News National Australia won’t respond to China demands: PM
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Australia won’t respond to China demands: PM

China rebukes Morrison government

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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia will look to cooperate with China, but won’t respond to a list of demands from Beijing to rebuild the relationship between the countries.

Following last week’s breakthrough talks between Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, China has outlined four ways ties between the two nations could be restored.

After blaming the previous Coalition government for the breakdown in relations, Mr Wang said Australia would need to treat China as a partner rather than a rival, as well as reject “manipulation by a third party” – a veiled reference to the US.

Mr Albanese said Senator Wong’s talks were a “constructive step”. But, despite China’s demands, his government would stand up for Australia’s national interests.

“Australia doesn’t respond to demands, we respond to our own national interest,” he said in Canberra on Monday.

“I’m not in a position to listen to what the Chinese media says, I’ll listen to what Penny Wong says about the meeting.”

Other demands from China included that the two countries look for common ground, while also building public support.

Mr Wang said he hoped Australia could “seize the opportunity” and come to a “correct understanding of China”.

“The root cause of the difficulties in Chinese and Australian relations in recent years lies in the insistence of previous Australian governments to treat China as an ‘opponent’ and even a ‘threat’,” he said.

Mr Albanese’s comments on Monday came after he told the Seven Network he would meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping if he got the chance – but wouldn’t back down on Australian values.

“I think China seeks to use its economic power to exert political influence and to change behaviour and to change values, to change the way that Australia views the South China Sea, Hong Kong, the treatment of Uighurs,” he told Seven’s Spotlight on Sunday.

“We cannot compromise on our values. That’s not an attack on anyone else or any other nation. That’s about who we are.”

Mr Albanese and Mr Xi will have the chance to meet at the G20 summit in Bali in November.

Last weekend’s talks between Senator Wong and Mr Wang on the sidelines of a G20 meeting, also in Bali, were the first discussions between foreign ministers of the two countries in three years, following a diplomatic freeze.

Since then, China has imposed trade sanctions on many Australian goods such as barley, beef and wine.

Mr Albanese said the federal government had a consistent view on China, despite the change of government at the last election.

“[The meeting] was just a step forward, Australia has not changed our position on any issues. We’ll continue to be constructive,” he said.

“I want to build good relations with all countries, but we will stand up for Australia’s interests when we must.”

Pacific Minister Pat Conroy said the federal government was still seeking to push China on key items in the national interests following the resumption of diplomatic talks.

“There are significant issues that we need to resolve, such as the trade blockage, such as the detention of several Australian citizens – and we’re working hard on that,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

“But this is a process that will take a long time, and we’re committed to that dialogue, but our national interest has not changed.”

Nationals leader David Littleproud defended the previous government’s handling of the relationship with China. He said the talk from China and list of demands following the meeting with Senator Wong was “propaganda”.

“We’re happy to have dialogue, but it’s not giving demands, that’s not how you throw your weight around the international community,” he told Sky News.

“This should be about having open dialogue, respectful dialogue, respecting one another’s sovereignty … and that’s what we did as a government.”

– with AAP