China accuses Peter Dutton of escalating tensions with 'wild remarks'
Beijing's rejection of the Morrison government's brazen condemnation of China's regional threat continued on Tuesday, with the Chinese Communist Party taking aim at "despicable" behaviour from the defence minister.
The issue of China has been one of the leading topics on the campaign trail – thanks in part to its controversial security deal with the Solomon Islands – with Defence Minister Peter Dutton leading the charge in vocalising the risk posed by Beijing's military growth.
Mr Dutton, who has long riled Beijing for his anti-China commentary, followed up last year's Anzac Day warning about China with another on Monday, saying the only way to preserve peace was to now "prepare for war".
In what is an escalating back-and-forth of barbed responses, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin slammed Mr Dutton's latest remarks on Tuesday evening, accusing him of using China for political gain ahead of the Federal Election.
"Certain Australian politicians often seek selfish political gains by making wild remarks to smear China and clamour for a war," he told reporters.
"Such despicable moves are seen through by the Chinese people and the international community."
It comes a day after he accused Mr Dutton of "clinging to the Cold War mentality" after he accused China of paying bribes to win international deals.
The Morrison government's pursuit of a "khaki election" has all but severed any hope of resurrecting a severely-damaged relationship with Beijing, experts fear.
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James Laurenceson, Director of the University of Technology Sydney’s Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) told Yahoo News Australia he believes China has "given up" on Mr Morrison and his government.
Mr Morrison's no-nonsense approach in the face of what he has called Chinese coercion continued this week by drawing a "red line" in the Pacific over the Solomon Islands development.
"We won't be having Chinese military naval bases in our region, on our doorstep," he firmly said.
While failing to elaborate on what it meant in practice, he said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare agreed with the stance after reassurances there would be no Chinese military base in the island nation.
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