While China’s leaders continue to give the Australian government the cold shoulder, its media remains steadfast in its campaign of criticism.
The latest affront comes in an opinion piece in the South China Morning Post, owned by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and based out of Hong Kong.
The article argues the deteriorating relations between China and Australia are the result of Australia’s “identity crisis”, pointing to Australian anxiety about change in the world and a lack of diversity in media and business.
China has consistently aired its grievances in public, even sending a 14 point dossier with a list of complaints to Australian media companies last year. They include the Australian government’s early move to block China telecom Huawei from building the nation’s 5G network and calling for an inquiry into the Covid pandemic, and criticism of its human rights violations.
“Regardless of Australia’s conviction on those issues, it would have made more strategic sense for it to be a follower than a leader,” it argued.
“Principled or impetuous, Australian leaders should have known the implications of their stance, yet they acted against the country’s national interests.”
It called out Australia’s participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “The Quad”, a military and strategic alliance between Australia, the US, India and Japan, as a sore spot for China and a reason it continues to rebuff efforts by the Morrison government to engage with Communist Party officials.
“China knows its own game too well and is looking for concrete policy turns, not empty words. Beijing is watching to see how eager Australia is to be part of the potential upgrading of the Quad,” the article claimed.
China is expected to overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy by the end of the decade and is intent on driving regional nations away from its rival superpower. The Chinese tabloids – seen to be very much under the auspices of the Communist Party – routinely berate Australia for being America’s lap dog.
Article blames Australia’s ‘anxiety, lack of diversity’
The Post article argued that a deep-seated anxiety and lack of diversity in Australian society – invoking the controversy around Australia Day – as well as fears over China’s rise were at the heart of deteriorating relations.
“Is the current downward spiral in relations merely a result of Australian politicians’ unwise choices and China’s forceful reaction? Or are there deeper structural forces at work in Australian society?
“Compared with the US, UK and Canada, Australia has made little progress on diversity in government, business and the media.
“Beneath the social values of maintaining ‘the Australian way of life and culture’ lies anxiety about a rapidly changing world – at home and abroad.”
Earlier this week, China again lashed out at Australia, accusing it of interfering over the incarceration of Chinese-Australian journalist Cheng Lei, who was detained for six months before being officially arrested, prompting concerns to be raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Biden talks with Chinese leader
US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have had their first phone call as leaders, with Biden saying a free and open Indo-Pacific was a priority and Xi warning confrontation would be a “disaster” for both nations.
Biden also underscored his “fundamental concerns about Beijing's coercive and unfair practices, its crackdown in Hong Kong, reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”, the White House said in a statement.
Xi told Biden that the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgments, according to the Chinese foreign ministry's account of the call, which took place Thursday.
But the Chinese leader also maintained a hardline tone regarding Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, which Xi told Biden were matters of "sovereignty and territorial integrity" that he hopes the US will approach cautiously.
It was the first call between Xi and a US president since the Chinese leader spoke with former President Donald Trump in March last year. Since then, relations between the two countries have plunged to their worst level in decades.
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