Sino-Australian ties will not return in real time any time soon after Beijing’s decision to suspend high-level economic talks with Canberra indefinitely, according to a political expert.
James Lawrence, director of the Australian-Chinese Liaison Institute at Sydney Technical University, described the strained relationship between Canberra and Beijing as “complicated.”
“I see no prospects on the horizon for these relations to return to the rails,”
The National Development and Reform Commission, China’s Economic Planning Agency, said Thursday that “it will suspend all activities in the framework of the Sino-Australian Strategic Economic Dialogue indefinitely.”
The move comes after some Australian officials launched unspecified “Cold War thinking” measures to disrupt cooperation with China, the NDRC said in a statement.
The national flags of Australia and China are displayed before a portrait of Mao Zedong facing Tiananmen Square.
Frederick J. Brown | AFP via Getty Images
China’s decision to suspend all activities within it is more than just a symbolic move, Lawrence said.
“I think the claim that it’s just symbolism and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Symbolism matters in international relations – especially when it’s on the negative side,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Friday.
He called Beijing’s latest move revenge “blue for Dad” to show his displeasure after Australia canceled two belt and road deals last month.
“We know that tit-tat is being baked in China’s foreign policy moves, so after Canberra broke that agreement a few weeks ago, there was always a prospect,” he said.
Australian Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan on Thursday expressed his disappointment with the suspension of negotiations.
“The Strategic Economic Dialogue, last held in 2017, is an important forum for Australia and China to work on issues related to our economic partnership,” he said in a statement. “We remain open to dialogue and engagement at ministerial level.”
Relations between the two countries are strained, as in 2018 Australia blocked the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from its 5G network.
It worsened last year when Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 outbreak, triggering trade sanctions from Beijing on Australian wine, coal and barley in retaliation.
“Right now, what we’re seeing is a doubling of hardening positions in Beijing (s) in Canberra,” Lawrence told CNBC.
“There is currently no internal political pressure in Australia for the Morrison government to change its course of action. In fact, public support in Australia has gathered around him.”