China’s Ambassador Xiao Qian welcomes “new tones and future directions” in Australia-China relations

IMPORTANT POINTS
  • China’s Ambassador Xiao Qian says Australia should be wary of a military threat from Japan.
  • The remarks were made during a New Year’s press event at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.
  • Earlier, Mr Xiao said he hopes 2023 will herald a strengthening of Australia-China ties.
China’s ambassador to Australia has cited World War II in his criticism of Japan, saying the country’s actions in the conflict mean it could launch another military attack against Australia.
Xiao Qian made the statement during an address at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra on Tuesday.
“If we forget history, history could repeat itself,” he said, adding that he hoped Australia “would be careful about what might happen in the future”.

It comes as Mr Xiao criticized the AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), signaling a further thaw in trade relations.

Mr Xiao said Japan’s behavior during World War II, including treating Australians as prisoners of war, was “unacceptable” – and the response afterwards meant there could be a risk of a future attack on Australia.
“The Japanese government hasn’t apologized for that to this day… They don’t apologize, meaning they don’t accept this injustice, and then they could repeat history.
“… If someone threatened you once, they might threaten you again.
“I hope that our Australian government and people are clear headed about what happened and cautious about what might happen in the future.”
Japan’s Ambassador to Australia Shingo Yamagami said he was surprised by the strength of the criticism.
“Honestly, I’m a little stunned and stumped,” he later told ABC.
“I have no intention of responding to any particular comment made by the Chinese colleague because I don’t think this is the right time to blame each other. If he has something to say, he can always come to me when my door is open.” .”
He said the reference to World War II was a distraction from China’s actions.
“We all know the development of peace-loving, rule-abiding Japan after the war. So what this is about is not what happened more than 80 years ago,” he said.

“This is about how to deal with the coercion and intimidation that is pervasive in the region. And here Australia and Japan are completely in sync. We work together to uphold the rules-based order both regionally and globally.”

AUKUS criticized

Mr Xiao also criticized the AUKUS security pact between Australia, Britain and the US, calling it a waste of money and not in Australia’s interests.
“I don’t think it’s constructive. I don’t think it’s helpful, especially when you target China as a potential threat and adversary; because, first and foremost, China is not trying to be an enemy of the United States – neither with the United Kingdom nor with Australia,” he said.

“So there’s no reason for countries to stand together to work on something that China is targeting as a particular threat.”

The trilateral AUKUS agreement stipulates that Australia will acquire nuclear submarines by 2040.

Mr Xiao said Australia’s acquisition of the submarines would send the wrong signal on nuclear non-proliferation.

movement in trade

Earlier, Mr Xiao had signaled a further thaw in trade ties, saying he could not confirm reports that four Chinese companies had been granted approval to buy Australian coal, but welcomed moves in that direction.

“As a diplomat, as an ambassador, I cannot endorse the decisions or reasoning of companies. But I personally welcome that. As both governments strive to return relations to normal, we will continue to send positive messages to build more confidence for the people of both countries to return to normal retreat relationships.”

A woman in a suit and face mask shakes hands with a man in a suit and face mask

Foreign Minister Penny Wong met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing in December. Source: AP / Zhang Ling

Australian companies are excited that one of the first areas of cooperation is for China to lift trade restrictions imposed on $20 billion worth of Australian goods from 2019, including wine, barley, lobster, beef, coal, cotton and wood.

Mr. Xiao also signaled that a solution could be forthcoming .

“I hope there is a solution as soon as possible, but we have to respect the legal process,” he said.

“Climbing Above Differences”

Before answering journalists’ questions, Mr. Xiao expressed his optimism and hope that 2023 will bring a stronger bilateral relationship between the two countries.
He toasted and said this year’s Lunar New Year, the Year of the Rabbit, brings good luck and hope that Australia and China could “work together for mutual benefit”.
“The Year of the Rabbit is considered the year when he jumps over obstacles and finds happiness,” he said.
“In the new year, I wish both China and Australia prosper, and I hope Australia and China will continue to rise above the differences.”
Diplomatic channels between senior officials have reopened for the first time in two years after a series of high-level meetings in recent months, including
The Chinese Ambassador to Australia holds a wine glass while toasting.

China’s Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian says the Year of the Rabbit with the Lunar New Year in 12 days brings “good luck” and he hopes it will lead to a strengthening of China-Australia bilateral ties. Source: AAP / Dean Lewins

Mr Xiao said the positive new “tone and future directions” of the bilateral ties were set out in the joint outcome statement that emerged from the December 2022 meeting between Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her counterpart Wang Yi.

It was the first visit by an Australian federal minister to China since 2019.
“It’s a paper setting out the roadmap for both sides to implement the consensus, with President Xi and Anthony Albanese [spoke about] during their bilateral meeting [in Bali in November]’ Mr. Xiao said.
“And in particular, we will resume bilateral dialogues, mechanisms and consultations, covering a wide range of areas: bilateral relations, trade, economy, investment, climate change, regional issues, global issues.”

The ambassador said other “new frontiers” in bilateral cooperation are green energy and electric cars.

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