'Preposterous': China's damning words for Australia as spat intensifies

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

Tensions between Australia and China have intensified yet again as the fallout over the Morrison government's decision to scrap Victoria's Belt and Road Initiative agreement with Beijing continues. 

The Chinese Embassy in Canberra reacted angrily to the decision late on Wednesday, calling the move "unreasonable" and threatened repercussions.

And on Thursday evening, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin lashed the move, warning Canberra it should "avoid making the already seriously difficult China-Australia relations worse".

Pictured is Australia's Defence Minister Peter Dutton.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton once again reiterated the Morrison government's stance on Friday. Source: AAP

Yet in what has become a characteristically robust move from the federal government, Defence Minister Peter Dutton told Channel Nine's Today show on Friday Australia would not kowtow to China when threatened.

“We’re not going to have our values compromised, we aren’t going to surrender our sovereignty,” he said.

On Friday, an enraged Zhao Lijian, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson whose infamous tweet featuring an artwork depicting an Australian soldier slitting the throat of what appears to be an Afghan child, expressed his anger over Mr Dutton's remarks.

"The comments of Australia's Defence Minister totally confuse black with white," he said.

"The difficult situation in [the] China-Australia relationship is the result of Australia's moves to grossly interfere in China's domestic affairs and undermine China's interests, and its discriminatory trade practice toward China.

"It is preposterous that Australia is playing the victim here."

The Belt and Road Initiative is Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature trade and infrastructure scheme which is touted as a vast improvement on maritime and land trade routes, and often dubbed China's modern-day Silk Road.

Both countries refusing to budge

Both countries have proven stubborn in attempts to improve relations, with Beijing repeatedly calling on Canberra to make significant concessions before discussions can take place – a request that has repeatedly been knocked back. 

"China and others need to understand that Australia is not going to be bullied and we’re standing up for our beliefs and that will continue. It will not change," Mr Dutton said.

Zhao Lijian pictured at a press conference in a red tie and suit.
Zhao Lijian refuted Peter Dutton's claims on Friday. Source: FMPRC

And while the federal government believes Australia's exports have been unfairly punished with a raft of trade sanctions in retaliation to the country's vocal stances on multiple Chinese matters, China itself believes it has been treated unfairly economically with the government's tightening of foreign investment.

"We urge Australia to set aside cold war mentality and ideological bias, view the bilateral cooperation in an objective and rational light, immediately redress mistakes and change course, refrain from going down the wrong path further," Mr Wang said on Thursday.

On Friday, Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles lambasted the government's handling of Chinese relations.

"You need adults in the room when it comes to foreign policy. This is not something you do in the schoolyard. The prime minister doesn't do foreign policy and we've got a foreign minister who is basically in hiding," he said.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who has a particular expertise on Chinese matters, has repeatedly warned the government to "speak less and do more".

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