As diplomatic relations worsened in recent years, people-to-people ties remained strong. Now, however, it appears even academics and journalists are becoming 'pawns' in a great diplomatic tussle.
Michelle Grattan discusses the increasing strain on the Australia-China relationship following the arrest of Dr. Yang Hengjun, and the government's draft religious discrimination legislation.
Australia is being very explicit in response to concerns about China at the moment, increasingly prepared to put aside the imperatives of diplomacy when necessary.
The detained writer is entitled to Australian consular access while in prison in China, but like other detained Chinese-Australians, Canberra has few other legal options to help him.
The espionage allegation against the Australian writer comes against a backdrop of rising trade and political tensions – and the Australian government's response is hardening.
As the Australian government continues to pressure China over Yang Hengjun's formal arrest, Yang has appealed to Scott Morrison to please “help me go home as soon as possible”.
Outspoken Australian-Chinese democracy advocate Dr Yang Hengjun has been formally arrested in China on suspicion of spying, further straining relations between the two countries.
Yang's detainment is set to further complicate Australia's relationship with China.
The unexplained detention of author and diplomat Yang Hengjun has raised more questions about the motives of a Chinese government under stress from within and without.