Aussie right-wing media's US-inspired anti-China rhetoric poisons local politics
Published: Feb 16, 2023 11:22 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

"Are we ready for war?" "I don't think we are," answered an Australian man in a suit with a serious face. This is the dialogue we hear. Then accompanied by ominous, nerve-wracking background music, we see some clips of China's warplanes soaring and soldiers marching in unison.

This is not a scene from a Hollywood war movie, but a clip from a special investigation, entitled "Are We Ready For War?" released by Sky News Australia on Wednesday. The nearly hour-long documentary also has a clickbaiting and sensationalist title on YouTube: "China's aggression could start new world war."

It's hard to say if the Australian film industry has reached the level of Hollywood. But to play up the threat of war, a right-leaning Australian media outlet has made a video of a quasi-Hollywood blockbuster level, showing how hard it has tried to promote the anti-China sentiment.

The documentary features interviews with experts from the island of Taiwan, Australia, and the US - Some of them are associated with the military-industrial complex in the West, while some are long-time anti-China activists. It aims to spread the argument that Australia is not yet militarily prepared to face the growing "threat" from China.

The implication is also clear: Canberra should continue to arm itself, which naturally includes buying more advanced weapons and equipment from Washington, even as the former has dramatically enhanced its military expansion in recent years.

Sky News Australia is run by News Corp Australia, which is controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Experts told the Global Times that the Murdoch presses are strongly conservative-leaning. So when it comes to reporting news on China-related issues, these media companies are good at focusing on the negative parts, while intentionally avoiding the positive ones.

Furthermore, they are fond of amplifying anti-China remarks in a sensationalist way, thus creating concerns, anxieties and even fears about China in Western society. Such a gimmick not only serves the anti-China agendas of some Western politicians, but also can win more clicks and views for these presses.

For a long time, the right-wing or right-leaning media in Australia, represented by the Murdoch media, have undermined and poisoned the Australian political environment. In October 2020, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched an online petition to call for an inquiry into the "abuse of media monopoly in Australia in particular by the Murdoch media." Rudd described Murdoch as an "arrogant cancer on our democracy" who had destroyed Australian politics' "level playing field."

It's not surprising that a media outlet like Sky News Australia has increased its hype on the so-called China threat at the present critical juncture in bilateral relations. Chen Hong, the director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, believes that the current improvement of China-Australia relations has incurred strong reaction from some anti-China forces in Australia, who want to impede the proactive process by trying to "rewind the progress of history."

At the same time, Washington has also fueled the anti-China hype in Australia's conservative media, intensifying the conflict between China and the US over the balloon incident. This gives the anti-China forces in Australia a boost to inflame anti-China and Sinophobic sentiments in Australia.

Moreover, the US has a strong influence on Australia in terms of ideology and public opinion. Washington's anti-China forces have been trying to take advantage of this to try to influence and manipulate Australian public opinion. This is a very crafty move with sinister motives, said Chen.

Beijing and Canberra now urgently need a better public opinion environment to support the momentum of improving their bilateral relations. But if media outlets like Sky News keep creating some unfriendly and unpleasant buzz in public opinion, it can easily affect some decisions of the Australian government in repairing its ties with China.

"If the public opinion in Australia grows more against China, the government may have to act cautiously in terms of developing relations with Beijing, with many possible actions forced to slow down or even stop entirely," noted Ning Tuanhui, an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.

The strengthening of China-Australia relations benefits both countries. But the US is trying to hinder such development to ultimately serve its own strategic purpose, which is to seek a strategic advantage over China and maintain its hegemony in the world. Australia should not allow itself to become weaponized by the US, while the Australian public should be more vigilant against those unscrupulous local presses that only care about creating sensations.