Following up on this discussion of the Australia-China relationship during a conversation with Kurt Campbell, there were two recent statements by Australian/Chinese government officials at press conferences that are worth noting on this issue. There is no sign of either side backing down from their tough position, meaning a chill in the China-Australia relationship will likely continue.
First, at Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's regular press conference on July 6, 2021, China News Service asked about U.S. exports to China taking market share from Australians:
Statistics show that Australian agricultural products' loss of market share in China provides an opportunity for US products to fill the gap. Over the past year, US exports of wine, beef, cotton, timber, coal and other products to China have all increased. In February this year, US export of wine in containers of two liters or less to China more than tripled compared with the same month last year. Commentators in Australia point out that Australia and the US are competitors in agricultural exports, the US will not protect Australia's economic interests, and the Australian government should not blindly follow the US, but adopt a more rational attitude in handling relations with China. What is your comment?
Zhao Lijian's response did not mention Australia by name, but was clearly directed at it, noting "[w]e will not allow any country to reap benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing China and undermining China's core interests based on ideology":
China is stepping up efforts to foster a new development paradigm with domestic circulation as the mainstay and domestic and international circulations reinforcing each other. China is committed to achieving higher-quality development in a more open environment, which will unleash huge opportunities and space for cooperation. In the next 15 years, China is expected to import more than $30 trillion worth of goods. Committed to international economic and trade cooperation, China stands ready to share development opportunities with other countries and jointly build an open world economy.
That being said, mutual respect is the foundation and safeguard of practical cooperation between countries. We will not allow any country to reap benefits from doing business with China while groundlessly accusing and smearing China and undermining China's core interests based on ideology. When a certain country acts as a cat's paw for others, it is the people that pay for misguided government policies. From what you mentioned in your question, we can see how such a practice has served the country concerned.
And in Australia, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, deputy leader of Australia’s ruling conservative Liberal Party, had the following exchange with a reporter regarding Kurt Campbell's comments on the Australia-China relationship, in which Frydenberg concluded by saying that while "China remains a very important economic partner for Australia," "we will not put economic interests first, we will put the broader national interest first":
Treasurer, Kurt Campbell from the Biden administration says Australia needs to settle in for a long period of tension with China, including ongoing economic coercion. What is your response to that statement?
We are definitely living with a different China than what we have seen in years prior. The China under Xi Jinping is very different to the China that Scott Morrison is dealing with - is very different to the China under Hu Jintao that John Howard dealt with. I remember well, I think it was in October 2003, when in the Australian Parliament just 150 metres from here, we had in successive days - Mark, you’ll remember it well - the President of the United States and the President of China. And, gone are those days.
There is a lot more strategic competition in the world and China has been a lot more assertive, in not just its diplomacy but also in its other positions. We have seen across a range of issues the consequences of that assertiveness. The Federal Government, the Coalition Government under Prime Minister Morrison, under his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull and before that Tony Abbott and John Howard, has consistently stood up for the national interest. Now, that has occurred in relation to telecommunications infrastructure, that’s occurred in relation to the Belt and Road Initiative, that’s occurred in relation to foreign interference. In my own space, that’s occurred in relation to foreign investment, where I have increasingly seen foreign investment applications that are being pursued not necessarily for commercial objectives but strategic objectives, and as you know I have said no to applications that in the past may have been approved. And we passed through the Parliament, the most significant legislative changes to our foreign investment review framework in the last 50 years.
All of that being said, China remains a very important economic partner for Australia. They have made no secrets of the fact that our exports are not making its way to China; barley, wine, coal. But what is making its way to China, because they need it most, is our iron ore. And the price of iron is at near record highs, and that is providing significant revenue into our economy both at a state and a federal level. But we will not put economic interests first, we will put the broader national interest first, and that means standing with a very clear and consistent sense of where our national interest is, and that is what we have done under Prime Minister Morrison.