China suspends ‘economic dialogue mechanism’ with Australia

China on Thursday “indefinitely” suspended all activity under a China-Australia economic dialogue mechanism, the latest sign of increasingly strained diplomatic ties between Beijing and Canberra.

The dialogue is jointly held by China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and ministries of the Australian government.

“The decision was made based on the current attitude of the Australian Commonwealth government towards China-Australia cooperation,” the NDRC said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

“Recently, some Australian Commonwealth Government officials launched a series of measures to disrupt the normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Australia out of Cold War mindset and ideological discrimination,” the statement added.

The statement did say what specific reasons or measures taken by Canberra made NDRC take the decision.

The suspension was a “necessary and legitimate” response to Australia “abusing” the concept of national security to pressure cooperation with China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin told a regular ministry conference on Thursday.

“Australia must bear full responsibility,” he said.

In Canberra, an Australian minister said Beijing’s decision was disappointing. “We remain open to holding the dialogue and engaging at the ministerial level,” Trade Minister Dan Tehan said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

Like with the US, China’s ties with Australia have been impacted by more than one reason; the strains first appeared in 2018 when Australia became the first country to publicly ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network. And, Beijing was furious last year when Australia was among the first countries to call for an independent investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, which started from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

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China condemned on Thursday a joint statement by G7 foreign ministers, which expressed support for Chinese-claimed Taiwan, saying it was a gross interference in China’s internal affairs.

In a rare step, the G7 statement also said they supported Taiwan’s participation in World Health Organisation forums and the World Health Assembly – and expressed concern about “any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions” in the Taiwan Strait.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang said the statement made “groundless accusations” which were a gross interference in China’s internal affairs, which it firmly condemned.

The G7 as a group should take concrete action to boost the global economic recovery instead of disrupting it, he added.

The G7 statement was welcomed in Taiwan where the government said this was the first time foreign ministers had mentioned the island in their joint communique.

The G7 is an intergovernmental organisation consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US.

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