China-Australia tensions likely to escalate as Canberra passes law to scrap agreements with foreign nations
Canberra [Australia], December 9 : Australia’s parliament on Tuesday voted to grant Canberra new powers to tear up agreements signed with foreign countries. China had earlier warned that the legislation was among a raft of grievances responsible for “poisoning” bilateral ties.
Under the new law, Australia’s foreign minister will be able to scrap agreements between other nations and sub-national bodies such as state and territory governments, local councils and universities where he or she believes that they undermine foreign policy, reported South China Morning Post.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the legislation would ensure agreements were consistent with Australia’s foreign policy in an “increasingly globalised world”.
The newly-passed legislation is likely to further escalate tensions between Australia and China after the latter included it on a list of 14 grievances, which it said were responsible for “poisoning” ties.
The list, released last month through the Chinese embassy in Canberra, also included Canberra’s 2018 ban on Huawei’s involvement in 5G and ‘antagonistic’ media reports on China, South China Morning Post said.
“It certainly is not going to help alleviate the current [fight] between the two governments but as Beijing has the right to decide the scope of China’s engagement with foreign countries, so does Canberra,” said Nathan Attrill, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which is part-funded by the Australian, US and British governments.
Sino-Australian relations have been in a downward spiral since April, when Canberra infuriated Beijing by proposing an independent international inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beijing has in recent months slapped several restrictions amounting to billions of dollars of Australian exports, including beef, barley and wine, citing dumping and other trade violations that analysts widely view as pretexts to inflict economic retaliation.
Amid deteriorating relations between the two countries, earlier this month, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian shared a doctored image on his Twitter handle in which a special forces soldier is seen slitting with a knife the throat of an Afghan child whose head was wrapped in an Australian flag.
Despite Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slamming the Chinese government for the “outrageous and disgusting slur” and seeking an apology, China refused to apologise and said Canberra should be ashamed rather than demanding an apology.
China also seems to be infuriated by the Australian participation in the Malabar naval exercise earlier this month.