China has warned Anthony Albanese not to repeat the “mistakes” of his predecessor, saying it will come “at the cost of the whole region”.
Chinese state media has called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to “recalibrate” Australia’s stance towards Beijing, warning that repeating Scott Morrison’s “mistakes” will come “at the cost of the whole region”.
The Communist Party-owned China Daily published an editorial on Wednesday describing Labor’s election win as a chance for Australia to “adjust its China policy”, while hitting out at former defence minister and “ardent China-basher” Peter Dutton’s elevation to Liberal Party leader.
The editorial said Mr Albanese stood on “common ground” with Mr Dutton for claiming “China had changed, not Australia” before “hotfooting it to participate in the Quad summit with the leaders of the US, Japan and India”.
“Which means although the election has created the chance for Australia to adjust its China policy, the space is quite limited, as both the ruling and opposition parties blame the souring bilateral ties on China,” it said.
“Nonetheless since they also appear to agree that the relations between the two countries should be restored and productive, there is still an opportunity to review the damage caused by the previous government’s blind support of the US’ China containment policy, which was the root cause of the souring of relations between Beijing and Canberra. Beijing has always kept the door for dialogue and co-operation with Canberra open.”
China Daily said Mr Albanese “should give serious thought to the choice between repeating his predecessor’s mistakes and acting as a mediator between the US and China”.
“The former means it will turn the country’s largest trade partner and major investor into a rival at the cost of the whole region, while the latter would raise Australia’s profile on the world stage, turning it from a US lackey to a responsible global stakeholder,” it wrote.
The comments echoed a similar editorial in the state-run Global Times last month, which said Mr Albanese’s election “provides a turning point for the China-Australia relationship which is currently at a low ebb”.
“It can be said that in recent years Canberra has provided the world with a negative example of how to deal with China,” it said.
“Even Australia’s neighbour, New Zealand, of which China is also its largest trading partner, has advised the Australian Government to show due respect to China.”
The Global Times said there was “no fundamental conflict of interests between China and Australia, nor are there any major historical feuds”.
“A sound economic and trade relationship with China is one of the most important foundations of Australia’s prosperity, and the Indo-Pacific region’s peace and stability is also where Australia’s lie,” it said.
“Canberra often acts in line with Washington’s playbook and assumes Washington’s role in how it thinks about its China policy, but in fact Australia’s national interests are quite different from those of the US.”
In his first act as Prime Minister last week, Mr Albanese jetted to Tokyo for the Quad leaders meeting with US President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
While there, Mr Albanese responded to a letter of congratulations sent by China’s Premier Li Keqiang, who praised the “right choices” made by the Labor Party towards China historically and declared he was “ready to work” with the new government.
“The Chinese side is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future and uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership,” Mr Li said, according to state news agency Xinhua.
Speaking from Tokyo, Mr Albanese said he welcomed “all congratulations from all over the world”.
“We will respond appropriately in time when I am back in Australia,” he said at the time.
In a joint statement, the four Quad leaders directly referenced China’s military expansion in the South China Sea and its claims over Taiwan.
“We strongly oppose any coercive, provocative, or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo and increase tensions in the area, such as the militarisation of disputed features,” the statement read.
The Quad meeting came as Chinese officials embarked on a high-level diplomatic tour of the Pacific Islands, with Beijing attempting to expand its foothold in the region following the signing of a controversial security deal with the Solomon Islands.
China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, held talks with 10 Pacific nations in Fiji on Monday to discuss radically increasing its involvement in the security, economy and politics of the South Pacific.