China-Australia Relations 2019: Penny Wong Calls For In-Depth Discussion

Traders buy bales of Australian wool at an auction in Yennora
(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Barrett)

Penny Wong, Australia's shadow foreign minister for the Labor party, said China will continue to be of great importance to Australia to the same extent that it was being given significance by the rest of the world. While AU has had well-established relations with China, the country should think about how to make this relationship work for Australians. 

Wong gave the responsibility of explaining and defining AU's relationship with China to the diplomats. She said that while diplomats spread words about AU to other countries, they need to do the same about China inside their country. 

Of those who particularly need strong knowledge about China are Australia's MPs, Wong said in a speech she gave at an assembly in Canberra. This is to assure that correct information about the Asian country is being designated, avoiding wrong impressions and "xenophobia" against one of AU's most important partners. 

Wong said briefings should be well-informed and in-depth so as to focus on being ore objective. Such briefings could be designed after materials being used by AU's business communities when they discuss relations with China. 

Wong said the AU government should act fast on this because of the geopolitical situations between the United States and China could be pressing for AU. She warned that unless officials are better informed about the significance of Chinese relations, AU could end up as the "collateral damage" amid the escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies. 

After Wong's speech, the Labor party has reportedly set-up an exclusive committee that will examine China-AU bilateral relationships. An eight-person caucus was designated to work on the matter. He caucus is to be led by Senator Jenny McAllister according to reports. While this was a significant step, reactions within the Labor party remained mixed. 

Relations between China and the AU, business-wise, has always been neutral. Politically, however, the two nations are far from being friendly. 

In August, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said while there had been attempts to renew China-Australia relations, the process of improving the ties has not been satisfactory. Nevertheless, China hoped to get the friendship back on track as soon as possible. 

Yi met with his Australian counterpart Marise Payne at the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's summit in Bangkok in August. For her part, Payne said the meeting was productive and neither of them wanted for disagreements on various political matters to define the relationship. Payne said there would always be differences at some points in any relationships, but parties should always work to iron out those differences. 

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