Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said on Wednesday that the actions of the Chinese regime do not match the words of its leader, Xi Jinping, who told the World Economic Forum that large nations should not bully small ones.
“Well we agree with that sentiment, that big nations should not bully small ones but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the words and the actions,” Frydenberg said.
He pointed out that Australia had been on the receiving end of the “pretty harsh actions” by the Chinese regime when it comes to trade but reiterated Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s stance that Australia won’t compromise on its national interest or its values to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Frydenberg also categorically declared that the 14 grievances—which he described as demands—released by the Chinese embassy in Canberra in November 2020 were non-negotiable issues Australia wouldn’t be drawn on.
These issues include the rights of politicians to “speak as they see fit” about the CCP.
In its list, the regime had also sought to curb the freedom of Australia’s press and wanted the government to rescind its call for an inquiry in the origins of COVID-19, along with its ban on Huawei from Australia’s 5G network. It also mentioned Australia’s foreign investment policies and new foreign interference laws as a grievance.
Frydenberg asserted that Australia makes its decisions on foreign investment in line with its national interest, “and of course on human rights, we continue to speak out when there are injustices as we’ve done in the past, as we’ll do in the future,” he said.
But New Zealand’s trade minister thinks Australia should follow his country in speaking with a “little more diplomacy” to the Chinese regime.
Appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia program on Wednesday, New Zealand Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said his country had a “mature relationship” with the Chinese regime and has always been able to raise concerns.
“I can’t speak for Australia and the way it runs its diplomatic relationships, but clearly if they were to follow us and show respect, I guess a little more diplomacy from time to time and be cautious with wording, then they too could hopefully be in a similar situation,” he said.
This comes after New Zealand was notably absent earlier this month from a joint Five Eyes statement condemning the CCP over the mass arrests of 55 politicians and activists in Hong Kong.
Instead, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta wrote on Twitter on Jan. 7: “Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply concerned by the recent arrest of a number of pro-democracy advocates in #HongKong. This represents another effort to erode the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and further undermine the one country two systems framework.”
Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply concerned by the recent arrest of a number of pro-democracy advocates in #HongKong. This represents another effort to erode the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and further undermine the one country two systems framework.
— Nanaia Mahuta (@NanaiaMahuta) January 7, 2021
Two weeks later, New Zealand signed a preliminary deal to upgrade its existing Free Trade Agreement with China.
Australia’s and China’s diplomatic relations are currently at an all-time low after Foreign Minister Marise Payne successfully called for an independent investigation into the origins of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Since then representatives of the CCP have issued public threats in the Australian media, leaked confidential transcripts between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and made derogatory statements on social media about the Australian military.
Beijing has also implemented trade bans and tariffs on eight of Australia’s major exports to China, including cotton, coal, lamb, beef, barley, wheat, wine, and timber.
Frydenberg is the second politician in the past week to reiterate Australia’s tough stance on China, which has at times gained international support from like-minded nations including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Canada.