China’s Deputy Head of Mission in Australia has criticised what he perceives as a growing mentality where Australians are encouraged by the federal government and the press to dislike China.
Wang Xining says it has become "a sin" for people in Australia to show friendship towards China.
He addressed the Australia China Business Council's ACT Chinese New Year dinner last Thursday, with China's embassy releasing the transcript of his speech on Monday.
"It seems that being friendly to China, to be a friend of China becomes a sin and mistake in Australia.
"While, to take a stern face against Chinese would be the legislate stance by a patriotic Australian. Only in that way could the Australian politician win the heart of Australian population.
"Today, it is really difficult to be China’s friend in Australia."
His comments come after a torrid 2020 where Sino-Australian relations rapidly deteriorated, fuelled by an ugly back-and-forth between Chinese diplomats and members of the Morrison government, who insisted they were acting to defend Australia's national interests.
Yet Mr Wang said suspicions of Chinese coercion from "a small number of people" has been "totally ridiculous".
The federal government has slapped new restrictions on Chinese investments last year to reduce threats to national security, much to the annoyance of Beijing.
Official says there's no evidence China is a threat to Australia
Mr Wang said there was no evidence to suggest China was a threat to Australia's sovereignty and security.
"It appears to me those who claimed for these fabricated arguments do not want to be Chinese friends," he said.
"Based on my observation, most of those people are siphoning off Australia’s financial coffer, and they squander on the cornucopia which is the hard-won product of the majority of Australian labor force.
"They abused the power in their hands to strike hard on China’s friends in Australia, who were working so hard to enhance Australia’s economic power, improve people’s living standard, and store potential for future development."
Mr Wang said the perception of China being a wrongdoer was fuelled by biased media reporting in Australia.
"[If] people are immersed by those negative portraits on China by the major media outlets and brainwashed by the vulgarised and simplified political slogans, how would they understand China?"
He warned those who continue to "make enemies" with China will be "cast aside by history".
War of words between China and Australia rolls on
China has repeatedly sought concessions from Mr Morrison on Australia's stance on a series of matters China believes to be internal affairs, such as the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and Hong Kong's security bill.
On Monday evening, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin insinuated Canberra had behaved in a hypocritical fashion to trigger a lack of trust from Chinese investors that had contributed to a significant drop in investment last year.
"In recent years, the Australian side has repeatedly used 'national security' as an excuse to veto Chinese companies' investment projects, and arbitrarily imposed restrictions on normal exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in various fields, which has seriously dampened the confidence of Chinese investors," he said.
"Such practice of politicising economic and trade issues runs counter to Australia's self-proclaimed commitment to market rules and the principle of free competition, and puts Australia's own interests and reputation in jeopardy."
ANU data released on Sunday indicated Chinese investment in Australia had plunged by more than 60 per cent in 2020.
The university's database recorded just over $1 billion in Chinese investment in Australia in 2020, down from $2.6 billion the previous year.
Chinese-Australians disagree on interference
The Chinese-Australian community is polarised on Beijing's purported interference in Australian politics, a new report has suggested.
Half of the community also believes Australia's media reporting about China is too harsh, with most utilising social media platform WeChat and Beijing-controlled outlets Xinhua and People's Daily for their news.
The Lowy Institute polled more than 1000 Chinese-Australians for the survey, three quarters of whom were Australian citizens or permanent residents. There are more than 1.2 million people of Chinese heritage living in Australia.
Of the 1004 respondents, about 10 per cent were born in Australia.
The survey found about half of Chinese-Australians thought foreign interference was given "too much attention" by Australian politicians and journalists, while almost 40 per cent said it was given "too little attention".
The report also found some Chinese-Australians were concerned about being baselessly portrayed in the media as Chinese Communist Party agents.
While more than 70 per cent of those surveyed felt a sense of belonging in Australia, more than a third felt they had been treated poorly in the past 12 months and almost a fifth were physically threatened or attacked.
The respondents pointed to broader Australia-China relations and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for this negative treatment.
RMIT University Associate Professor Dr Haiqing Yu told the ABC's The World it was evident Chinese Australians were at increased risk.
"There are increasing cases of racism against Chinese and Asians in Australia, during the Covid-19 outbreak but also before that," she said.
Dr Yu said such discriminative behaviour had come despite members of the Chinese-Australian community defending Australia in the wake of warnings from Beijing not to travel to Australia and also considerable donations of PPE to hospitals and other locations from them.
"So all of these efforts have taken place despite media panic about Chinese influence in Australia."
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com