Australia accused China of “economic coercion” at the NATO summit, saying Beijing’s “coercive ambitions and policies” undermine “our interests, our security and our values”.
“Australia has been subjected to ‘economic coercion’ from China,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at the NATO summit in the Spanish capital Madrid on Wednesday.
He urged Democratic leaders to pursue “business diversification” to counter such moves.
The statement comes as bilateral relations between Beijing and Canberra deteriorated under the administration of Albanese predecessor Scott Morrison, as Australia continued an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus – the first cases of which were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.
Albanese told the NATO summit that China “aims to become the most powerful nation in the world.”
“The strengthening of relations between Beijing and Moscow represented a risk for all democratic nations,” he said, adding that China had not condemned Russia for its war against Ukraine which began on February 24. .
According to Australian SBS News, Albanese said: “Just as Russia seeks to recreate a Russian or Soviet empire, the Chinese government seeks friends, whether…through economic support to build alliances in order to undermine what has always been the western empire alliance in places like the Indo-Pacific.
The decline in bilateral relations has negatively affected trade between the countries, while the latest surveys in Australia suggest that the majority of its citizens “see China as a military threat” to the country.
The trust deficit comes as Canberra moves closer to Washington as part of the so-called Quad, a loose security alliance of the US, Australia, Japan and India to counter the influence of the China in the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Australia will also get nuclear-powered submarines under a deal with the US and UK named AUKUS, signed last year.
As Chinese investment in Australia has dwindled, Beijing is sailing around the Pacific, forging alliances with island nations. It has signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands and is seeking a regional trade deal with 10 South Pacific island nations.
In its Strategic Concept 2022, a blueprint for the next decade, NATO accused Beijing of “malicious hybrid and cyber operations and divisive rhetoric and disinformation to target allies and undermine Alliance security”.
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