Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia should not buckle under pressure from an onslaught of trade actions from Beijing and change its stance on controversial bilateral issues with China.
China continues to apply trade actions to Australian exports, with informal bans or import duties targeting products ranging from coal, cotton, and timber to wine, lobster and beef, reported Finbarr Bermingham for South China Morning Post (SCMP).
"I went through an episode precisely like this in 2017 and 2018. And we stuck to our position, we didn't succumb to the pressure. And once it was apparent in Beijing that the pressure was not producing the result they wanted, it dropped off. So I think you just have to stand your ground," said Turnbull.
During Turnbull's tenure, Beijing had lashed out at Canberra due to Australia siding with an international tribunal's decision that China had no historical claim to the disputed South China Sea islands, and the banning of Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE from Australia's 5G network and Turnbull's introduction of foreign interference laws were seen as targeting Chinese influence in Australian politics.
Bermingham wrote that in recent days, a series of Chinese government officials have said Australia needs to make the first move in repairing the bilateral relationship, which has frayed since Australia led calls in April for an international inquiry into the source of the coronavirus.
However, Turnbull rejected such calls, encouraging his successors in government to 'stand firm'.
"The one thing you cannot do with Beijing or any other superpower is become sycophantic or to demonstrate that you will just buckle whenever the pressure is ratcheted up, you get no thanks for it - you get less respect," SCMP quoted Turnbull, who was speaking at a Peterson Institute for International Economics webinar on Friday.
Turnbull was the Australian Prime Minister between 2015 and 2018, when political relations with China began to sour, even as commerce soared following the signing of a bilateral free trade deal in 2015.
China is Australia's biggest trading partner, buying 39 per cent of Australia's exports.