SYDNEY (Reuters) – A top Chinese diplomat in Australia warned against a “shadow” over the two nations’ ties on Wednesday, saying that Beijing was disappointed by a Chinese firm’s failure to win Australian regulatory approval for a takeover deal.
Tension between Australia and its main export market of China has risen in recent months, particularly after Canberra called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
Wang Xining, China’s deputy head of mission in Canberra, dismissed concerns about China’s attempts to influence Australian politics, saying its views were candidly presented and did not affect people’s choice of a political system.
“I don’t see any reason for whining about your constitutional fragility and intellectual vulnerability,” Wang told the National Press Club in the Australian capital.
He added, “We should not let a cold heart and a dark mind cast a shadow over our partnership.”
This week, China Mengniu Dairy Co withdrew its bid for Australian firm Lion Dairy and Drinks Pty Ltd, a unit of Japan’s Kirin Holding Co after domestic media said the Australian government would reject it.
In the first comments by a Chinese offical since, Wang said he hoped Australia would provide a fair environment for Chinese investors, adding that it was no easy task to keep the partnership with Australia in good shape.
“A married couple know that…a rift between husband and wife hurts one family, a rift between two countries hurts millions.”
Wang denied accusations of “economic coercion” regarding China’s measures targeting some Australian exports, and said Beijing believed that Australia’s push for an inquiry on the origins of the virus was “targeted against China alone”.
He added, “The proposal helped Washington put more pressure on China.”
Australian ministers did not consider any virus source other than Wuhan, Wang said, referring to the central city where it surfaced last year.
While the virus was first identified in China, he added, it was up to scientists to pinpoint its origin.
Last week, Beijing announced an anti-dumping investigation of Australian wine imports that Canberra says is unfounded.
China has also placed tariffs on Australian barley, suspended some beef imports, and told its students and tourists to avoid travelling to Australia, citing racial discrimination.
The trade relationship with China was mutually beneficial, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, adding “Australia will always stand up for its own interests.”
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)