China has once again ramped up its warning to Australia, stressing the escalating feud between the two countries will only result in an “angry” China becoming “the enemy”.
Australia has responded by reiterating the ball is in China’s court when it comes to repairing ties, yet Beijing is insistent the relationship is to be salvaged by Canberra by “correcting their mistakes”.
In an increasingly tense relationship, Beijing once again appears to be honing in on the Morrison government following the US election which has cast doubt over Canberra’s position as an ally to an aggressive stance on China deployed under US President Donald Trump.
A 14-point dossier, not too dissimilar to a list of grievances Chinese state media issued in July, was handed to Nine Newspapers by an unnamed Chinese diplomat late on Tuesday.
Included was a raft of complaints many which have fuelled the breakdown in bilateral ties in recent months.
Among the grievances were blocking Chinese investment in Australia including Huawei’s 5G rollout and the Belt and Road Initiative, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s vocal stance on investigations into the origins of Covid-19, interference with “internal matters” such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang and its funding for “anti-China” research led by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“China is angry,” a government official told a Nine reporter in Canberra.
“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy.”
The strategic move from Chinese officials reiterates Beijing’s reluctance to siting down and discussing its grievances with its Australian counterparts, instead expecting Canberra to publicly back down or likely face further economic sanctions.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham, who has seen imports from several industries boycotted by China under his watch, has had his attempts to contact diplomats in China rebuffed for months.
He called the latest move from China as “not helpful at all” appearing on ABC Breakfast on Thursday.
The official line from China’s Foreign Ministry was delivered less than 24 hours after the leaked document –and the message from spokesperson Zhao Lijian was clear.
"Those who have caused problems should be the ones to solve problems,” he told reporters.
“The root cause is Australia's repeated wrong acts and remarks on issues concerning China's core interests and major concerns as well as its provocative and confrontational actions.
“The Australian side should take concrete actions to correct their mistakes.”
China’s attempt to mount pressure on Canberra to ease its robust stance on a series of issues will undoubtedly provide further food for thought for a government which has so far gone toe-to-toe with Beijing.
Australia responds to latest attack
The Morrison government continues to justify its positions on its disagreements with China and believes Beijing has repeatedly misinterpreted Australia’s position on those matters, believing the latest list of complaints is unreasonable.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called on China to engage in “constructive” dialogue, in what appears to be another bid to move away from antagonising attacks from both nations’ media which have only deteriorated relations further.
"The Australian Government is always ready to talk directly in a constructive fashion about Australia's relationship with China, including about our differences, and to do so directly between our political leaders,” a spokesperson told the ABC.
The latest attack comes after Australia agreed to a defence pact with China’s historic rivals Japan on Tuesday to bolster their ties and counter China's growing assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.
China’s state media labelled the move “unfair” and “dangerous”.
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