May 23, 2018 / 5:32 AM / a month ago

Chinese newspaper suggests cut imports, downgrade ties with Australia

BEIJING, May 23 (Reuters) - China should downgrade its ties with Australia, including cutting imports and postponing a visit by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to underscore Beijing’s unhappiness at recent anti-China sentiment, a state-run paper said on Wednesday.

Relations between the two countries have cooled since late 2017 when Turnbull’s government proposed a bill to limit foreign influence in Australia, including political donations. Beijing saw the move as “anti-China”.

The diplomatic rift spilled into the trade arena last week when a major Australian wine maker said it was facing new Chinese customs delays, raising fears among other Australian exporters that depend on access to China.

This week the Chinese government’s top diplomat Wang Yi told his Australian counterpart Canberra should remove its “coloured glasses” to get relations back on track with its major trading partner.

On Wednesday, the nationalist-leaning Global Times said China should let Australia suffer for a while, rather than soothe ties too quickly.

“China does not have to throw away Sino-Australia relations. China just needs to slow their relationship for a period,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“For example, it will not be necessary for the Australian Prime Minister to visit China this year. In fact, he could visit a few years later,” the paper said.

Turnbull, according to Australian media, is planning to travel to China later this year to smooth over bumpy diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“China’s ministerial officials, other than those with the economic and trade departments, could postpone interactions with Australia,” the Global Times added.

China should also switch to buying U.S. products rather than Australian ones, like iron ore, wine and beef, the paper said.

“Last year, Australia exported $76.45 billion in goods to China. Lowering Aussie exports by $6.45 billion would send cold chills up and down the spine of Australia,” the editorial said.

“Of course, it would be an even greater shock if the import reductions totaled $10 billion,” it added.

The widely-read Global Times is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily but its editorials do not reflect government policy. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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