Chinese envoy calls on Australia to shed ‘Cold War mentality’

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CANBERRA/SYDNEY: The Chinese ambassador to Australia on Tuesday accused it of harboring a Cold War mentality and said “less bias and bigotry” was needed to repair strained relations between the two nations.
“We need to see each other’s development and policy intentions from a more positive perspective with less Cold War mentality,” Ambassador Cheng Jingye said in a speech to the Australia China Business Council (ACBC) in the capital Canberra.
Relations have soured since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused China late last year of meddling in domestic affairs, and using loans to gain leverage over poor South Pacific island nations.
China has denied any meddling in Australia.
The rift has spilled into the trade sphere in recent weeks as Australian wine exporters such as Treasury Wine Estates have faced delays getting some products through Chinese customs.
“It is my belief that in order to … achieve sustained and sound development in bilateral relations the two countries need to have more interaction and inclusiveness with less bias and bigotry,” Cheng said in his speech.
The ambassador did not stay to network with Australian business leaders after his speech to the council as he did at the same event last year. Neither did he attend a Tuesday evening cocktail reception at the Chinese embassy.
Cheng did not attend the reception because he had another commitment, ACBC Chief Executive Helen Sawczak said in a text message to Reuters.
China’s embassy in Canberra did not respond to an email request for comment on his early departure from the gathering.
The ambassador’s behavior could be part of a strategy to keep Australia in the “Beijing freezer,” said James Leibold, associate professor in the politics department at La Trobe University in Melbourne.
“It’s quite clear that the relationship is in a frosty state and that Beijing is trying to teach us a lesson,” he said, adding that Australia has struggled in recent months to secure high-level meetings with Chinese officials.
Editorials in Chinese state media, including the China Daily and the Global Times, accused Australia of arrogance and taking a “distorted view on relations”.