Australian Prime Minister Morrison’s remarks on “one country, two systems” sparked public controversy

Australian Prime Minister John Morrison recently spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about relations with Taiwan. Morrison said Australia has always been “pro-freedom” and would “always honour agreements with our allies in the Indo-Pacific region”. But he also stressed that Australia understands the “one country, two systems” arrangement and will continue to maintain Australia’s policy in the region.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation noted that “one country, two systems” is the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to governing Hong Kong, and that in recent years Beijing had indicated that the same model could be used to govern Taiwan, but it was not accepted by Taiwan. Morrison’s statement was immediately interpreted as support for the Chinese Communist Party’s policy toward Taiwan, and sparked an outcry.

According to international media reports such as Deutsche Welle, Reuters and Bloomberg, Australian politicians and media were unable to understand Morrison’s remarks, as Australia’s position on Taiwan has not changed. Australia has only “recognized” the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government representing China for nearly 50 years, but has only “recognized” the Chinese Communist Party’s position that Taiwan is part of its territory, but has retained the flexibility to do so.

Morrison’s office later stated that Australia’s “One China” policy had never changed and that Morrison’s statement on “One Country, Two Systems” referred to Hong Kong and that “Australia maintains a close, unofficial and positive relationship with Taiwan. Australia maintains a close, unofficial and positive relationship with Taiwan, which is an important trading and economic partner”.