A day after Australian resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson was snubbed by Beijing during his visit to China, both sides now try to downplay the incident as they are fully aware of the economic consequences of a sour relationship between the two countries.
Ferguson failed to meet any senior Chinese ministers during his recent visit to sign the $50 billion LNG agreement, diplomatic sources said yesterday (See: China signs $41-billion gas deal with ExxonMobil's Australian arm).
The most senior official Ferguson could meet on his visit was Zhang Ping, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission.
Australian ambassador to China Geoff Raby arrived home in Canberra on Wednesday for what Australian newspapers said were emergency meetings. However, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith said yesterday the visit was routine.
"He hasn't been rushed back to Canberra. He comes back on a regular basis," Smith told national radio, adding that some people who were 'unfriendly' toward China in Australia were trying to create enmity and widen any rift between the nations.
Sino-Australian ties have been strained by the Rio Tinto commercial espionage case (See: China claims to have ''irrefutable evidence'' of spying against Rio Tinto), and by Australia's granting of a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, the alleged mastermind of the July riots in Urumqi.