China hopes its relationship with Australia can remain “healthy and stable” following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s acknowledgement that foreign interference legislation had soured ties between the two countries.
Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been strained over the past year, partly over Australian concern about rising Chinese influence, which led to the introduction of legislation banning foreign political donations.
Evidence of the strained relationship is mounting, with the latest indication of tension the fact that no Australian government officials had attended the Boao Forum in Hainan Province, which is considered to be one of the most significant economic conferences in the region.
Mr Turnbull told Australian radio station 3AW earlier this week that the introduction of foreign interference legislation had contributed to the tension, but remained optimistic that any misunderstanding could be resolved.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Boao Forum attendance issue had been overblown, acknowledging that a wide range of high-level Australian executives, including Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest had attended.
On foreign interference, Mr Geng said accusations of Chinese infiltration in other countries’ politics were groundless, and those that suggested it was occurring had ulterior motives.
“We hope relevant parties can respect the objective fact to correctly look at China’s development,” Mr Geng said.
“With regards to the Australia and China relationship, I think a healthy and stable China-Australia relationship is in accordance with two countries and the interest of the people of the two countries.”
Tensions between China and Australia flared further earlier this week, after The Australian Financial Review, citing unidentified sources, said China had denied visas to Australian government officials to attend a major trade show, denting close economic ties between the two countries.
Mr Geng said reports of visa denials were "unfounded".
"I have seen this report and can clearly tell you that this is purely nonsense,” Mr Geng said.
“The situation does not exist."
(Additional reporting by ACBR staff reporters)