After months of mounting tensions, Australia and China are caught up in yet another diplomatic face-off with China trying to issue complaints and interfere deeply in Australia’s internal affairs. On the other hand, with Scott Morrison at the helm of affairs, Australia looks very formidable this time around.
In a shocking development, the Chinese Foreign Ministry listed complaints about China’s Australia policy on Tuesday. A day later, the Chinese Embassy in Australia came up with a list of fourteen grievances that go far beyond any interests that an Embassy should have in a host country. Some of the grievances directly criticise internal Australian policy matters. Meanwhile, Australia’s PM Scott Morrison has indicated that his country will not change regardless of the overzealousness being displayed by Beijing.
— Eryk Bagshaw (@ErykBagshaw) November 18, 2020
When diplomatic tensions escalated between China and Australia for the first time earlier this year, Canberra had made a strong demand for an international probe into the origins of the COVID-19 virus. Canberra had also batted for Taiwan’s WHO membership, apart from criticising China over human rights violations.
At that time, China had responded through its permanent unofficial channel- the State-owned media tabloid Global Times. Hu Xijin, Global Times editor, had then said, “Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.”
The ongoing diplomatic standoff is, however, more direct. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian read out seven areas of disagreement with Canberra, including criticism of Chinese policies on on “core interests like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan,” accusing China of “infiltration,” imposing a ban on Chinese 5G in Australia, restrictions on Chinese investments and advocating independent international inquiry into the Wuhan virus.
The Chinese Embassy was far more categorical and objectionable in its rhetoric. The Chinese Embassy is apparently unhappy with Morrison’s government and has accused it of trying “to torpedo” Victoria’s Belt and Road deal. Why should China be angry even if the Morrison regime is trying to get rid of predatory investment? The Chinese Embassy is also unhappy because, in its opinion, the Australian media has been releasing “unfriendly or antagonistic” reports about China.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants Australia to acquire Beijing’s authoritarian characteristics and censor its independent media when it comes to criticism against the paper Dragon. A Chinese government official even issued a threat and said, “China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” during a briefing with a reporter in Canberra.
But amidst the ongoing Sino-Australian diplomatic standoff, Canberra looks rather defiant and undeterred by Chinese threats and grievances. On Thursday, Morrison reacted to the Chinese Embassy’s outrageous grievances and said that policies, including having a free media, elected Parliamentarians speaking their minds and raising human rights issues, will not change.
Australia’s Prime Minister also said, “If this is the cause for tension in that relationship, then it would seem that the tension is that Australia is just being Australia,” Morrison also told Nine Television, “We won’t be compromising on the fact that we will set what our foreign investment laws are, or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks, or how we run our systems of protecting against interference.”
A loud and clear message is coming directly from the Australian Prime Minister clearly suggests that Canberra isn’t going to act as per Beijing’s whims and fancies. The Australian government has refused to prostrate in face of Chinese bullying and it seems that Canberra is clearly winning the second phase of Sino-Australian diplomatic tensions.