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Australians' trust in China plummets amid bilateral tensions

Australians' trust in China plummets amid bilateral tensions

The flags of Australia and China are seen in this file photo. (Photo: Torsten Blackwood)

CANBERRA: Australians' trust in China has plunged and for the first time more people view Beijing as a security threat than an economic partner, a widely watched poll published on Wednesday (Jun 23) showed.

The Lowy Institute's annual poll shows more than 60 per cent of Australians see China as a security threat, up significantly from 2018 when 18 per cent of respondents had the same view.

"Views of China are to some extent inseparable from the crackdown in Hong Kong, the detention of Uighurs, the disappearance of Australian citizens in China," said Natasha Kassam, Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, at the Lowy Institute.

The results indicate Australia's conservative government has public support for its assertive approach to China despite a series of trade implications.

READ: Australian PM to call for WTO reform as tensions with China mount

Relations with China, already rocky after Australia banned Huawei from its nascent 5G broadband networking in 2018, cooled further after Canberra called in 2020 for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, first reported in central China in 2019.

China responded by imposing tariffs on Australian commodities, including wine and barley and limited imports of Australian beef, coal and grapes, moves described by the US as “economic coercion”.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner. In the 12 months to March, Australia exported A$149 billion (US$112.45 billion) worth of goods to China, down 0.6 per cent from the previous year. Exports, however, have been supported by strong prices for iron ore, the largest single item in trade with China. 

Source: Reuters/vc

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