Informer: China-Australia relationship still on rough seas

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison. Picture: Keegan Carroll
Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison. Picture: Keegan Carroll

"Mountains can not stop the river from flowing into the sea."

That ancient Chinese poem was the Chinese embassy's response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's announcement that Australian government officials will not attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

"Australia's success at the Beijing Winter Olympics depends on the performance of Australian athletes, not on the attendance of Australian officials, and the political posturing by some Australian politicians," a spokesperson from the Canberra-based embassy said in a statement.

The PM said the decision for government officials to boycott the games was made due to human rights abuses in China, and that Australia's stance on the issue was "not surprising".

But the embassy reckons the decision not to send dignitaries flies in the face of Australia's public claims to seek an improved relationship with China.

Morrison's announcement followed the US decision that it will not send government officials to the 2022 winter games as well.

China called the United State's decision "a pretentious act" - at least their Australian response was more poetic.

The relationship between China and Australia has worsened over the past few years due to concerns about potential Chinese conflict with Taiwan, cancelled agreements, nuclear subs and trade.

Former Trade Minister Andrew Robb said earlier this year that China was using Australia to "send its message" to other trade partners.

And just a few days ago AAP reported that one of US President Joe Biden's advisors said China wanted to "drive Australia to its knees" but would eventually realise the need to re-engage.

But the opposition has flagged its concern that Morrison's stance on China could impact Australia's resources sector.

"Australia needs more strategy and less politics when it comes to managing our differences with China," Labor Leader Anthony Albanese said.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Defence Minister Peter Dutton was deliberately stoking conflict with China in "the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history".

But former PM Paul Keating has slammed both the Coalition and Labor parties over the tension with China.

Mountains may not stop the river from flowing into the sea, but boy are these waters rough sailing.