SINGAPORE – Australia and China must find a common language, despite differences, because economic relations between them are important, said John Howard, the former Prime Minister of Australia.
“Economic relations between Australia and China are very important, and there are tensions in these relations, and they must be taken into account,” Howard said on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Singapore summit.
Relations between the two countries have been strained since last month, Beijing launched an investigation into part of Australia̵7;s wine imports following actions to import other goods.
“Of course, I do not think that Australia should in any case find itself in a situation of abandoning its relations with China; this is very important to us. Our commodity exports (such as iron ore, coal and similar goods are very important to the Australian economy.” , – said Howard, who was in office from 1996 to 2007.
China is one of Australia’s key trading partners, and the Asian economic power plant buys a significant portion of the marketable products produced below.
The recent spiral in China-Australia relations was sparked by Canberra’s call for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Howard did not mention the probe, but stressed the need for Australia to take a balanced approach to its relations with China – even as tensions between the United States – Canberra’s closest ally – and China boil.
“I don’t think we should allow ourselves to decide who to support between China and the United States. We can have good relations with both of these countries, albeit of different kinds, because we are different societies,” he said. .
“I see bilateral relations between Australia and China as something we must monitor and develop in accordance with our own special interests, always remembering, of course, that we are part of a group of Western countries that believe in some fundamental values,” he added. Howard.
Instead, Australia and China need to find some consensus, despite their different histories and political systems, he said.
“In these difficult times, especially against the backdrop of a pandemic, it is extremely important to take a balanced approach, to try to find areas of mutual agreement,” Howard said.
As for issues related to goods such as wine, Howard said, “Let the process work, let’s not over-dramatize some of the differences that arise.”
Chinese authoritarian regime “ fact of life ”
Howard said that although China has taken a more assertive stance internationally since President Xi Jinping took office, his domestic political system has not changed as much – it is simply more stringent now than in the past.
“China has been an authoritarian country run by the Chinese Communist Party since 1949, and it is a fact of life, and we must work within it,” he added.
“You can’t expect a country with a fundamentally different political system to agree to change that system, you have to live with it – without, of course, giving in to any grounds for things that are important to our own values,” he said. .
So instead of ruining economic ties between the two countries, Australia needs to work to preserve its fundamental values while maintaining the mutual benefits of economic relations with China.
“It’s more than just common sense, it’s a matter of long-term smart policy,” he said.