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Expert says China relationship rocky, but not -

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EDMOND ROY: Australia may be in for more turbulence in one of its most important relationships.

The Government has acknowledged this week China is far from happy with Australia on a number of
fronts including the issuing of a visa to Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.

China has withdrawn from some meetings and there have been critical comments about Australia in the
Chinese media.

The Government says the relationship needs a calm, methodical approach but the Opposition says it's
nearing crisis point.

Malcolm Cook is the East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute. He's been speaking with our
chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis.

MALCOLM COOK: The Chinese often make divisions between commercial relations and interests with
other countries and political relations or diplomatic relations and interests with other countries.

And I think this week has shown that that's kind of how they're now approaching the Australian
relationship. They're clearly quite happy to let Australia continue to export raw resources to
China and signing the $50 billion LNG deal but at the same time quite willing to put probably
unprecedented diplomatic pressure on Australia to toe, or certainly to respect Beijing's line on
issues where we disagree.

LYNDAL CURTIS: If it's not hurting the economic relationship though is there cause for concern
about the political relationship?

MALCOLM COOK: I think that there's two levels of concern. One, this shows that China who is quickly
gaining more power and influence in the region is acting in a way that you would expect a one-party
state to act quite differently than democratic governments.

And second while there doesn't seem to be any backlash towards the resource trade between Australia
and China it might make things more difficult for Australian companies or business interests trying
to gain a greater step or greater role in China.

If I was an Australian business person planning to try to expand into China I would probably be a
little bit worried by this week.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Should the Government be looking to improve relations? Can it do anything to improve

MALCOLM COOK: I think the Government has been doing what it should be - standing very firmly by the
long-standing Australian Government position that there are political differences between Beijing
and Canberra and very fundamental issues like freedom of speech, and that Australia won't be
compromising on those issues to assuage Chinese sensitivities.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Is it a case more of China maybe throwing its political weight around than anything
necessarily the Australian Government is doing differently or doing wrong?

MALCOLM COOK: Very much so. And Australia is not the only country that has been facing more
pressure from China over issues like visits by Ms Kadeer, the Uighur leader. Hong Kong has just
banned a planned visit by Japanese ships to the harbour in retaliation for Japan's visa for Ms

Interestingly the United States where she lives doesn't seem to be part of this diplomatic
offensive out of Beijing.

LYNDAL CURTIS: The Opposition has been saying the relationship is near crisis point and accusing
the Prime Minister of mishandling the relationship almost from the time he was elected. Do their
concerns, do their criticisms have any validity?

MALCOLM COOK: It's not surprising that the Opposition is criticising the Government on what is now
a very difficult and public diplomatic issue.

I think one area where there is a problem was there was expectations certainly in Australia,
whether they were founded or not, and seemingly in China that the election of Prime Minister Rudd
given his background in China and given the focus of the election campaign on that, that that would
lead to much better political relations between the two countries; relations that the political
differences probably make almost impossible.

LYNDAL CURTIS: How do you think things will go from here? Will this settle down as blow-ups tend
inevitably do to?

MALCOLM COOK: I think there's a couple more triggers on the near horizon that could lead to even
more difficulties. And again all of these difficulties or the vast majority of course are coming
from China to Australia.

In early December the Dalai Lama is visiting both Australia and New Zealand and of course the Stern
Hu case will continue to roll along and if he is found guilty of the charges laid against him and
the other three members of Rio Tinto that could be another flash-point.

So I think we're in for a few more rough rides before we see calm waters on the diplomatic front
with China.

EDMOND ROY: Dr Malcolm Cook from the Lowy Institute speaking there with Lyndal Curtis.