Finland’s prime minister has warned democratic countries to “stop being naive” about China, saying it is essential that they reduce their technological and energy dependency on authoritarian regimes.
Sanna Marin argued at the Lowy Institute think-tank in Sydney on Friday that countries such as Australia and Finland had to forge “common lifelines”.
Finland applied to join Nato in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year and Marin said she expected the Nordic country to become a full member and participate as a security provider.
Her comments follow a Nato meeting in Bucharest where economic measures aimed at containing the “challenge” posed by China were discussed.
The US is attempting to persuade more countries to ensure that critical supply chains are no longer reliant on China and to place restrictions on the export of essential products — such as minerals and semiconductor manufacturing equipment — to the country.
Marin, who met the leaders of New Zealand and Australia on a trade tour of the Pacific this week, said that Russia’s invasion was “a war and fight concerning what is going on in the world” and that democratic values needed to be defended.
“This is the time to stop being naive, also when it comes to China,” she said.
The prime minister insisted this did not mean “we close all the doors and windows” to trade with China. She said that Beijing was still an important partner on global issues such as climate change, but it was important for democratic countries to have “strategic autonomy” in important sectors.
Australia is presenting itself as an alternative to global industries that are trying to secure different supply lines to reduce their dependency on China for critical minerals such as lithium and rare earths, which are needed to make electric vehicles.
Anthony Albanese, Australia’s prime minister, met Marin on Friday to discuss Canberra’s free trade agreement with the EU.
“The opportunities that are there are boundless between us,” he said, citing Australia’s mineral wealth and renewable energy investment.
Marin said the changing global security environment was drawing Australia and Europe closer together, adding that she understood why Australia had forged a closer alliance with the US and UK in the face of rising tension with China.
“We all have worries about China and we must make sure we don’t have those critical dependencies when it comes to China,” she said.
Marin added that the Ukraine invasion had demonstrated the need for democratic countries to forge closer trading and strategic alliances.
“I must be brutally honest with you,” she said. “Europe isn’t strong enough right now. We would be in a lot of trouble without the US involvement in the war in Ukraine.”