Source: Supplement One Knife
Writing/pigeon chattering & nagging sister
Morrison is out of class.
After nearly 9 years, Australia has changed its sky.
In today’s Australian federal election, Labor won more than 76 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives to become the ruling party, with party leader Albanese automatically becoming Prime Minister of Australia.
This result is not surprising, “Australians have suffered Morrison for a long time”.
Albanese has previously stated that if elected, he will attend the “quadrilateral talks” between the United States, Australia, Japan and India in Tokyo in three days’ time and support the Anglo-American-Australian Alliance (AUKUS) mechanism.
As we all know, Australia’s relations with China have generally been in a difficult situation in recent years. Of course, the responsibility lies with Australia, and some Australian politicians led by Morrison and Dutton have frequently taken wrong words and deeds on China-related issues.
Now that the Labor Party has come to power, is it possible that China-Australia relations will usher in a turning point? Or will Canberra follow Washington’s baton closely and remain tough on China?
Who is Albanese?
Although Albanese, 59, has been a member of parliament for more than two decades, he is not well known at home and is almost unknown internationally.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has asked voters what they think of Albanese in this election, and the most common answers are “a good person”, “a little ordinary”, “not well known” and “inexperienced”…
This may have something to do with his “bitter child” origin.
As a child, Albanese grew up with a single mother on disability pensions in public housing provided to workers in Sydney. It wasn’t until 2009, when he was in his 40s, that he first saw his father.
Such grassroots experiences have led him to display a political style that is more populist and less assertive than strong.
In 2007, Albanese served as Australia’s first Federal Minister of Infrastructure for 3 years. In 2013, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister in Kevin Rudd’s second government. However, he held the post for only 83 days, as Labour lost to a coalition of Liberals and the National Party in the next general election.
By 2019, after Labour’s crushing defeat in the general election, Albanese took over as Labour leader with no rival.
In addition to Albanese, there is another person who is likely to influence the future of China-Australia relations: Labour’s shadow foreign minister, Wong Ying-yin.
After Labour’s victory, she is likely to become Australia’s foreign minister.
As Australia’s first senator to come out, people are more concerned about her Chinese heritage. Wong was born in Malaysia to a Malaysian Chinese father and an Australian mother. At the age of 8, she returned to Australia with her divorced mother.
In 1988, Wong Yingxian joined the Labour Party. In 2007, she became Australia’s first Chinese-American minister as Minister for Climate Change and Water Conservation.
Judging from previous public statements, Wong seems to have taken a tougher stance on China than in previous Labour governments.
For example, she has repeatedly attacked the Morrison government, arguing that the Solomon Islands’ security agreement with China “is Australia’s worst diplomatic mistake since World War II.” In an April 22 speech, for example, she said, “Our region is being reshaped, in large part because China has become more assertive and aggressive.” ”
How China-Australia relations may be discussed in the future. Even more pressing before Australia’s new government are a range of domestic issues.
Zhou Fangyin, dean of the School of International Relations at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, told Supplement One Dao that the reason why Morrison’s Liberal ruling coalition lost the election was because of its poor governance performance, including the economy, epidemic response, fires and climate change, and ordinary Australians were not very satisfied.
Some time ago, Australia rushed to the front line of anti-China and adopted a radical China policy, but it is actually not clear what it can gain from such anti-China. Australia thinks it can improve its international status and make breakthroughs in nuclear weapons, but it hurts its relationship with its largest trading partner, ignores Australia’s domestic problems, does not solve economic problems such as rising prices that ordinary people are most concerned about, and does not listen to the voice of the people.
Chen Hong, director of the Australian Research Center of East China Normal University, also believes that the people have long been resentful of the Morrison government, and after more than two years of the impact of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the Australian economy has begun to enter a slump, especially the service industry, tourism, education and other industries, which have suffered serious setbacks in the epidemic. On the one hand, the impact of inflation is getting worse, on the other hand, prices are soaring, housing prices are high, and the wages of wage earners have not increased for a long time.
Today, Australian inflation is at its highest point in 20 years.
According to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian consumer price index (CPI) rose 5.1% year-on-year in the first quarter of this year. That figure looks a bit lower than in the US or some European countries, but Australians’ wages grew by less than half that over the same period.
In order to curb high inflation, the RBA recently announced that it will raise the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to 0.35%. This is the first rate hike by the RBA since 2010.
The last time interest rates were raised during the campaign was in 2007, when then-Prime Minister John Howard also lost the following election.
Yu Lei, chief researcher of the Pacific Islands Research Center at Liaocheng University, said that after the Labor Party comes to power, major adjustments may be made in domestic politics. The first is to adjust Australia’s focus to the economy, solve the employment problem, and curb the rapid rise in prices. This is something that Labour urgently needs to do once it comes to power.
Under such a premise, Labor may make some adjustments to its Asia-Pacific policy. For example, it may further strengthen economic and trade cooperation with Asian trading partners, especially China, South Korea, Japan, India and Southeast Asia.
Secondly, there is the issue of climate change.
Chen Hong said that in recent years, abnormal weather in Australia, bushfires and floods have alternately broken out, causing serious losses of people’s lives and property, and the people strongly demand that the government take effective climate change countermeasures, while taking practical actions to improve urban infrastructure.
Chen Hong believes that climate change is also an international issue.
Many South Pacific island countries are already low altitudes and face an existential crisis under the threat of rising sea levels, but Australia has shirked its responsibility, with little actual assistance and related measures, and some senior government officials have even ridiculed the island countries, causing strong dissatisfaction among the leaders of the island countries.
Most long-time scholars who have followed Australia-China relations agree that today’s Australia-China relations are the lowest point in the past decade.
Many people no longer remember that although there have been twists and turns in Australia-China relations around 5G licensing and other setbacks, for a long time after becoming Australia’s prime minister in 2018, Morrison used the term “partner” to describe Australia-China relations.
In September 2019, in front of then-US President Trump, Morrison did not express his dissatisfaction with China in Trump’s words, but bluntly said: “We are a comprehensive strategic partnership with China.” Australia and China have enjoyed working together… We have a good relationship. ”
This was Australia’s “friendly statement” to China at that time.
No one expected that in 2020, China-Australia relations would “collapse at an unimaginable speed.”
The fuse appeared in April of that year.
The then Interior Minister Dutton, the same defense secretary who is now addicted to hyping the “China threat”, acted as a sounding board for Washington without any evidence, publicly demanding an investigation into the origin of the new crown.
“China sees that in geopolitical competition, Australia has made the choice to side with the United States.”
Everyone knows what happened after that.
Now that the Labor Party has come to power, is it possible that China-Australia relations will usher in a relaxation?
During the election campaign, the Labor Party’s “anti-China” tone was not low. Many analysts believe that although it is also a Labor government, the Albanese government will be tougher on China than it was under Rudd.
“It’s China’s fault.” Albanese’s words in the second election debate were headlined by Deutsche Welle.
However, the scholars interviewed by Supplement One Knife had a different view.
Yu Lei said that when it comes to the political and diplomatic aspects of China, Australia may lower the tone of China-related issues and make some fine-tuning on China issues, such as not rushing to the front line as before.
But on major issues of principle, it is unlikely that the Labour Party will radically change its China policy. For example, on the issue of the quadripartite mechanism, the Labour Party will not change; The building of a military alliance between Australia and Japan will continue; On the South China Sea issue, there will be basically no change; On the Taiwan issue, Australia’s fundamental principled position of cooperating with the United States will not change; On the Pacific island issues, we will continue to guard against China, increase assistance to South Pacific island countries, and counter China’s growing influence and power in the Pacific island countries.
Yu Lei believes that on these issues, the Labour government may lower its tone and say less, but it will continue to do so, but the magnitude may not be as strong as before.
In any case, the rise of the Labour Party at least provided an opportunity to improve China-Australia relations.
Zhou Fangyin believes that, on the one hand, when the Labour Party comes to power as an opposition party, it does not have to continue the previous government’s China policy, nor does it have to bear the burden of the previous government’s China policy; On the other hand, in recent years, the Labor Party has often criticized the Morrison government’s China policy offstage, which gives them the opportunity to think comprehensively about Australia’s current China policy and its disadvantages, and the Labor Party is more likely to think about Australia’s autonomy in Sino-US relations and how much strategic space Australia has, rather than forming a mindset about what must be done.
Moreover, there are no principled and structural contradictions between China and Australia, and there are no real problems.
The so-called “security” issues are actually problems imagined by some politicians themselves. If the Labour Party can be relatively soft and flexible in its attitude and approach to China after coming to power, the tension between China and Australia is very likely to ease in the future.
Although the coming to power of the Labor Party has provided an opportunity for China-Australia relations, Zhou Fangyin reminded that there are two factors that are worth being vigilant about, which may bring potential friction to China-Australia relations in the future.
On the one hand, Australia is uncomfortable with the rise of China’s influence in the Pacific island countries, but this is mainly due to the influence of its own ideas, taking the South Pacific as its sphere of influence; On the other hand, there is the ideological factor, the Australian side now portrays China very poorly, and the Biden administration’s so-called democratic values are very concerned among Australian politicians.
Yu Lei said that from the current economic development trend, the Australian Labor Party may need the Chinese market to solve Australia’s export and employment problems after coming to power, so it may seek to maintain a certain degree of détente with China on trade issues, but will not make concessions on major issues such as restricting Chinese investment in Australia.
More likely, it will ask China to honor the bilateral free trade agreement and ask China to implement RCEP to open its market to Australia, in exchange for Australia’s weakening of its position on some related issues.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Australia, and Australia welcomes a new government. We also look forward to a new look at home and abroad by the new Australian government.