Chinese state media has continued its relentless attack on Australia, as tensions between Beijing and the Morrison government boil over yet again.
Two damning articles targeting Australia were published on the Global Times in the space of just 24 hours, with the outspoken mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, a renowned critic of Canberra, branding Australia as xenophobic.
The basis of stories surround Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new proposals to introduce legislation that allows the foreign minister to terminate any deal by state and territory governments, local councils and universities with nations overseas.
While Mr Morrison stressed the move was not aimed at China, the Global Times branded it another “unprovoked attack” while delivering yet another warning the move will “cause huge damage to [Australia’s] already severely injured economy”.
“Some Australian politicians' intent to decouple from China economically – to use the Chinese market but reject all Chinese products and investments in a bid to contain China's economic development – is absurd,” one of the articles, written by Yu Lei, a research fellow at the Australian Studies Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said.
“This will only hurt Australia's national interests and people's wellbeing.”
Yu referenced former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s famous comments in the 80s and suggested Australia could become the “poor white trash of Asia” if it continues to harm its economic interests.
China denies wrongdoing over Cheng Lei’s detainment
There are fears Cheng’s detention is direct retaliation for Australia’s latest move, one strongly refuted by China.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying addressed reporters on Tuesday, insisting her arrest was in no way linked to China-Australia relations.
“Unlike some other countries, we don't practice unlawful deeds in the name of the law,” she said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne refused to draw a link between the two, while the director of Australia's foreign cyber intelligence agency, Rachael Noble, said on Tuesday “not all Australians are the good guys”.
Speculation has arisen Cheng’s detainment could be linked to a series of Facebook posts that could have been deemed as critical of Beijing’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In June, following tit-for-tat allegations of espionage from both countries, Clive Hamilton, a public ethics professor at Charles Sturt University and author of Silent Invasion: China’s Influence in Australia, told the ABC it was a “real possibility that some Australians might be targeted” in China.
“I’m quite worried about that,” he said.
It also comes as barley exports from one of Australia’s top grain exporters were suspended by China.
CBH Grain Pty Ltd says it strongly refutes claims from China its exports were contaminated with quarantine pests.
It is the latest economic hit Australia’s agriculture sector has faced in recent months after Mr Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, while its education ministry warned students not to travel to Australia due to a rise in sinophobic attacks.
‘Infected with paranoia’
In another Global Times opinion piece by Wang Wenwen on Tuesday, the tabloid slammed Mr Morrison’s move to protect national interests over its potential to damage China’s ties with Australian universities.
“Top representatives of the sector also warned that Australia would be "in really serious trouble" without international partnerships, and believe their scientists have been vilified for working with Chinese counterparts,” it said.
"National security" has been abused by countries which adopt a protectionist and xenophobic stance.”
Ms Hua also took a swipe at Australia over the move at the Foreign Ministry’s daily press conference.
“Certain Australian people and forces seem to be "infected" with paranoia, dominated by China-phobia and conjectures, to the extent of losing all sense of rationality and justice that they make various accusations against normal educational and people-to-people exchange between China and Australia,” she said.
‘What happens when the US won’t come to the rescue?’
The Global Times warned Australia it would struggle to replace China as its largest trading partner.
“If Australia views this close economic relationship as well as China-Australia collaboration in other sectors such as science as a burden rather than an opportunity, it will face far-reaching consequences it cannot bear,” it said.
“When that happens, the US won't come to its rescue.”
In their new report, @FergusHanson, @emilia_currey and @tracingtheworld argue that ‘coordinated multilateral and minilateral push-back is key to forcing the CCP to wind back its increasing use of coercion’https://t.co/FB5S8bhO5c— ASPI (@ASPI_org) September 1, 2020
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which Ms Hua criticised over its received funds from the US, released a damning report on Monday that lambasted China for ramping up “coercive diplomacy” globally in recent years.
“The impacts of coercive diplomacy are exacerbated by the growing dependency of foreign governments and companies on the Chinese market,” it explained.
“The economic, business and security risks of that dependency are likely to increase if the CCP can continue to successfully use this form of coercion.”
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