Canberra [Australia] May 1, (ANI): China said that Australia's decision last week to cancel agreements between Beijing's flagship Belt and Road Initiative and the state of Victoria was among several "negative moves" that had hurt bilateral relations.
According to South China Morning Post, China's top diplomat who is in Canberra currently, blamed Australia for deteriorating ties between the nations, accusing it of economic coercion and "provocations" in a wide-ranging speech that painted Beijing as a victim.
Citing Australia's decision last week to cancel agreements between Beijing's flagship Belt and Road Initiative and the state of Victoria among a litany of "negative moves", ambassador Cheng Jingye said the country's perception of China as a "threat and challenge" had hurt relations. He called claims of Chinese economic coercion "ridiculous and irrelevant" as reported by South China Morning Post.
"If there is any coercion, it must be done by the Australian side," Cheng told business leaders in a video address earlier this week, according to a transcript. "What China has done is only aimed to uphold its legitimate rights and interests, prevent bilateral ties from further plunging, and move them back onto the right track," Cheng said.
Cheng made the remarks days after Australia's Home Affairs Secretary Michael Pezzullo ramped up tensions by telling staff that "in a world of perpetual tension and dread, the drums of war beat," reported South China morning post.
The battle of words shows there's no obvious ice-breaker to help mend relations that have been in free fall for a year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government called for independent investigators to enter Wuhan to probe the origins of the coronavirus.
Beijing has since inflicted a range of trade reprisals, including crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine, while blocking coal shipments.
China last week slammed Australia's decision to use new laws to cancel the belt and road agreements, which Morrison's government described as "inconsistent with Australia's foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations".
There has been increasing speculation Morrison may use the laws, passed in December, to scrap long-term leases held by Chinese companies at the ports in Darwin and Newcastle.
"In relation to the Port of Darwin, if there is any advice that I receive from the Department of Defence or intelligence agencies that suggest there are national security risks there, then you would expect the government to take action on that," Morrison said in a radio interview on Friday, as reported by South China Morning Post.
While the prime minister told reporters earlier this week he hadn't received any such advice, Morrison's comments could be seen by Beijing as a threat against China's interests in Australia.
"Some Australians no longer regard China as a cooperative partner," Cheng said in his speech on Thursday. "They have no interest in managing bilateral differences on the basis of mutual respect, nor are they interested in maintaining and enhancing political mutual trust."
Cheng specifically identified "increasing discriminatory restrictions imposed over investment from Chinese enterprises" as one of the catalysts of the deteriorating relationship.
In an apparent swipe against Morrison's bid to rally what he calls "like-minded democracies" in forums such as the Five Eyes and the Quad, Cheng said, "teaming up in a small group against China will not work". "Clinging to ideological bias as well as Cold War mentality and regarding China as a threat will lead nowhere," Cheng said. (ANI)