Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 16:10 | SYDNEY
Saturday 16 Oct 2021 | 16:10 | SYDNEY

Australia-China: December challenge


Malcolm Cook

20 August 2009 13:31

Australia-China political relations at the moment are not a 'win-win situation' underpinned by China’s 'charm offensive' and 'skillful' diplomacy. Not much charm or statesman-like skill is observable in China’s diplomatic response to Australia’s reaction to the arrest of Stern Hu or Beijing's attempts to determine what films are shown in Melbourne and who speaks at the National Press Club.

The Chinese response to the recent upsurge of violence in Xinjiang is very similar in tone and approach to its response to the riots in Tibet in the run-up to the Olympics. Acknowledge no fault, blame outsiders (see this article from China Daily), focus vitriol on a particular 'terrorist' leader, and attempt, through the opposite of charm, to get other countries to accept Beijing's unproven version of events.

In the case of Tibet, the vitriol was targeted at the Dalai Lama, who was oddly compared to Osama bin Laden. In the case of Xinjiang, it is Rebiya Kadeer and Australia feeling the heat (also Japan; China just knocked back a Japanese navy port visit request to Hong Kong, suggesting the PRC-HKSAR relationship is increasingly a 'one-country-one system' model).

From 1-10 December, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Australia and New Zealand, where he is booked to speak at the 'Parliament of World Religions' in Melbourne, among other events. It will be very interesting to watch Beijing's reaction to this visit and whether Australia's political leaders (or academic leaders from universities with or wanting Confucius Institutes) will meet with the Dalai Lama or not.

If I remember, the last time the Dalai Lama visited Australia, Prime Minister Rudd was on his first bilateral visit to Japan; I can’t recall if the Liberal leader at the time organised a meeting or not. The time before that, both Prime Minister Howard and then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd met with the Dalia Lama in the face strong public pressure from Beijing.

Photo by Flickr user Rusty Stewart, used under a Creative Commons license.