Foreign Affairs

Even if my party wins, relations with China will remain unchanged: Anthony Albanese

Anthony AlbanesePhoto Credit: Business Standard

The Australian opposition leader spoke at the National Press Club in what is seen as an unofficial start to campaigning ahead of the May elections.

Even if his center-left Labor Party wins power for the first time in over a decade, Australia’s opposition leader indicated Tuesday that the country’s relationship with China will remain problematic.

Anthony Albanese spoke at the National Press Club in what is seen as an unofficial campaign kickoff ahead of the May elections. Next week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will address the club. Albanese claimed that Australia’s attitude toward a more assertive China will not cause a schism between the parties during the election campaign. “It will be a rocky relationship whoever is in power,” Albanese said. “It will be difficult because China’s posture has shifted. The country that has transformed is China, not Australia. I don’t… blame the government for the current situation, and I never have,” Albanese remarked.

Since 2013, when Albanese was the deputy prime minister of a Labor administration that was thrown out of office, Morrison has been the third prime minister of the conservative coalition. During a visit to Canberra in 2014, the first conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping, marking a high point in bilateral relations. Relations deteriorated after Abbott’s successor, Malcolm Turnbull, unveiled new treason and espionage laws in 2017, which made a covert foreign influence in politics illegal. Chinese officials have refused to speak to their Australian counterparts throughout Morrison’s tenure, which began in 2018, and major Australian exports such as coal, wine, and barley have been hampered. Exporters have largely backed the government’s willingness to irritate China with policies like seeking an independent probe into the Covid-19 pandemic’s origins.

“This government’s decision to cut help in the Pacific in this manner was quite short-sighted,” Albanese added. “What happens if Australia and other democratic countries withdraw?” Others may be interested in filling that void,” he noted.

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By TIS Staffer
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