How China’s state media covered the deterioration of ties with Australia

By Chris Woods

Friday December 11, 2020



The year 2020 has seen a fairly staggering number of diplomatic incidents between Australia and China.

By now, you are very likely up to speed on reports from Australian journalists and commentators, but how has this year played out across China’s state-controlled media outlet?

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Today, The Mandarin wraps up our week-long series with a snapshot of how Australia-China controversies have played out according to CCP-approved news.

The list comes complete with select Australian versions of events, which offer only varying levels of compliance with the Morrison government’s line.

On the Morrison government’s push for an independent COVID-19 inquiry…

‘Marise Payne calls for global inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak’. Brett Worthington. ABC, April 19:

A bipartisan push has begun for a global inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, including China’s handling of the initial outbreak in the city of Wuhan. Foreign Minister Marise Payne has urged China to allow transparency in the process and does not believe the World Health Organisation (WHO) should run the inquiry. Senator Payne told Insiders any probe of the crisis would require international cooperation.

‘A COVID-19 inquiry is part of the China-blame game’. Tom Fowdy. ChinaDaily, April 27:

Of course, such requests come with an embedded spirit of retribution. [Chinese diplomat] Chen Wen is right to point out that this isn’t a serious effort to enhance the global response to future pandemics, it’s a political blame game, one which would be used in an attempt to subjugate and humiliate China to the ends of other countries. Whilst Beijing is not opposed to international cooperation, what is being proposed here is not a sincere nor earnest attempt at ‘lessons learned.’ It’s coming from opportunistic politicians who want to deflect and offload blame for their own failures on to China as an easy target.

On the WHO passing a modified version of said inquiry…

‘Australia gets ‘slap to the face’ as global community welcomes China-sponsored resolution on COVID-19’. Chen Qingqing and Liu Xin. Global Times, May 19:

China is one of the co-sponsors of the proposed resolution at the 73rd World Health Assembly, which is entirely different from the so-called independent inquiry demanded by Australia, and is in fact a review of the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 response in order to draw lessons from it, instead of specially targeting any country based on a presumption of guilt, a Chinese official said on Tuesday. More calls have also emerged, urging some Western countries like Australia to stop politicizing the issue and act in line with the global consensus.

‘No longer a joke: Why Australia’s COVID-19 inquiry campaign won the day‘. Eryk Bagshaw. The Sydney Morning Herald, May 20:

Australia’s role in landing an independent investigation into coronavirus was dismissed by Beijing as a joke. Our transgression was not in the substance of the argument but in speaking out of turn. This uppity island nation of 25 million marshalling support for an independent inquiry infuriated Beijing. Good fortune, effective government policy and the public’s embrace of social distancing measures had put Australia on course to suppress the virus before any other middle power. Seeing a diplomatic opening, Australia stuck its neck out and pushed for the inquiry.

Morrison government extends Hong Kongers’ visas, suspends extradition after China effectively takes over the city…

Commentary: Lies and hypocrisy behind Australian politicians’ xenophobic mania’. Xinhua, July 12:

After Australia issued its China travel warning in the wake of the newly adopted law in China on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, many expatriate Australians have dismissed the so-called increased risks. According to reports by the Australian Financial Review (AFR) published last week, most expats regard the warning as politically motivated, including Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China, who described it as “provocative.”…These are just two of many examples which show the hypocrisy of some Australian politicians who are attempting to smear China with lies and push the China-Australia relationship to the brink of an abyss.

…Ridiculously, Morrison said in an April 3 interview that COVID-19 “started in China and went round the world,” without providing any proof.

‘Stopping the Chinese Communist Party’s sleeper agents’. Editorial. The Australian, July 14:

Amid security woes and human rights abuses in Hong Kong, the Morrison government wisely has adjusted policy on migration, extradition and travel advice. Canberra has offered special visas for Hong Kong Chinese, including a five-year graduate visa for Hong Kong students, five-year temporary skilled visas and incentives to attract highly skilled migrants and businesses; it has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong; and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has advised Australians not to travel to Hong Kong, and for Australians living there and concerned about the draconian security law to reconsider their need to remain. Used to neither pushback nor another’s free will, the Chinese Communist Party government was flummoxed like a thwarted suitor in a Mills & Boon story. Australia, you’re “not irreplaceable”, the CCP moaned in its English-language daily.

Australia’s raid of Chinese journalist…

‘Australia revokes Chinese scholar visas and targets media officials, prompting furious China response‘. Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop and Echo Hui. ABC, September 9:

Senior Chinese media officials in Australia have been targeted and the visas of two leading Chinese scholars have been revoked in an unprecedented foreign interference investigation into a NSW political staffer, provoking a furious response from the Chinese Government. The Chinese Government has sensationally used state media to accuse Australian authorities of secretly raiding the homes of four Chinese journalists in Australia in late June, after receiving questions from the ABC yesterday about the investigation. The Chinese embassy did not reply to the ABC’s questions yesterday, but several state media organisations published articles overnight reporting details of the alleged raids and accusing Australia of “severely infring[ing] on the legitimate rights of Chinese journalists” and “hypocrisy in upholding so-called ‘freedom of the press'”.

Xinhua News Agency reporter tells about unfair encounters in Australia: friendly messengers were “ransacked”. Yang Jingzhong. Xinhua, September 30:

I am engaged in international news reporting in Xinhua News Agency. Over the years, I have personally experienced and recorded many wonderful moments of China’s opening to the outside world and integration with the world. However, the scene in Sydney more than two months ago can be described as an unexpected “upstream moment” in my career. At about 6:30 in the morning on June 26, I was still asleep, and there was a sudden knock on the door. I got up and opened the door to see that it was the personnel and police from the Australian Security Intelligence Agency.

China’s raid of Australian journalists…

‘When Chinese State Security police knocked on ABC journalist Bill Birtles’ door, he realised he was no longer safe in China’. Bill Birtles. ABC, September 8:

It was Wednesday night and I was starting to get stressed. Very stressed. There were more than a dozen friends in my Beijing apartment helping me pack up five years’ worth of stuff in the Chinese capital during a short-notice farewell. But as the hours stretched towards midnight, I felt the juggle between entertaining friends and packing up my life was getting the better of me. The suitcases remained empty. The ABC, on advice from the Australian Embassy, had organised for me to be on a morning flight out of Beijing’s capital airport.

‘Embassy’s harboring of Ausssie journalists interferes with Chinese law enforcement: FM’. Global Times, September 9:

When asked to comment on China’s ‘forcing’ of Australian journalists Bill Birtles from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Mike Smith from the Australian Financial Review to leave China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that accusing China of ‘hostage diplomacy” in its investigation of Australian journalists while calling the “interrogation” of Chinese journalists “normal procedure” exposed the “odd supremacy,” hypocrisy and double standards of some Australians.

…As for the two Australian journalists, Zhao said it was the Australian Embassy that asked them to leave. The embassy also harbored the two when China issued a request to investigate them. The embassy’s move went beyond consular protection and was an interference in China’s internal affairs as well as judicial sovereignty, said Zhao.

On the escalating trade war…

‘Morrison urges the WTO to pull China into line’. Andrew Tillett. AFR, November 30:

The Morrison government is rallying international support over its trade disputes with China, formally raising with the World Trade Organisation Beijing’s stonewalling of efforts to resolve issues and urging an end to discrimination against Australian exporters. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham revealed yesterday Australia will appeal to the global trade umpire against China’s punitive tariffs on barley.

(Notable AFR headlines: ‘China wine tariff thuggery hard to swallow‘, ‘Australia slams China’s trade thuggery after wine hit job‘, ‘Penfolds’ pivot away from China will take years’, ‘Why Australia should drink to a new wine and spirits plan‘)

‘Australia needs to show its sincerity’. China Daily Global/China Daily, November 30:

China’s latest decision to impose provisional anti-dumping measures on Australian wine should not be wrongly interpreted as a sign of a trade war as it is fully in line with Chinese laws and regulations as well as international practice.

…In an article published on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison appeared to strike a softened tone on China by saying his country “desires an open, transparent and mutually beneficial relationship with China”. But if that is the case, Canberra needs to demonstrate its sincerity and back its words with deeds, since its recent political moves against China can hardly be interpreted as legitimate manoeuvres to protect Australia’s sovereignty and interests.

A list of 14 complaints is leaked to Canberra press…

‘If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy’: Beijing’s fresh threat to Australia’. Jonathan Kearsley, Eryk Bagshaw and Anthony Galloway. The Sydney Morning Herald, November 19:

Beijing has issued an extraordinary attack on the Australian government, accusing it of “poisoning bilateral relations” in a deliberately leaked document that threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries. The government document goes further than any public statements made by the Chinese Communist Party, accusing the Morrison government of attempting “to torpedo” Victoria’s Belt and Road deal, and blaming Canberra for “unfriendly or antagonistic” reports on China by independent Australian media.

‘If Australia wants to remain Australia, it must tell the US’. Zhang Yi. Global Times, November 19:

After Australian media reported that Chinese Embassy in Australia gave a list of complaints about Australia’s China policy to local media outlets on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded by saying “we will always be Australia. We will set our own laws and rules according to our national interests.” But for most Chinese people, Australia is no longer the original Australia, but has become a vassal of the US in recent years. “Australia looks only to the US and bites where the US points,” and “Australia just wants to attract the attention of the international community by attaching itself to the US,” Chinese netizens said.

On that cartoon…

‘Twitter-post garbage the clearest sign yet of desperation in Beijing’. Peter Hartcher. The Sydney Morning Herald, December 1:

Australia is the country that’s supposed to be feeling the pressure. But a look at the evidence reveals that the supposedly mighty regime of strongman Xi Jinping is the one feeling the strain. We now have three clear points of proof.

…Zhao is one of China’s so-called Wolf Warrior diplomats. He’s obviously no diplomat. And as for wolf warrior, it’s more like schlock monger. We know that Donald Trump lowered the standards of conduct by great powers. But this garbage almost makes Trump look statesmanlike. This is ISIS-level stuff.

‘Australia is turning itself into a Western hatchet man’. Hu Xijin. Global Times, November 30:

I was really shocked and disgusted. How could this Australian PM be so ridiculously arrogant to pick on Chinese FM spokesperson’s condemnation against the murder of innocent people? Is the murder fake news? Shouldn’t that illustrator have made the cartoon? Didn’t the Chinese FM spokesperson have the right to repost that cartoon to censure Australian troops’ murder of innocent Afghan civilians?

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