The prime minister met with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan for nearly an hour—twice as long as planned—in Jakarta on Sunday, ahead of attending the Indonesian president’s inauguration.
He characterised it as constructive and positive, covering the full gamut of the relationship.
“It was a chat that we had very much in the spirit of the partnership that we have, and very much inoculated from all of the assessments that are made about the relationship,” he told reporters afterwards.
“I came out of the discussion pleased that there is, I think, a very clear understanding of where Australia is coming from, our commitment to the relationship and I think that’s understood and appreciated by China as well.”
Wang said China’s leader Xi Jinping had authorized the meeting, noting that the Australians had requested the talks.
“I think the joint message that we send to the media and the public is that parties attach high importance to this relationship,” he said.
In a recent speech in Chicago, Morrison called for China to be treated as a developed economy on the world stage.
China’s ambassador to Australia said his country had not yet reached that stage, while a visiting Chinese academic warned Australia would be the Chinese Communist Party’s first “sacrifice” if the expansionist communist state and the United States went to war.
And just over a week ago, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton linked China to cyber-attacks and hacking, and said its Communist Party’s values were inconsistent with Australia’s.
“We have a very important trading relationship with China, incredibly important, but we’re not going to allow university students to be unduly influenced, we’re not going to allow theft of intellectual property and we’re not going to allow our government bodies or non-government bodies to be hacked into,” Dutton said.
Morrison said on Sunday there had been too much “over analysis” of Australia’s relationship with China.
“I simply made the point, which was well-received, that Australia is an independent, sovereign nation,” he said.
“Yes, we are very much proud of our Western liberal democratic tradition, our open economy and our engagement with the rest of the world and that gives us a set of eyes that look into the world, very much from our perspective.
“But what we also stressed today was, is that we will never feel corralled into any sort of binary assessment of these relationships … which says pro-United States or pro-China.”
By Katina Curtis. Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.