Malcolm Turnbull has admitted to increasing tensions between Australia and China following Canberra’s increased crackdown on foreign interference.
The Prime Minister conceded that there was some strain between the two nations with the tension arising after the Federal Government’s announcement of a revamp of Australian laws against political donations and espionage.
“There is certainly some tension,” Mr Turnbull said.
“There has been a degree of tension in the relationship that has arisen because of criticism in China of our foreign interference laws.”
“But it is very important that the Australian government that only Australians are influencing our political processes and where foreigners seek to influence they do so openly and transparently.”
Australia’s connection with China started to become strained when in December Mr Turnbull said China’s influence was a reason for new laws to ban foreign political donations and toughen the government’s definition of espionage.
The laws on political donations and foreign interference follow evidence that some political donors to both Liberal and Labor parties have connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr Turnbull would not say how many government ministers were refused or delayed visas, but said the foreign interference legislation was misunderstood or mischaracterised in some Chinese media.
The concerns have also existed in other nations including Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. have also worried about Chinese spying and propaganda activities.
However, the proposals have been criticised by media companies, charities, universities and businesses as being heavy handed.
The Federal Government said the new laws are not designed to target any one country, but China’s ambassador Cheng Jingye has accused the media of causing “China Panic” and China’s state owned media has accused Australia of becoming an “anti-China pioneer”.
“We have a very strong and respectful relationship with China and like every nation we do everything we can to ensure that any foreign influence in our politics is open and declared,” Mr Turnbull said.
“We don’t accept foreign interference in our political or governmental processes and that is not directed at any one nation.”