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China and Australia Try to Mend Relations After Years of Resentment

By: Jacob Yang

After four years of minimal communication, China and Australia are attempting to repair diplomatic relations with one another.

On May 21st, 2022, Australia’s government elected a new leader: one that was willing to ease the strain between the two countries. China’s envoy for Australia, Xiao Qian, stated that the new shift in government was an “opportunity of possible improvement of our bilateral relations.”

Back in 2014, China's leader, Xi Jinping, along with Australia’s president, Tony Abbott, introduced a free trade pact between themselves. It gave them the opportunity to improve relations via trade. China, on the other hand, wanted to seize Australia’s resources, mainly iron and coal. However, When China tried to exploit Australia’s resources, their alliance began to tear apart.

As Beijing’s military control increased throughout Australia, Australia’s government decided to omit any of China’s communication lines from its 5g networks. In response, China imposed tariffs on incoming goods from Australia. As tensions grew, their alliance, as well as their free trade pact, dissolved.

In an attempt to mend the tensions, China and Australia’s defense ministers stated at a security forum this year that there would be lighter military control through Australia. In addition, Mr. Xiao has made it clear for better relations through newspapers, speeches, and private meetings between the two countries. He is sure that this is a stepping stone for improved relations, as well as a new trade pact.

One major leap for both countries would be if China released detained Australians. Yang Hengjun, an Australian author, was detained in Chinese territory for espionage. Cheng Lei, a journalist, was kept from leaving China because she was supposedly “supplying state secrets overseas.”

Mr. Xiao, on Friday, denied 14 points that were shared with the Australian government on how to improve relations, including the suggested telecommunication line and freeing detained Australians. In an interview, he stated, “I don’t have a list; I have never seen a list of 14 points.” Former Australian prime minister, Mr. Scott Morrison, stated that Australia was being pressured by China to improve relations, which Mr. Xiao said was not true.

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