China summons Australian ambassador for pre-Christmas complaint

Ambassador Jan Adams
Australian ambassador to China - Jan Adams - Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, via Wikimedia commons

As the diplomatic tensions between Australia and China intensify, the Chinese have reportedly called on the Australian ambassador so they can file a complaint with him. This development follows the ongoing saga of accusations of Chinese political involvement in Australia.

After the Turnbull government’s introduction of new laws to combat foreign political interference, the Australian ambassador to China Jan Adams was called in by Chinese officials. Ms Adams was a former trade official and has served as the Australian figurehead in Beijing since last year.

Chen Jingye, China’s ambassador to Australia, made complaints earlier in 2017 that Australian news media was creating “China panic” and were jeopardising diplomatic relations. Mr Jingye has apparently had ongoing meetings with Penny Williams; Australia’s acting minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This comes after Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull doubled down on his remarks regarding alleged Chinese influence last Saturday. Mr Turnbull used wording that was regarded by some as similar to the rhetoric of historic Chinese leader Mao Zedong, declaring the Australia would “stand up” against foreign interference in domestic politics.

This was followed with several Chinese communist tabloids that reported the claims of Chinese interference in foreign affairs were “disgraceful” as well as “logically absurd”.

The ongoing row between Australia and China has developed close to the 45th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Australia diplomats are set to attend the anniversary this week at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

The relations at this anniversary event are expected to be quite tense as recently Chinese newspapers accused Malcom Turnbull of being a “China-basher,” who has brought a “dark shadow” over the relationship between China and Australia.

Experts believe that China may respond to the recent accusations of foreign meddling with more than just harsh words. As China is Australia’s biggest trade partner, a potential reduction in business could be poorer economic outcomes for Australia. China depends on Australia for much of its iron ore supply, but could switch that supply to be sourced from Brazil instead.

The growing separation between Australia and China is part of a broader worldwide scandal regarding China’s alleged interference in domestic politics in other countries. Critics of China have accused it of setting up Communist controlled institutes in overseas universities, abducting book-sellers and threating family members of exiled anti-communist advocates.

One major accusation is that China spends money influencing foreign politicians to spread pro-China views. This is the accusation behind the recent resignation of Labor senator Sam Dastyari.