Relations with China look set to thaw after a lengthy diplomatic freeze brought about by the Coalition’s tough response to Chinese influence operations in Australia, cyber theft and a growing rivalry in the South Pacific.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s two-day visit to Beijing is being touted as an icebreaker. A follow-up visit by Scott Morrison is likely despite China’s displeasure over Canberra’s decision to block a Hong Kong company’s bid for gas pipeline company APA on national interest grounds. Business leaders are delighted Xi Jinping has signalled his apparent willingness to allow foreign companies better access to the Chinese market in a landmark speech to an international import expo in Shanghai this week.
But not everyone is convinced that this marks a decisive turning point in Sino-Australian relations or that Beijing will really open its protected domestic market to international competition. And critics are sceptical of China’s ability to weather the approaching trade and geopolitical storms that are clouding the rosy future Xi depicts for his country. The paradox of China’s rise is that the more successful it becomes, the more there are doubts about the durability of the Chinese economic miracle.