Beijing has hit out at Australia after China's relationship with Russia was questioned by the country's intelligence chief.
Andrew Shearer, director general of the Office of National Intelligence, said a "troubling new strategic convergence" between Russia and China was developing.
It comes weeks after the two countries announced a "no limits" partnership while China has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine despite mounting pressure from Western nations. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been one of the more vocal Western leaders on China's stance.
"We're going to have to work much harder to maintain the liberal quality of the rules-based order in Europe and here in the Indo-Pacific region," Shearer said at a conference hosted by the Australian Financial Review.
He said China President Xi Jinping was making a concerted effort to ensure China became the world's leading power and to "establish primacy in the Indo-Pacific".
China accuses Australia of military threat hype
The Morrison government has routinely criticised China's advancements in the region, with Beijing accusing defence minister Peter Dutton of hyping the threat of military conflict for political gain.
On Wednesday evening, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he was not aware of Mr Shearer's remarks yet that did not discourage him from delivering a scathing response.
"If [Shearer] has time, he’d better spend that in focusing on Australia’s own business and how the US, the UK and Australia have advanced the nuclear submarine cooperation under AUKUS in a high-profile manner in disregard of Australia’s non-proliferation obligations, and the universal opposition from regional countries and the international community," he said.
"This is the real trouble in this region."
Mr Zhao said such comments would be met with "strong opposition" by China and Russia.
Elaborating on Xi's comments where he described the developments in Ukraine as "worrying" and offered his most solid commitment yet to work to de-escalate the situation, Mr Zhao said China will "work actively" with the international community and had been in "close communication" with both Russia and Ukraine.
Tony Walker, Vice-Chancellor's fellow at La Trobe University and former Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, said Xi had now found himself in a difficult position and faced a potential "diplomatic cul de sac".
"Xi’s alignment with a Russian miscalculation is clearly not in his or China’s interests," he wrote for The Conversation.
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