China’s National Development and Reform Commission has indefinitely suspended all activities under the framework of the China-Australia strategic economic dialogue, exacerbating the already strained diplomatic ties between Beijing and Canberra. The dialogue is jointly held by China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and relevant ministries of the Australian government. The NDRC said in a statement on its website on Thursday, “the decision was made based on the current attitude of the Australian Commonwealth government towards China-Australia cooperation.”
According to Beijing, the Australian Government’s policy toward China constitutes ideological discrimination and reflects the Cold War mindset. According to media reports, Australia has described China’s decision to suspend economic talks as “disappointing”, with Trade Minister Dan Tehan saying that the now-frozen China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue provided an “important forum” for the two sides “to work through issues”. Tehan, however, admitted that no such talks had taken place since 2017.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin told a regular ministry conference on Thursday, the suspension was a “necessary and legitimate” response to Australia “abusing” the concept of national security to pressure cooperation with China. “Australia must bear full responsibility,” he said.
China’s decision to suspend the economic dialogue comes after the Australian government last month scrapped a Belt and Road deal between Beijing and the state of Victoria, and last week Canberra said that a Chinese company’s 99-year-lease on Darwin Port was under review.
China’s ties with Australia have been deteriorating for several years now; the strains first appeared in 2018 when Australia became the first country to publicly ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network. It worsened last year, when Australia was among the first countries to call for an independent probe into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which started from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.