China’s new ambassador to Australia has offered an olive branch in the intense diplomatic dispute between the two countries, saying they should “meet each other halfway” and “look into the future”.
Xiao Qian, who arrived in Canberra in January after years of increasing tensions, said China attached “great importance” to the relationship and was willing to “actively develop friendship and cooperation with Australia”.
The intervention comes just days after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, accused China of a dangerous “act of intimidation” over a Chinese warship’s shining of a laser at a RAAF surveillance plane north of Australia last week.
China’s national defence ministry, in turn, accused the Australian defence force of “spiteful and provocative actions”.
Xiao said in a speech on Thursday that the healthy and stable development of China-Australia relations served the fundamental interests and “common aspirations” of people in both countries.
Given this year marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, he said, there was an opportunity to ease tensions.
“China is willing to work with Australia to meet each other halfway,” said Xiao, who previously was China’s ambassador to Indonesia.
He said the two governments should “jointly make efforts” to push the relationship back on “the right track”. They should “review the past” and also “look into the future”.
Xiao did not specify any tangible actions Beijing may take to get the relationship back on track – but clearly signalled he wants to talk.
Later, he told SBS World News and the ABC: “The diplomatic channel is open.”
Australian ministers have complained since early 2020 they have been unable to secure phone calls or meetings with their direct counterparts – although contacts have continued to occur at lower diplomatic levels.
The Australian government accuses Beijing of engaging in “economic coercion” by hitting a range of…