Chinese state media has delivered a stark warning to the US and its allies, including Australia, stressing "small-clique" politics won't work in the increasingly-hostile Indo-Pacific region.
It comes as the Australian federal election draws near, with Beijing-controlled publications ramping up their commentary and criticism of both the Coalition and Labor.
China has taken centre stage in both party's campaigning, largely thanks to its controversial security deal with Australian neighbour the Solomon Islands which Labor called the "worst foreign policy failure since World War II".
China's national news agency Xinhua turned its attentions to Australia's AUKUS security pact with the US and the UK on Saturday, saying it was an attempt to "incite confrontation".
It argued leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a two-day summit in Washington would not be fooled by the US's promises as it looks to counteract China's rapid growth.
"[Washington's] hope to pull ASEAN members into its camp will shrivel, as ASEAN countries have already woken up to Washington's typical hegemony, hypocrisy and egomania," it said.
Chinese state media has long accused Australia of merely being a lap dog of Washington, while Beijing has repeatedly accused the Morrison government of fuelling tensions in the region and adopting a Cold War mentality.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton caused controversy when he judged a passing Chinese warship to have acted aggressively – remarks Prime Minister Scott Morrison later walked back on.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused Mr Dutton of fear mongering, and previously said his ongoing China rhetoric was merely an attempt to lure voters.
Chinese state media takes aim at both parties
Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, a longtime China expert and fluent Mandarin speaker, has been highly critical of the Morrison government's handling of Sino-Australian relations, and called Mr Dutton "an idiot" for his persistent remarks.
Yet even he could not avoid the wrath of Chinese state media, who accused Mr Rudd of also politically capitalising on China.
"Rudd's statement is just a campaign ploy," nationalistic tabloid the Global Times said, honing in on his criticism of the Solomon Islands security deal.
Mr Rudd's remarks about Mr Dutton came as he promoted his new book The Avoidable War which focuses on US-China relations.
"If Rudd made such judgments on China-US relations, why couldn't he view China-Australia relations with the same rationality?" Chen Hong, president of the Chinese Association of Australian Studies and director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University asked.
The Global Times questioned whether Australia, whichever party is in government, can view Sino-Australian relations rationally.
One expert told the Global Times such criticism from Australian politicians was partly to appease Washington.
“There is no doubt that Australian politicians’ purpose is to win votes ahead of the election by being tough on China,” an anonymous expert said.
On Sunday, the Liberal party launched its election campaign with a week to go. There was no mention of China, and while Mr Dutton was present, he was not in the line up to address the audience.
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