Australia sending big delegation
Canberra ‘must choose between economic interests, toeing US line’
Australian Prime MinisterMalcolm Turnbull, who is leading a 1,000-company delegation to China to tap the country’s biggest export market, should be careful and considerate about Canberra’s stance on the South China Sea, observers said.
Beijing announced Tuesday that Turnbull visit China on Thursday and Friday and attend the annual China-Australia prime ministers’ meeting.
He is leading Australia’s largestever trade mission to China. Representatives of the 1,000 companies will attend Australia Week in China events beginning on Monday in 12 cities.
According to the Australian Associated Press, Turnbull will be warmly welcomed with talks and banquets with both PresidentXi JinpingandPremier LiKeqiang. It is his first visit to China since taking office in September.
The visit comes right after Turnbull calledChina’s military deployments in the South China Sea “counterproductive”.
Beijing has said the United States is militarizing the region with frequent patrols and that China has every right to construction in its own territory.
Earlier this month, Australia for the first time joined a US-Philippines joint drill in the SouthChina Sea, an exercise seen as on will apparently targeting China.
Turnbull did not say whether the South China Sea issue would be raised in Beijing, when he was asked about it in Perth onWednesday.
Han Feng, deputy head of the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the 1,000-company delegation reflects the high expectations Australia pins on economic cooperation with China.
Han said that although Australia is under pressure from the US on the South China Sea issue, he was sure that Australia knows its economic interests with China should come first.
“It will be a test of Australian leaders’ political wisdom,” Han added.
Zhang Yuyan, head of the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the CASS, said Australia’s tendency to interveneontheSouthChina Sea issue will “more or less” impact its economic cooperation with China, as “it is about China’s core interests”.
“It will cast a shadow on the promising cooperation if such a tendency keeps developing,” Zhang said. “Canberra has to view the situation comprehensively.”
The visit comes four months after the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement took effect.
Under the agreement, more than 86 percent of Australian exports can enterChina duty-free, rising to 94 percent in 2019 and 96 percent in 2029.