Canberra only has itself to blame for the breakdown in its trade and political relationship with Beijing, according to the latest editorial by China Daily, a China-run state publication widely regarded as a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The piece, published late on Wednesday, accused Australian politicians and media of “constantly concocting lies about China and stoking Sinophobia”.
Australia was “shirking” its responsibility for “worsening bilateral relations” between the two nations and “misleading the public”.
“Some ill-intentioned Australians have pinned the blame on the Chinese side by claiming that China's control measures on some Australian exports are "economic coercion" and even accusing China of weaponising economic ties,” the editorial read.
“It is both ridiculous and in vain for those in Australia to dress up their country as a victim. Facts speak louder than words.
“Any objective observer can see that it is Canberra that has single-handedly undermined the political and economic premises for cooperation with Beijing.”
The CCP-owned publication defended its decision to impose anti-dumping investigations on Australian products like wine, accusing Australia of imposing 106 such investigations on Beijing.
However, World Trade Organisation (WTO) data shows that Australia has initiated a total of 87 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations against China.
The editorial defended the delayed customs clearance for Australian lobsters, which were stranded on the tarmac of a Chinese airport in early November, arguing that China was “fully justified in strengthening its customs supervision” and that its measures “fully comply with international practice”.
“These safety procedures are not ‘retaliatory’ trade measures against Australia nor should they be labeled as ‘discriminatory’,” it said.
China Daily also slammed Australia for acting “increasingly hostile” towards China by speaking up about China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
China’s attacks on Australia began when Defence Minister Marise Payne was the first to call for a WHO investigation into the origins of Covid-19, the first case of which was recorded in Wuhan, China.
China Daily claimed this move “stigmatis[ed] China over the pandemic,” and that Canberra had “randomly searched and harassed Chinese journalists in Australia”.
Australia’s last remaining two China correspondents, ABC’s Bill Birtles and the AFR’s Mike Smith, fled China on 8 September amid a five-day diplomatic standoff.
China attacks becoming almost daily
The editorial is China’s latest attack on Australia in a highly publicised trade spat that is being played out in the media.
China is Australia’s largest customer, with the country responsible for buying nearly 40 per cent of Australia’s exports, and the two-way trade between the countries is worth roughly $240 billion.
An unnamed Chinese Embassy official handed over a dossier to 9News that listed 14 grievances Beijing has with Canberra.
This included the ban of Huawei from the roll-out of 5G; speaking out against human rights in Xinjiang; “thinly veiled” allegations against China on cyber attacks, and Canberra’s call for an inquiry to the origin of the coronavirus, which was perceived as “siding with the US’ anti-China campaign”.
“China is angry,” a government official told a Nine reporter in Canberra. “If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy.”
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended Australia, saying the government “won't be compromising” on how it determines foreign investment laws, how it builds telco networks or how it protects itself against foreign interference.
“We make our laws, our rules and pursue our relationships in our interests," he told the Today Show.
“We stand up with other countries, whether it be on human rights issues or things that are carrying around the world including in China, we will continue to do that in accordance with our values.”
The White House’s National Security Forum praised Australia on Twitter for taking steps to “expose and thwart Chinese espionage” and “protect Aussie sovereignty”.
(1/2) Beijing is upset Australia took steps to expose and thwart Chinese espionage & to protect Aussie sovereignty. It’s encouraging to see a growing number of countries following Canberra’s lead in taking such steps, which Beijing helpfully lays out here: https://t.co/ZqCkMho9JA
— NSC (@WHNSC) November 19, 2020
Australia takes conciliatory tone
On Sunday, both Australia and China signed the world’s largest trade agreement which included 15 Indo-Pacific nations.
It was hoped that this would help to ease tensions between the two countries, but that appears to not have materialised.
The increasing frequency of China’s attacks on Australia prompted Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to intervene to de-escalate the conflict.
“Both of our countries have benefited hugely from our growing trade relationship; without this, we both lose,” Frydenberg said.
“The fact that we have different political systems and different values means we will not always agree. That is not new.
“But despite our differences, we are committed to maintaining a strong and productive relationship. We stand ready to engage with the Chinese government in respectful, mutually beneficial dialogue.”
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