United Kingdom

British PM Boris Johnson backs Australia's fight against China

Boris Johnson has slammed China's aggressive behaviour towards Australia in a move that's sure to anger Beijing officials, as the UK vows to stand 'shoulder to shoulder with our friend'.

The British prime minster made the comments following the announcement of a free-trade deal between Australia and the UK on Tuesday, where he took aim at the authoritarian state and firmly backed his counterpart Scott Morrison.

'If you ask me what do I find difficult about the way China behaves, it's very obvious,' he said.

'And it was clear at the G7, clear at NATO. I think people are worried about what's happening to the Uighurs.

'They’re worried about the general repressions of liberties in Hong Kong, and some of the ways China behaves in its region, particularly towards Australia.' 

Mr Johnson said 'we stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends' in the face of China's increasingly belligerent behaviour towards Australia.

'That's why we're sending a carrier strike group your way,' he said refereeing to the seventh-month voyage of the HMS Queen Elizabeth which departed the UK in May set for the South China Sea.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) announced the deal in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street

The British military are preparing to send the largest naval fleet 'in a generation' to the South China Sea, in a move set to infuriate the Communist Party. Pictured: the HMS Queen Elizabeth

With tensions simmering between China and democratic nations across the globe, the UK has sent the largest 'signal of maritime and air power' in a generation to the region.

Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departed the UK in May for its first operational deployment in a move set to outrage Russia and China.

The $5billion warship, with eight RAF F35B stealth fighter jets on board, left for Asia on May 24 accompanied by six Royal Navy ships including HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

The Carrier Strike Group will visit India, Singapore and then to Japan via the South China Sea.

Mr Johnson said one of the reasons the ship was sent on the seven-month voyage was to support Australia against China.

The two prime ministers celebrated by exchanging hampers of British and Australian goods in Mr Johnson's garden where they gave a press conference hailing a 'new dawn' for UK-Australia relations - as the UK vowed to back its allies Down Under in an ongoing stoush with China

This is the route the British armada will take is mapped out via a number of hotspots that will upset Russia and China

'This is a difficult relationship where it is vital to engage with China in as positive a way as we can,' he said.

'But where there are difficulties, which there evidently are, it's vital that allies - UK, Australia - work together, and that's one of the reasons why we're sending the carrier strike group out your way.'

Despite the firm stance, Mr Johnson said 'nobody wants to descend into a new Cold War with China'.

Mr Morrison agreed that the warship's presence was 'enormously helpful to Australia'.

'I mean, where you have challenges with one trading partner from time to time, then the ability to be able to diversify your trade into more and more countries is incredibly important,' he said, referring to the new trade agreement.

During the voyage, the Navy will avoid the Taiwan Strait as 'Big Lizzie' sails towards Japan in the final leg of the trip to avoid provoking China

'And I genuinely appreciate the way that the UK have engaged in this agreement because it reflects an understanding of that. 

'And so this provides more opportunities and greater resilience for Australia's exporters all around the world.' 

The tough talk comes after the weekend's G7 meeting in Corwall, between the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Japan, Germany, France and guest nations India, Australia and South Korea.

The democratic alliance issued a joint statement taking China to task over human rights in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, calling for Hong Kong to keep a high degree of autonomy and also underscored the importance of peace with Taiwan - all highly sensitive issues for Beijing. 

The communique also called for the opaque power to be more transparent when it comes to sharing data about the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Morrison welcomed 'the very strong support for the stand that Australia has taken very consistently in standing up for liberal democratic principles in our region'. 

Canberra's relationship with China started to dramatically unravel after Mr Morrison's government in April last called for an independent inquiry in to the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic - which first appeared in Wuhan.

Mr Morrison has thrown his weight behind a second investigation into the origins of Covid-19 amid growing speculation the virus may have leaked from a lab (pictured) in Wuhan

Mr Morrison has warned that the risk of conflict in the Pacific is growing. Pictured: Chinese troops in Mongolia

What's in the historic free trade deal? 

- Brits can get three-year Working Holiday Visas up until aged of 35

- Rule mandating farm work will be scrapped

- Aussies can also work in the UK for three years 

- Deal could boost Australian economy by $1.3billion each year

- Gives businesses more opportunities to sell abroad after China imposed tariffs

- UK agreed to eventually eliminate agriculture tariffs in win for Aussie farmers

- This will allow Aussie beef, lamb, cheese and sugar to enter the UK tariff-free

- But there are fears the changes will see a loss of 10,000 farm workers in Australia annually

- Australia will also scrap tariffs on British goods including whiskey

- Tariffs on British cars, machinery, tractors and pharmaceuticals will also be scrapped 

The plea for transparency infuriated the communist state who retaliated by imposing arbitrary bans and tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Australian goods including barley, wine, cotton, seafood, beef, copper, and coal. 

The diplomatic squabble between Australian and its largest trading partner China has not easy for Canberra - with outgoing trade worth about $175billion a year.

In contrast Australian goods being shipped to the UK only amount to about $15billion.

But under the new UK-Australia free trade deal, there will be some respite for hard-hit Aussie producers. 

Thousands of protesters attend a rally for Hong Kong democracy at the Marble Arch on June 12 in London. Boris Johnson and the G7 leaders denounced China's crackdown on Hong Kong this week

Britons under 35 will be allowed to live and work in Australia for three years without farm work.

In return, the UK will largely remove tariff barriers to help boost Australian exports.  

That means Aussie producers will be able to export more of their world-leading beef, lamb and cheese to the UK.

The landmark deal was thrashed out by the two leaders over a three-hour dinner in Number 10 Downing Street on Tuesday night where the friends feasted on Scottish salmon and Welsh lamb, washed down with Australian wine - another product targeted by China. 

Demonstrators in London hold up a Hong Kong Independence banner, marking two years since violence erupted on the streets of the former Commonwealth territory

The Last G7: A cartoon parody of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper featured in an article by the Communist Party mouthpiece, The Global Times, depicts the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, India and Australia as various animals

How China's feud with Australia has escalated

2019: Australian intelligence services conclude that China was responsible for a cyber-attack on Australia's parliament and three largest political parties in the run-up to a May election.

April 2020: Australian PM Scott Morrison begins canvassing his fellow world leaders for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain and France are initially reluctant but more than 100 countries eventually back an investigation. 

April 15: Morrison is one of the few leaders to voice sympathy with Donald Trump's criticisms of the World Health Organization, which the US president accuses of bias towards China. 

April 21: China's embassy accuses Australian foreign minister Peter Dutton of 'ignorance and bigotry' and 'parroting what those Americans have asserted' after he called for China to be more transparent about the outbreak.  

April 23: Australia's agriculture minister David Littleproud calls for G20 nations to campaign against the 'wet markets' which are common in China and linked to the earliest coronavirus cases.  

April 26: Chinese ambassador Cheng Jingye hints at a boycott of Australian wine and beef and says tourists and students might avoid Australia 'while it's not so friendly to China'. Canberra dismisses the threat and warns Beijing against 'economic coercion'. 

May 11: China suspends beef imports from four of Australia's largest meat processors. These account for more than a third of Australia's $1.1billion beef exports to China. 

May 18: The World Health Organization backs a partial investigation into the pandemic, but China says it is a 'joke' for Australia to claim credit. The same day, China imposes an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley. Australia says it may challenge this at the WTO. 

May 21: China announces new rules for iron ore imports which could allow Australian imports - usually worth $41billion per year - to be singled out for extra bureaucratic checks. 

June 5: Beijing warns tourists against travelling to Australia, alleging racism and violence against the Chinese in connection with Covid-19.  

June 9: China's Ministry of Education warns students to think carefully about studying in Australia, similarly citing alleged racist incidents.   

June 19: Australia says it is under cyber-attack from a foreign state which government sources say is believed to be China. The attack has been targeting industry, schools, hospitals and government officials, Morrison says.

July 9: Australia suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong and offers to extend the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers who are already in Australia over China's national security law which effectively bans protest.

August 18: China launches 12-month anti-dumping investigation into wines imported from Australia in a major threat to the $6billion industry. 

August 26: Prime Minster Scott Morrison announces he will legislate to stop states and territories signing deals with foreign powers that go against Australia's foreign policy. Analysts said it is aimed at China.

October 13: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says he's investigating reports that Chinese customs officials have informally told state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop Aussie coal, leaving it in ships off-shore.

November 2: Agriculture Minister David Littleproud reveals China is holding up Aussie lobster imports by checking them for minerals.

November 3: Barley, sugar, red wine, logs, coal, lobster and copper imports from Australia unofficially banned under a directive from the government, according to reports.

November 18: China releases bizarre dossier of 14 grievances with Australia. 

November 27: Australian coal exports to China have dropped 96 per cent in the first three weeks of November as 82 ships laden with 8.8million tonnes of coal are left floating off Chinese ports where they have been denied entry. 

November 28: Beijing imposed a 212 per cent tariff on Australia's $1.2 billion wine exports, claiming they were being 'dumped' or sold at below-cost. The claim is denied by both Australia and Chinese importers. 

November 30: Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao posted a doctored image showing a grinning Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The move outraged Australians. 

December 12: Australian coal is added to a Chinese blacklist.

December 24: China suspends imports of Australian timber from NSW and WA after local customs officers say they found pests in the cargo.

January 11, 2021: Australia blocks $300million construction deal that would have seen state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation takeover Probuild. The bid was blacked over national security concerns. 

February 5, 2021: China confirms Melbourne journalist and single mother Cheng Lei has been formally arrested after being detained in August, 2020.

February 23, 2021: China accuses Australia of being in an 'axis of white supremacy' with the UK, USA, Canada and NZ in an editorial.

March 11, 2021: Australia is accused of genocide by a Communist Party newspaper editor. 

March 15, 2021: Trade Minister Dan Tehan announced he wants the World Trade Organisation to help mediate discussions between the two countries over the trade dispute. 

April 21, 2021: Foreign Minister Marise Payne announces Australia has scrapped Victoria's controversial Belt and Road deal with China using new veto powers. 

May 6, 2021: China indefinitely suspends all strategic economic talks with Australia, blaming the Morrison Government's attitude towards the relationship. The move cuts off all diplomatic contact with Beijing under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue, freezing discussions between key officials below a ministerial level.

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