Source: China Daily Published: 2019-3-30
The Australian government on Friday announced the establishment of a national foundation to boost relations with China and appointed a top China specialist as the new ambassador to Beijing.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the new and innovative National Foundation for Australia-China Relations aims to "strengthen one of Australia's most significant bilateral relationships".
It will harness efforts of the private sector, NGOs, cultural organizations, state and federal agencies and the Chinese-Australian community to accelerate efforts to engage China, Australia's foreign ministry said in a statement.
The foundation is "a fitting successor to the existing Australia-China Council", but will move beyond the council's current focus on education, culture and the arts to also promote Australian excellence in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, health, the environment and energy, it said.
Also, Graham Fletcher－described by Australian media as a fluent Mandarin speaker with three previous postings in China－was appointed as the next Australian ambassador to Beijing starting in July. Fletcher is head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's north Asia division.
Wang Yiwei, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said the moves sent a positive signal to improve relations with China but more concrete action was needed.
The bumps in China-Australia relations were mainly due to lack of trust, especially Australia's misunderstanding about the development of China, Wang said.
Tensions between China and Australia have been growing over issues such as the ban on Chinese telecom giant Huawei's involvement in Australia's 5G network, the reported targeting of China through Australia's foreign interference laws, and the country's concerns over Chinese influence in Pacific island nations.
Xu Xiujun, a leading researcher at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the appointment of a China expert reflects Canberra's hopes to see Fletcher act as a bridge to strengthen communication with Beijing and promote mutual trust.
"China and Australia have no historical grievances and enjoy mutually beneficial cooperation," he said, adding that strengthening bilateral cooperation is in line with the fundamental interests of both countries.
"Worsening China-Australia relations have brought a lot of pressure and challenges to the economic and social development of Australia," he said, adding that China is a vital partner for Australia to maintain its economic growth.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.