The Government has announced a $44 million foundation in order to “turbo charge” Australia’s relationship with China – our biggest trading partner.
The plan also involves the appointment of a fluent Mandarin speaking diplomat to serve as Australia’s ambassador to China.
The pledge comes in the midst of growing tensions between Australia and China over the last year or so, with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s laws banning foreign political donations being interpreted by many as being indicative of anti-Chinese sentiment in Australia.
Increase military tensions in the South China Sea have also stressed the relationship between Australia and China. This has put Australia in the awkward position of being militarily and culturally aligned with the United States while its biggest trading partner, China, behaves more aggressively towards its neighbours.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said that the National Foundation for Australia-China relations would work to “turbo charge our national effort in engaging China”.
Graham Fletcher is now the newly appointed ambassador to China and is a specialist on the country having served previously there as an Australian diplomat. His fluency in Mandarin will be a clear advantage for Mr Fletcher.
The Labor Party, while agreeing with the suitability of Mr Fletcher, expressed dismay at not being informed about the decision.
A spokesperson for Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said that “give proximity to the election it would have been appropriate for the Government to consult the Opposition,”
With a substantial increase to funding, the foundation will have much more resources to work with in terms of promoting cooperation between China and Australia.