Australia’s ‘amateurish’ China diplomacy sets business on edge

Australia’s ‘amateurish’ China diplomacy sets business on edge

Opposition politicians and analysts warn Canberra’s approach is hurting the economy

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the China-Australia free trade deal, a diplomatic triumph that has boosted trade by A$100bn a year. But no one is celebrating in Canberra amid a breakdown in bilateral relations, which has sparked a rare debate about Australian diplomacy.

Foreign policy is characterised by bipartisan agreement between Labor and the conservative government, which has held power since 2013. But Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s furious reaction to a tweet by a Chinese diplomat and Beijing’s imposition of trade sanctions on Australian products have caused disquiet about the handling of China relations.

“I think the government really does need to stop focusing on splashy headlines and work out what is it doing, how is it helping our exporters, how is it helping those who are so dependent, and have become more dependent on China for Australian jobs,” Penny Wong, Labor spokesman on foreign affairs, told Australian television last week.

“In diplomacy you always have to think about how you calibrate your response.”