China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, which has made Beijing crucial to the economy in Canberra but also made standing up to Chinese President Xi Jinping difficult. Asian politics expert Kerry Brown told Express.co.uk greed in Australia has played a huge part in this seemingly impossible diplomatic dilemma. He said: “I think [former Prime Minister] Tony Abbott said a few years ago that ‘the Australian attitude to China is typified by fear and greed’, and that’s probably about the smartest thing he said. “
“It’s not just about China. China is an opportunist and some in Australia have been incredibly greedy, and it’s not remotely all China’s fault.
“I don’t think China ever forced Australia to take so many Chinese students for example. Some Australians have gone for certain opportunities left right and centre and have been greedy. It’s part of the problem.”
China has been accused of attempting to use its trading leverage over Australia to drive a wedge between the Commonwealth when it became clear wealthy Chinese businessmen were donating to political organisations to drive changes in Australia’s policy.
Investigative journalist Nick McKenzie discovered one of these businessmen – Huang Xiangmo – paid off a Labor party debt of $5000, and then began asking frontbencher in the Australian Sam Dastyari for favours such as accelerating his citizenship application.
In 2018, Dastyari resigned after the investigation unveiled his shocking links to Beijing.
Professor Kerry Brown also added the disputes have caused an identity issue in Australia as it looks to distance itself from Asia in favour of Western relationships.
He continued: “It’s really complicated because I think Australians themselves have not worked out who they are and what they are in regards to their relationship with China.
“They have a very close relationship with America, and they feel almost as though they are a European, non-Asian country, but Australia is geographically and increasingly demographically Asian.
“China exists in that context for Australians, where it’s clear they are part of the Asian political and cultural region, and for some in Australia this is very disconcerting.”
Despite concerns over Chinese influence in Australian affairs, Professor brown highlights that there have been occasions where Australia have stood up to their counterparts in Beijing, but complete separation would result in economic turmoil.
He said: “They have blocked Huawei, they have chosen particular areas where they have drawn red lines, but they cannot evict China from their world.
“What are they going to do? go back to a semi-white Australia policy? Don’t let in Chinese immigrants? Not only would that be epically appalling, but it would also be economic suicide. “
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Last week, Canberra told President Xi Jinping via a statement that it will hold Beijing to account for human rights transgressions in the country’s Xinjiang region.
Many Uighur muslims have been locked up in chilling “re-education camps” which aim to force Islamic communities to abandon their faith in favour of state support.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Tuesday: “We must respect each other’s sovereignty, but we will consistently continue to raise issues such as human rights, including, as I have said, with China.
“Turning a blind eye to all human rights violations means an acceptance of behaviour that undermines the foundations of international peace and stability. Where there is no challenge, there is no progress.”
Australia can resist Beijing aggression on occasions, but as long as trade relationships remain key, Canberra will always be playing a balancing act as tensions boil.