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  • Writer's pictureDavid James Connolly

‘Noble mission’: China’s new envoy wants Australia ties back on track

China’s new ambassador to Australia has declared he wants to get diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing “back to the right track” after years of tension that has seen more than $20 billion of Australian exports targeted by Chinese sanctions.

Touching down at Sydney Airport on Australia Day, Xiao Qian said ties between the two countries were at a “critical juncture”, and signalled the need for a reset.

China’s new ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, says he wants to get relations back on track.

“I see my ambassadorship as a noble mission and, more importantly, a great responsibility,” Mr Xiao said, according to remarks distributed by the Chinese embassy.

“I look forward to working with the Australian government and friends in all sectors to increase engagement and communication, enhance mutual understanding and trust, eliminate misunderstanding and suspicion, promote mutually beneficial exchanges and co-operation in all areas between the two sides, and jointly push the China-Australia relations back to the right track.”

Mr Xiao praised the older generation of Chinese and Australian leaders who established diplomatic relations between the two countries 50 years ago, saying they acted with the “pioneering spirit of statesmanship”.

“Our world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The development of China-Australia relations is also at a critical juncture, facing many difficulties and challenges as well as enormous opportunities and potentials,” he said.

‘Sound and steady relationship’

“The Chinese side always believes that a sound and steady China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, and contributes to the prosperity and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.”

Mr Xiao will now have to undertake 14 days’ quarantine and present his credentials to Governor-General David Hurley before he can immerse himself fully in diplomatic life.

Mr Xiao, 57, is a career diplomat whose previous posting was as ambassador to Indonesia.

He replaces Cheng Jingye, whose term was defined by the nosedive in diplomatic relations between Canberra and Beijing as an assertive China embarked on a global campaign of “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

In an interview with The Australian Financial Review in April 2020, Mr Cheng warned of trade retaliation against Australia following the Morrison government’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

China has also bristled at Australian restrictions on Chinese foreign investment, the ban on tech companies such as Huawei from supplying equipment for the 5G rollout, ASIO raids on Chinese journalists, and criticism of its erosion of democracy in Hong Kong and mistreatment of Uighurs.

China’s militarisation has prompted the Morrison government to begin the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, while Defence Minister Peter Dutton has warned a Chinese conquest of Taiwan would make it the first domino to fall in a region dominated by Beijing.

Re-published: 8 May 2022

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David James Connolly

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