GT Investigates: Australian media urged to play a more positive role in promoting cooperation, peace as they enhance sneaky maneuvers in PICs to smear China
Published: Apr 01, 2024 09:45 PM
Editor's Note:

"Cognitive Warfare" has become a new form of confrontation between states, and a new security threat. With new technological means, it sets agendas and spreads disinformation, to change people's perceptions and thus alter their self-identity. Launching cognitive warfare against China is an important means for Western anti-China forces to attack and discredit the country. 

Some politicians and media outlets have publicly smeared China's image by propagating false narratives in an attempt to incite and provoke dissatisfaction with China among people in certain countries. These means all serve the seemingly peaceful evolution of the US strategy to contain China's rise and maintain its hegemony. The Global Times is publishing a series of articles to reveal the intrigues of the US-led West's China-targeted cognitive warfare, and expose its lies and vicious intentions. 

In the 11th installment of the series, the Global Times exposed Australian media's deceptive tactics to stir up confrontation and misunderstanding between Fiji and China, while encouraging them to play a more constructive role in promoting cooperation, peace, and development amid recent warming signals of relations and exchanges between China and Australia. 

Some Western media outlets have been sparing no effort to smear China's cooperation with South Pacific Island Countries (PICs). In a recent move, 60 Minutes Australia released a video program entitled "China's dirty tactics to control Pacific" on March 24 to further smear normal exchanges and cooperation between China and Fiji. The video alleges that behind this cooperation are China and Chinese businesspeople who are "supporting drug trafficking organizations in Fiji" and are seeking as much influence as possible in the island nation.

The video and the following reports are based on lies, speculations, and presumptions of guilt and are full of ideological bias and distortion of facts, the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Fiji said in a statement on March 26. He firmly denounced the video and the subsequent reports in the statement. The spokesperson made clarifications in response to the trumped-up charges claimed in the video one by one. 

For decades, Australia, the "manager" of the US in their perceived South Pacific region "backyard," has blatantly projected its expansive hegemony by treating the PICs as its vassal states.

Although the region has been "neglected" by the US and Australia for a long time, when China attempts to cultivate normal cooperation and economic exchanges there, Canberra, Washington, as well as their allies resort to unrelenting hysteric attacks against China.

In 2022, their target was the security pact between China and the Solomon Islands. Recently, they turned their focus to Fiji, which is considered the leader of the PICs, especially by Australia, which views this region as a power range that must be contested and protected. 

Efforts by some Australian media sources to "spread" Western democratic values and increase their external propaganda in Fiji are increasing, the Global Times learned from some sources in Fiji, who are direct witnesses to the Australian media's sneaky maneuvers to sow discord between Fiji and China.

Reports based on a deliberate distortion of facts would not only erode the credibility of these media outlets but also threaten to destabilize regional peace and development, analysts warned. They called for certain Australian media outlets to return to the right track of playing a more positive role in promoting cooperation and regional peace rather than stirring up trouble.  

The city view of Suva, capital of Fiji Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The city view of Suva, capital of Fiji Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Same old tricks

Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka put on hold the decade-old police cooperation between Fiji and China shortly after forming his government in December 2022, citing differences in policing, investigations, and legal systems. 

After reviewing a policing cooperation deal with China for one year, Fiji decided to maintain the cooperation despite mounting pressure from the US and Australia. The Chinese Embassy in Fiji confirmed this information with the Global Times on March 17. The move reflects that such cooperation, fundamentally different from that with Western countries, stems from the strong demand of the PICs, Chinese experts said.  

The above-mentioned 60 Minutes Australia video discredited the China-Fiji police cooperation as a way to conduct "mass kidnapping" and "exert power in the region." 

"This allegation disregards facts in favor of a hidden agenda. It is a demonization and malicious distortion of normal cooperation between China and Fiji," the spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Fiji said on March 26, firmly refuting the video's claims in the statement.

Police cooperation is just the latest excuse being used by Australian media outlets to smear China's cooperation with the PICs in their constant promotion of the "China threat" theory. 

"They [Australian media] usually portray China's normal exchanges and cooperation with the PICs as a means for major powers to seek power in geopolitical competition, insinuating that China is interfering in the internal affairs of the island countries and eroding their sovereignty," a source who requested anonymity told the Global Times, referring to the negative portrayal of Fiji's participation in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a prominent example of how Australian media outlets always claim that China's infrastructure projects are setting "debt traps" for the island countries.

Another similar old trick used by some Australian media outlets and officials is to draw parallels between Western and Eastern ideologies by emphasizing Australia's Vuvale Partnership, or family partnership, with Fijians, emphasizing the shared values of "democracy and freedom." This move, as experts said, is aimed at creating doubts about or distancing from China's political system and ideology.   

Some Australian media outlets have also accused China of manipulating agents - for example, Zhao Fugang, a businessman featured in the 60 Minutes Australia program - to increase penetration in Fiji, engaged in crimes with Western competitors like the US and Australia. 

In a response to the 60 Minutes Australia, the Chinese Embassy in Fiji noted that Zhao is a Fijian national and his activities and operations in Fiji should be addressed to the Fijian government.

The Chinese Embassy stressed that 60 Minutes Australia's suspicion of the relationship between the Chinese government and the Chinese community in Fiji is entirely groundless. 

Real dirty tactics  

The above-mentioned attacks are baseless and always predicated upon unsubstantiated information and even lies, experts pointed out.  

The Global Times found that, in these kinds of reports, Australian media outlets usually quote information from certain intelligence agencies whose authenticity cannot be confirmed. 

Based on information from unknown sources, these media outlets take things out of context, and piece together a false news story. They then virally spread these reports via diverse channels, including television, radio, documentaries, and social media platforms.

Many Australian media outlets, such as the Sydney Morning Herald and most recently Channel 9 news, also work together to create a matrix effect by reporting on the same issue at the same period of time.  

Australian media outlets also maintain close cooperation with Fiji's local media outlets to ensure that these reports spread to Fiji. Local mainstream media outlets in Fiji have signed cooperation agreements with various Australian media outlets, resulting in a wide coverage range. In addition to high-level exchanges, there are also exchanges of film and television products such as TV series and documentaries. 

The world news section of Fijian media outlets mainly consists of reports from Western media outlets such as the BBC and ABC, with very little original reporting from Fijian media sources. This can lead to a lot of negative publicity in the world news section, experts pointed out. 

Pedestrians walk through the wet market in downtown Suva, Fiji on August 20, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Pedestrians walk through the wet market in downtown Suva, Fiji on August 20, 2023. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Australian media outlets also provide a lot of assistance to Fijian media, such as purchasing equipment or exchanging film and television resources, due to lower media capabilities in Fiji. This assistance is valuable to them, and they will often publish whatever is provided by Australian media outlets. Training and exchange programs also penetrate the upper levels of Fijian media, influencing the stance of the newspapers, a local insider close to the matter told the Global Times. 

Additionally, Australian think tanks and scholars often visit Fijian schools. Under the guise of neutrality and objectivity, some of them, in fact, act as spokespersons for the Australian government. They often publish articles in local media outlets, warning about "debt traps" and "loss of sovereignty" due to Chinese influence, and hold forums and lectures at universities to spread negative opinions and instigate anti-China sentiment, according to the Fijian insider.

Meanwhile, amid Australian media's intensified attacks against China, some scholars in Fiji were recently warned not to express political opinions using their academic affiliations, the Global Times has learned. 

Call for positive role in promoting cooperation   

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times, that the actions of Australian media outlets are not surprising due to their alignment with the Five Eyes alliance, including the US and the UK, shaping their narratives and intelligence efforts to serve US interests. 

Consequently, any enhancement of China's presence, whether in the Arctic or in the South Pacific Islands, faces inevitable denigration, particularly from Australian media outlets closely linked to intelligence and security sectors, Li stated.

"The reckless discourse of Australian media has tangible adverse effects," Li noted, "not only undermining the media's own credibility but also complicating China's diplomatic relations, particularly in the South Pacific region like Fiji."

This has set up unnecessary obstacles in China's interactions with these countries, benefiting foreign political forces keen on intensifying geopolitical competition with China.

Li lamented that such media behavior fosters misunderstandings and escalates difficulties in public engagements with China, injecting harmful geopolitical narratives into the South Pacific, and posing risks of division and confrontation. He concluded that these actions serve to damage the regional interests of most countries in the area, indicating a regrettable course of conduct by the media. 

He called for certain Australian media outlets to play a more positive and more active role in promoting cooperation, peace, and development, highlighting the recent warming of relations and exchanges between China and Australia. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded on March 21 his first visit to Australia in seven years with positive signs signaling that normal bilateral ties are back on track. 

About one week after Wang's visit, China's Ministry of Commerce announced, on March 28, a decision to cancel anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs levied on Australian wine. The removal of the tariffs shows a pragmatic attitude on both sides to solve their trade disputes through dialogue and negotiations, Chinese experts said, anticipating more robust development in trade and economic relations between the two countries.