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China-Australia Relations UPDATE

Last updated on 23 May 2020

Leading British Tories have joined the European Union in backing Scott Morrison’s call for an independent international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan,China. So far prime minister Boris Johnson has not joined the chorus.

The BBC devoted much of its flagship Newsnight current affairs program to China’s flagging international relations, its bullying tactics against Australia, and changing Chinese policies since the leadership of chairman Xi Jinping.

Those supporting Morrison included Lord Patten, a former Conservative party chairman and one-time European commissioner, George Osborne, former chancellor of the exchequer and now editor of the Evening Standard, academics and former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd. 

Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, was the most critical of the Chinese regime, accusing it of bullying Australia and lying during the early days of Covid-19. Rudd noted that the West was enthusiastic about relations with China prior to the ascent of Xi, but Chinese policy since then had induced increasing unease. 

European Commission president Ursula von der Layer

The European Union, unhappy about United States president Donald Trump’s antagonism with China, nonetheless strongly supports the need for a full independent inquiry. Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, said she would like to see China work together with her organization, and other s, to get to the bottom of exactly how it emerged. She told broadcaster CNBC:

“I think this is for all of us important, I mean for the whole world it is important. You never know when the next virus is starting, so we all want for the next time, we have learned our lesson and we’ve established a system of early warning that really functions and the whole world has to contribute to that”.

Australia will continue to press its case, despite some misgivings from some academics, notably Nick Bisley. professor of international relations at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, China will not lightly ease up its bullying of Australia. The Chinese economy contracted 6.8 percent during the first quarter, and it won’t rebound quickly. Mr Xi needs a distraction.

Listen to BBC full interview with Tom Tugendhat.

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Kevin Rudd on the Australia-China relationship

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