Australia will always stand up for freedom and democracy amid rising tensions with China, Scott Morrison has said.
The Prime Minister, who will discuss China with key allies at the G7 summit in the UK over the weekend, said Australia would never compromise its values into order to appease Beijing.
Australia-China relations have crumbled since the Morrison government called for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus last year, with Beijing blocking several key Aussie exports including coal, barley, beef, seafood and wine.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right during a factory visit on June 7) has refused to speak to Scott Morrison
Last year the Chinese embassy in Canberra leaked a list of grievances the government has with Australia, including banning Chinese company Huawei from its 5G network, passing new foreign interference laws and speaking out on human rights violations.
Beijing also demanded Australian MPs and media outlets stop criticising the communist government.
Chinese ministers have refused to talk to their Australian counterparts but Mr Morrison has said he will not concede ground on any of the 14 issues.
Mr Morrison has warned that the risk of conflict in the Pacific is growing. Pictured: Chinese troops in Mongolia
‘They go to our values, they go to our sovereignty. And, of course, Australia will maintain our very clear positions on those,’ he told Perth radio 6PR on Thursday.
‘You never trade away your values and who you are in your own sovereignty, integrity, ever.
‘Australia will always act in our national interest. We will always stand up for what we believe in, we will always be consistently clear about where we stand on these issues’.
Since president Xi Jinping came to power, and particularly in recent months, China has pushed an increasingly assertive foreign policy under which it has reinforced territorial claims in the South China Sea, killed Indian troops in the Himalayas and frequently flown fighter jets over Taiwan.
Three Chinese Navy ships made a four-day visit to Sydney in June 2019 with Scott Morrison saying it was reciprocal after Australian naval vessels visited China. Since then relations have soured
‘There’s a very changed situation,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘And I think Australians would very much expect our government, my government, to be true to who we are. It’s a very straightforward proposition, very straightforward and very clear.’
The Prime Minister said he would be happy to speak to President Xi as soon as he agrees to answer his calls.
‘At the same time, we’re very willing to work, and trade and engage with China in our own region and more broadly around the world.
‘So there’s no obstacle at Australia’s end, to engage in that dialogue,’ he said.
China’s grievances with Australia
1. ‘Incessant wanton interference in China’s Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs’
2. ‘Siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading misinformation’
3. ‘Thinly veiled allegations against China on cyber attacks without any evidence’
4. ‘An unfriendly or antagonistic report on China by media’
5. Providing funding to ‘anti-China think tank for spreading untrue reports’
6. ‘Foreign interference legislation’
7. ‘Foreign investment decisions’
8. ‘Banning Huawei technologies and ZTE from the 5G network’
9. ‘Politicisation and stigmatisation of the normal exchanges and coorperation between China and Australia’
10. Making statements ‘on the South China Sea to the United Nations’
11. ‘Outrageous condemnation of the governing party of China by MPs and racist attacks against Chinese or Asian people’
12. ‘The early dawn search and reckless seizure of Chinese journalists’ homes and properties’
13. Calls for an independent inquiry into Covid-19
14. ‘Legislation to scrutinise agreements with a foreign government’
In a speech on Thursday, Mr Morrison said the risk of war with China in the Indo-Pacific region is growing and the world is facing uncertainty not seen since the 1930s as he rallied Australia’s allies to take action against the threat posed by Beijing.
In a major foreign policy speech in Perth ahead of his trip to the UK on Friday, Mr Morrison outlined how Australia can work with international partners to counter communist China and make the world safe for liberal democracies to flourish in.
Mr Morrison warned that China’s growing might and strategic competition with the US, combined with the economic damage and instability caused by the pandemic, means the Indo-Pacific region is facing the real prospect of war.
‘The risks of miscalculation and conflict are growing,’ he said in his speech.
‘The simple reality is that Australia’s strategic environment has changed significantly over recent years.
‘Accelerating trends are working against our interests. And the technological edge enjoyed historically by Australia and our allies is under challenge.’
The risks of miscalculation and conflict are growing
Australian PM Scott Morrison
Mr Morrison warned the battle for dominance between the US and China – which is expected to become the world’s largest economy in 2032 – ‘threatens global and regional stability, upon which our security, prosperity and way of life depends.’
The biggest threats Australia faces include ‘rapid military modernisation, tension over territorial claims, heighted economic coercion, enhanced disinformation, foreign interference and cyber threats, enabled by new and emerging technologies’, he said.
Last year the Prime Minister warned that a foreign state actor had launched a series of cyber attacks on Australian institutions such as banks, hospitals and government agencies. He did not name China but sources said Beijing was behind the ongoing threat.
In the face of a growing threat, Mr Morrison will remind allies that his government is spending $270billion to beef-up its defence forces over the next ten years with new 370km-range missiles, state-of-the-art drones, artillery systems and an 800 extra troops.
Pictured: Chinese sailors holding guns and wearing helmets during a visit to Sydney in June 2019