Former prime minister Tony Abbott's controversial visit to Taiwan refuses to go away, with Chinese state media using it as an opportunity to warn Australia of mass fatalities if it dares engage in military conflict with China.
Mr Abbott infuriated Beijing with his remarks in Taipei where he told a security forum that China may lash out as its economy slows, accusing Beijing of being a bully and saying Australia – particularly its trade sector – had been unfairly targeted.
Delving into the delicate situation surrounding China's push to reunify Taiwan, he said he was seeking to end Taiwan's international isolation and said other democracies across the world should offer similar support to counter "challenges" posed by its "giant neighbour".
In the wake of his comments, China's embassy in Canberra labelled Abbott a "failed and pitiful politician" while foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said his remarks were "extremely absurd".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stressed Mr Abbott's visit was in a private capacity and not associated with the federal government.
Having already savaged Mr Abbott in a previous article, nationalistic tabloid and Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times questioned his motives in Taiwan through an opinion piece from its ostentatious editor-in-chief Hu Xijin.
"To put it bluntly, Abbott actually asked Taiwan to "stand up and die" for Western interests and to act as cannon fodder on a war that the island is destined to lose in order to win praise from the West," Hu, a renowned critic of Australia, wrote.
Hu labelled Mr Abbott as "so vicious" and said he was unsure if the people of Taiwan are "stupid enough" to take his remarks seriously.
He said they should instead tell Mr Abbott and Australia to ready itself if it continues to hype up the threat of China.
"I think rational Taiwan people would tell him: It is better for you Australians prepare to fight," he said.
"Australia can deploy most of its warships around the Chinese mainland and give young Australian soldiers 'a worthy death defending democracy'."
It comes weeks after the Global Times warned Beijing would not hesitate in making an example out of Australian troops after the landmark AUKUS announcement that will see nuclear-powered submarines made on home soil.
"If it acts with bravado to show its allegiance to the US and takes the most prominent position in the US' anti-China strategy, especially by being militarily assertive, then Canberra will most likely become a target of Beijing's countermeasures so as to send a warning to others," it said.
"Thus, Australian troops are also most likely to be the first batch of Western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea."
James Palmer, the former opinions editor at the Global Times, told Yahoo News Australia earlier in the year the newspaper has become "much closer to the government".
"Four or five years ago I would have said this was [Hu] being opportunistic, but now given the tightness of the media environment and the privileged position the Global Times appears to have it seems much more like direct messaging to me," he said in April.
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