Australia's 'Attack China' campaign exposes politicians eager to win US favor

By GT staff reporters Published: 2020/4/29 7:31:25

Photo: VCG

Editors' Note: Ever since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), certain high-ranking Australian officials have made no secret of their desire to seize this opportunity to win favor from the US by harshly attacking China, which has brought China-Australia relations to a new low.

While China is Australia's largest export partner, politicians including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne, have clearly shown that their personal political gains are more important than the country's national interests. Meanwhile, some Australian media outlets and organizations, including the Nine network's 60 Minutes program, are hyping coronavirus conspiracy against China.

Washington is more important than Canberra

For right-wing politicians in Australia, Washington is even more important than Canberra. They unhesitatingly jump out to attack China when the US shows any sign of discontent with China.

Two days after US State Secretary Mike Pompeo asked China to share COVID-19 information transparently, home affairs minister Dutton told Nine News on April 17 that, "All of those families would demand answers and transparency. I don't think it's too much to ask. So, I think it is incumbent upon China to answer those questions and provide the information."

When speaking on Channel Nine's Today Show several days ago, he expressed his confidence in the US' findings. The "US is saying they've got documentation which demonstrates that the virus had a particular path or origin, I think they'll detail all of that information." However, he said in the interview that he had not seen the documents.

Dutton now positions himself as the "pioneer" in the "Attack China" campaign amid the coronavirus outbreak. He even proposed an independent inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus in China.

Ironically, Dutton himself tested positive for COVID-19 which aroused concerns from the US as he had met with Ivanka Trump before being confirmed with the infection.

For many people, Dutton, a radical anti-China politician, is not unfamiliar. Dutton accused China of launching cyberattacks against Australia after he concluded a visit to the US in October 2019.

Analysts point out that these attacks against China are likely to be influenced by Washington. It's also not hard to see that many Australian politicians follow closely every step the US takes against China.

On March 12, US Republican senator Tom Cotton said it's time to hold China "accountable" for the coronavirus. On March 31, Australian MP George Christensen called for China to pay reparations for the coronavirus and urged investigations into a Wuhan laboratory which was reported by some Western media outlets as an origin of COVID-19.

On April 10, the US urged China to close its wet markets. Four days later, Prime Minister Morrison confronted WHO as the latter supported the reopening of wet markets.

On April 22, Morrison tweeted that "Just got off the phone with US President @realDonaldTrump. We had a very constructive discussion on our health responses to #COVID19."

He continued in the tweet, "We also talked about the @WHO & working together to improve the transparency & effectiveness of international responses to pandemics. Australia & the US are the best of mates & we'll continue to align our efforts as we work towards the recovery on the other side of this virus."

However, in the comments section, the ones that got most likes were those that disagreed with him. "How can anyone have a very constructive discussion with Donald Trump?" read one comment which garnered 1,417 likes.

Another one read, "WHY are you calling Trump for advice? Following America???" got more than 219 likes.

While China is Australia's largest trading partner, Morrison apparently does not value those economic ties. He outraged Chinese people in May 2019 when he described the US as a "friend" while only referring to China as a "customer."

Richard Marles from Australia's Labor Party pointed out in September 2019 that Australia's relations with China have been in a "terrible" state following Morrison's visit to the US in 2019, read a Guardian report.

Like Dutton, it seems to be a tradition for many Australian politicians to point fingers at China every time they conclude visits to the US.

During the pandemic, Australia's foreign affairs minister Payne has also tried to get herself in the spotlight. On April 19, she told ABC that there should be an international investigation into the origins of the virus and how it spread, urging transparency like some US politicians have said.

Payne retweeted her interview, but comments under that post were critical. "I get that you need to shore up US political support for your election campaign, but to put that ahead of national interest in our more important trading partner?" read one comment.

"I don't understand why you are playing the Trump card" read another comment.

Payne has a history of interfering in China's internal affairs. Last year, she said that China should be held accountable for "human abuses issues" and she keeps expressing opinions about Xinjiang issues.

Despite these politicians, Nine News to which Dutton gave his interview often pictures China in a negative way. It has also hyped up other topics including African people being discriminated against in China due to the virus. 60 Minutes also aired a program smearing WHO and China. Its tweets are filled with groundless attacks and it even said the virus is "made in China."

A history check of 60 Minutes showed that just a few months ago, it aired a so-called exclusive which helped the island of Taiwan promote fake information.

Anti-China veteran

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia, with its government and media, has been a veteran against China in order to impress the US.

On topics related to Huawei, Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, Australia always keeps a close step behind the US, seeking to interfere in China's internal affairs. Moreover, sometimes Australia's smearing of China is even louder and harsher than the US.

Though the government and media are often slammed for faking claims on China, it is Australia that is actually trying to have a hand in China's internal affairs.

Australia has been the pioneer of hyping the "China threat" to its internal affairs, accusing China of trying to influence the country's politics.

As early as 2016, media hyped that China was buying political influence in Australia after senator Sam Dastyari accepted a donation of about $1,270 from a Chinese company.

In December 2017, the Australian newspaper reported that "ASIO has identified about 10 political candidates in state and local government elections whom it believes have close ties to Chinese intelligence services."

Even the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) in Australia has been said to be "partly funded by the Chinese embassy."

"The association has been accused of peddling Chinese propaganda and helping the Chinese government to keep an eye on its overseas students," read an ABC story in October 2019.

Australia passed foreign interference laws in June 2018 that added tension between the country and China.

The Sydney Morning Herald in November 2019 reported that a Chinese man Wang Liqiang had "defected" to Australia. The Australian report said Wang is a very senior and important intelligence officer.

It said Wang was ordered to "shift his attention from a covert operation to undermine Hong Kong's democracy movement and focus instead on meddling in Taiwan's 2020 elections."

However, Wang turned out to be a fraud in China. He confessed in his fraud case involving 120,000 yuan ($17,000) in a Chinese court in 2016, admitting he had "a weak legal awareness," a video from the court showed.

In November 2019, Australia's Liberal Members of Parliament Andrew Hastie and James Paterson were denied visas to visit China as the two "have both been publicly critical about the Chinese regime," involving issues on Xinjiang, the Guardian reported.

Anti-China activities are wide-ranging in Australia.

In August 2018, Australia became the strictest Western country to exclude Chinese manufacturers from its markets, apart from the US, by banning Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network.

The decision came a week after US President Donald Trump signed a defense bill to ban American government agencies from using components and services from Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE.

The Australian government said in a statement that firms "who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorized access or interference." The statement did not name names, but everyone knows it meant Huawei and another Chinese telecom firm ZTE Corp.

Australia's attitude and actions toward China have been hard to understand with normal logic, as China is Australia's largest trade partner, following by the US.

In 2019, the bilateral trade amount reached $158.97 billion, a 10.9 percent year-on-year increase. Australia's exports to China worth $55 billion in 2019, accounted for more than one third of the country's total exports that year, according to the Department of the Foreign Affairs of Australia via China's Embassy in Australia.

Moreover, Australia is a main destination for many Chinese students. Education services to China rake in $32.4 billion for Australia (or 8 percent of the nation's exports) from international students, according to an ABC report in January 2019.

"Australia's fortunes are linked to China's economy," read the ABC story, quoting an expert by saying that "For Australia, weakening global growth presents a challenge, but the key is what happens to China and commodity prices."

Posted in: DIPLOMACY

blog comments powered by Disqus