The Abacus

China’s Ambassador Calls Press Conference in Canberra

By: ACBC National
20-12-2019

On Thursday, in a highly unprecedented public exchange, China’s Ambassador Cheng Jingye called a press conference at his residence in Canberra and responded to questions on high level exchanges between Australia and China, the importance of China to the Australian economy and human rights in China.

Mr Cheng said hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs depended on trade with China — with more than a third of all exports going there in the past 12 months. "Australia’s 33 per cent increase in sales to China is largely responsible for the federal budget returning to surplus ahead of schedule," he said at his Canberra residence on Thursday.

In October, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described China's dependency on Australian imports as likely to help maintain a peaceful trade balance with the superpower, with China now accounting for a record 38 per cent of Australian exports, worth $117 billion. 

Ambassador Cheng also said he expects high-level dialogue between Canberra and Beijing to be resumed and normalised in the new year. He said he would personally lobby for more high-level exchanges between the two countries.

On a possible visit by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Beijing, Cheng remarked: “We are expecting the relationship will be back to normal. There is every reason to believe that as the relationship expands that we recognise that we have differences."

"It is important for both sides to look at each other's development as an opportunity rather than a threat in creating mutual trust," he said. "It was a mixed year of bilateral relations [with Australia], it could have been better."

In defense of China’s unique developmental model of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, Ambassador Cheng claimed that “all roads lead to Rome” in that there was more than one path for a country to achieve modernisation.

"Look at China not through tinted glasses or the super origin of the western civilisation," he said. "I hope that people in this country will have a better understanding of China's achievements so far.

Responding to accusations of human rights abuses in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, Cheng rejected the claims as “fake news” while also assuring reporters that imprisoned Australian writer Yang Hengjun was in “good condition”. He suggested Chinese security services were about to charge Dr Yang but then said he might not be charged.

It is rare for Chinese diplomats to engage so openly and spontaneously with Western media. However, in addition to Ambassador Cheng’s Canberra press conference, the ambassadors of the US and Canada have recently opened Twitter accounts in a possible sign of increased transparency with how China engages with the West.

Image: AAP

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