The Chinese Embassy in Australia has strongly rejected comments made by Australian Liberal MP Andrew Hastie comparing the West’s attitude toward China to France’s irrelevant defences against Nazi Germany.
“We strongly deplore […] Hastie’s rhetoric on ‘China threat’ which lays bare his Cold-War mentality and ideological bias. It goes against the world trend of peace, cooperation and development. It is detrimental to China-Australian relations,” the embassy said on Thursday.
The embassy claimed that history showed that “China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world.”
“We urge certain Australian politicians to take off their ‘coloured lens’ and view China’s development path in an objective and rational way. They should make efforts to promote mutual trust between China and Australia, instead of doing the opposite,” the embassy said.
The statement comes in response to Hastie claiming in his opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper on Thursday that Beijing is allegedly trying to replace Washington as the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific region and that the West had miscalculated the impact of economic liberalisation in China.
“The West once believed that economic liberalisation would naturally lead to democratisation in China. This was our Maginot Line. It would keep us safe, just as the French believed their series of steel and concrete forts would guard them against the German advance in 1940. But their thinking failed catastrophically,” Hastie claimed.
In an apparent nod to China, he argued that like the French who did not “appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare”, Australia also failed to see "how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become.”
Australian Government Wants Balanced Relations Between US and China
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to try to distance himself from the MP’s remarks, stressing that Hastie was “not a minister in the government” and that balancing its relations with the US and China will remain one of Canberra’s key priorities.
Australia will “continue to have a cooperative arrangement with China” which is “far broader than just the economic [relationship],” said Morrison.
This view was echoed by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds who said that it was “in no one’s interests for the competitive relationship between China and the US to become adversarial.”
Labour’s Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers slammed Hastie’s comments as “extraordinary […] extreme, overblown and unwelcome.”
The past few years have seen a deterioration in ties between the two major trading partners amid reports that Beijing is allegedly trying to influence Canberra’s domestic affairs.
In August 2018, the Australian government banned Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) from supplying 5G technology to the country.