on pursuing peace, stability, and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favors freedom,” then Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Australia’s Daily Telegraph newspaper on April 28 when revealing the enhanced cooperation with U.S. forces.
“Working with the United States, our allies, and Indo-Pacific neighbors, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force, particularly across Northern Australia,” Morrison added.
Canberra’s $580 million investment will expand training facilities for the Australian Defence Force in Australia’s Northern Territory “with a focus on better integrating Australian troops’ training with key allies including the U.S.,” the Daily Telegraph reported.