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Canberra needs rational views of Beijing: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2020-08-13 21:18
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Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during the launch of the 2020 DefenceStrategic Update, in the wake of cyber attacks targeting Australia, at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Australia, July 1, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Australia's concerns about China seem to stem from the misconceptions it has about the country and its now ingrained habit of standing behind its ally the United States. Thus with the White House adopting an increasingly confrontational stance toward China, China-Australia ties have also gone from bad to worse.

Yet despite this, there seems to be a measurable change in the Australian discourse on China of late, with the prime minister and foreign minister delivering speeches rejecting the US administration's call for countries to decouple from China.

In a speech delivered via video link at the Aspen Security Forum in the US last week, although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed the importance of aligning with US strategy, he said that Australia welcomed China's rise and wished to maintain sound economic ties with it.

Less than a week before Morrison's speech, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also chose the US as the venue to send a message that Canberra values both its alliance with the US and its economic ties with China.

Morrison's recent remarks that there's no evidence that TikTok has abused users' data after the US administration declared war on the Chinese short video app was also perceived as a departure from Canberra's penchant for following Washington's lead.

These positive messages, which show a softened stance and a more rational perception of China and bilateral cooperation, if acted upon, could herald an improvement in relations.

It is noteworthy that Australia's trade with China continued to grow this year, despite the recent souring of bilateral relations. An important fact that Canberra needs to take into account each time its hard-line politicians and biased media choose to unfairly criticize China.

Data from Australian Bureau of Statistics show Australia's exports to China hit a record A$14.6 billion ($10.4 billion) in June, and in the 12 months ending in June, Australia registered a record trade surplus thanks to a surge in exports to China, which comprised almost half of its goods exports.

These figures underscore the significance of Australia's trade with China, and how much it has done to help bolster Australia's economy during the pandemic.

Canberra clearly needs to nourish more rational views of China as sound relations cater to the interests of both countries.

Although it is still early to say such rational views will eventually become the mainstream in Australian society, the recent messages expressing greater goodwill toward China are certainly a positive development, not least because they show the public opinion space in Australia has not ceded entirely to those voices hostile toward China.

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