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Beijing has again rejected the Morrison government's persistent commentary about China's presence in the Indo-Pacific, branding Defence Minister Peter Dutton as "deluded".
Mr Dutton's unwavering, vocal stance on China continued on Friday with a frank address at the National Press Club where he warned of forming "dark clouds" thanks to China "using its increasing power to compel compliance at the cost of respect."
"Today we face the most significant change in our strategic environment since the Second World War," he said, adding if China was successful in reunifying Taiwan, the rest of the region would be at a heightened risk.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed Mr Dutton's speech, reiterating Australia would “stand up to any form of coercion that occurs” – a move welcomed by Taiwan whose Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered its "sincere gratitude" to the Morrison government.
Yet on Tuesday, with his latest response in a lengthy and repetitive back-and-forth with Mr Dutton, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned the Australian public were being misled.
"Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton continued with his delusional miscalculation on China’s foreign policy in his address at the National Press Club," he said.
"He brazenly distorted China’s efforts to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, misled the Australian people on the regional situation and priorities, and incite conflict and division between countries and peoples."
Mr Zhao said China has "never done anything that damages Australia's sovereignty" and warned members of the Morrison government to "stop hyping up the 'China threat' narrative for selfish political gain and stop going further down the wrong path towards the point of no return."
China wants Australia 'on its knees', advisor warns
On Wednesday, a key security advisor to US President Joe Biden says China wanted to "drive Australia to its knees" but would eventually realise the need to re-engage.
Addressing a Lowy Institute conference, Kurt Campbell remarked on China's military build-up, saying it had "unnerved" all Indo-Pacific nations.
"China's preference would have been to break Australia ... and then find a way forward," he said.
Mr Campbell lauded Australia's efforts in standing up to the communist giant.
"China is a country that deep down fundamentally respects strength, fortitude and resilience and I can't imagine a country that has demonstrated that more clearly than Australia," he said.
"Over time, I believe China will re-engage with Australia ... on Australian terms ... because it is in its own interest to have a good relationship with Australia."
Mr Campbell said the new trilateral AUKUS agreement between the United Kingdom, United States and Australia would be one of the most significant things the countries would accomplish.
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