Amid tensions between Beijing and Canberra, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said that in recent times China has presented challenges in the relationship. Speaking at the Third Indo-Pacific Oration organised by Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on Thursday, 9 September, Payne said that some of China’s actions have threatened Australia’s national interest. She said that there are a “number of actions that were enumerated publically by diplomats in Canberra, that were provided to the media by the Chinese embassy in Canberra”.

“Countries which respect open media would not agree to restrict that. Countries that respect the independence of institutions like think tanks and universities would not agree to restrict those. Countries that protect their own security in cyberspace and other areas would not agree to do that. And when we say our national interests were not advanced by those actions we will always say so,” Payne added.

When asked about the Quad partnership, Payne went on to say that the group – comprising of US, Japan, Australia and India – present four “great democracies” that have shared interest in the region. Payne said that Quad is particularly present in the region that is open, independent, secure and stable. She went on to say that the group comes together with shared support for those global rules and norms that have given the “exact prosperity and the capacity to be the nation we are today”.

China-Australia relations

It is worth mentioning that Payne’s remarks come amid rising tensions between the two nations. The relations between China and Australia have been in a downward spiral since April last year when Canberra infuriated Beijing by proposing an independent international inquiry into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia has also been locked in an ongoing trade war with China for several months, which has seen China slap sanctions on various Australian products. In recent developments, China even decided to suspend all its activities under the Strategic Economic Dialogue with Australia.

During Thursday’s meeting, while talking about Australia’s bilateral relations with China, Payne termed its relation to being long-standing and of great importance. However, she also stated, “We have seen the rise of China. It has lifted millions of people out of poverty but with that growth comes responsibility”. She added, “What we’ve seen in recent times is that this has presented challenges in the relationship”.

(With inputs from ANI)