President Xi Jinping urges his country to forge ahead and upward on a new Silk Road to international domination. But he hit an unexpected roadblock: Australia. Now he gets angry.
And its “warrior-wolf” diplomats jump into the fray.
“China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy, ”a Chinese diplomat told Nine Newspapers on Tuesday.
And it is all Australia’s fault.
“The responsibility for causing this situation has nothing to do with China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a timely address to the state-controlled media in Beijing later in the day.
“The Australian side should give this serious thought, rather than shirk blame and shirk responsibility,” Zhao warned.
He did not reflect on Beijing’s role in the growing stalemate.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison did. “Australia will always be ourselves,” he said. “We will always make our own laws and rules according to our national interests – not at the behest of any other nation, be it the United States or China or anyone else,” he said. he declared.
This is exactly what the Wolf Warriors didn’t want to hear.
President Xi’s ambitions appear likely to continue to be frustrated by Australia. But a frustrated Xi poses a “particular kind of danger,” warn international relations analysts.
Beijing insists it has never interfered in the affairs of other countries. It doesn’t interest him either, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week.
On Tuesday, that is exactly what Beijing did.
He released a dossier of 14 grievances against Australia. Tackling these “would be conducive to a better atmosphere,” an embassy official said.
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• Canberra “poisons bilateral relations”.
• Canberra uses COVID-19 for “political manipulation”.
• Canberra uses national security as an “excuse”.
And Australian society as a whole is also recalcitrant.
• Australian media are “hostile or antagonistic”.
• Australian think tanks have ‘made mistakes many times’.
• Australian security agencies “slander” and “stigmatize” China.
Changing these behaviors into behaviors more sensitive to Xi Jinping’s thought would lead to the reestablishment of economic ties. But there is a problem. Australia has a history.
It is a unique story that has produced an eclectic national culture of political incorrectness. Not to mention the irreverence, independence, and an inherent hint of authority. None of these suit an autocratic mindset.
They tend to sit pretty uncomfortable as they do with just about all elected Australian governments. Until they come back to the opposition.
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The crackdown on Australia’s recalcitation is just one part of President Xi’s rush to cement power. At home, he acts tough against any possible perceived threat to the Communist Party he dominates.
He even adopted a new title – “helmsman” – formerly reserved for the founding grandfather, Chairman Mao Zedong.
“Xi Jinping certainly appears to be breaking the whip with a purpose and a force which, if not new, is certainly designed to impress the party, the entrepreneurs, the citizens and the rest of the world with his authority and determination”, Oxford University China Center Research Associate George Magnus told American media.
Helmsman Xi unveiled his revised five-year plan at a Communist Party assembly last month.
He urged his commissioners to redouble their efforts to deliver on his promises. He wants the Chinese economy to double by 2035. He wants more state control over Chinese companies. He wants Hong Kong and Taiwan to submit to his will.
Meanwhile, Xi has been busy securing his position. He became head of the national police. As chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, Xi ordered an extraordinary series of overlapping military exercises – the latest test of the civilian industry’s ability to urgently adapt to military demands. Xi attributes “an escalating situation and an increasing risk of military conflict” to the need for such preparations for war.
Its Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, calls on the countries of Southeast Asia to quickly accept Beijing’s “Code of Conduct for the South China Sea”. Respecting them would demonstrate “the wisdom and ability to take good control of the South China Sea and maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea.”
On top of all this, Xi wants to reshape the international order in his image.
This is where Australia gets in the way.
“Xi Jinping’s China is a crippled colossus that will be frustrated by unfulfilled ambitions. A strong but frustrated country presents a special kind of danger. It’s the Chinese nightmare ”, writes Daniel Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“Although China was ruled by a dictatorship before Xi’s ascension, he made a radical attempt to gain almost total authority over the affairs of his country. In doing so, it crippled the normal functioning of the state bureaucracy.
China’s wolf-warrior diplomats demand a lot of respect. For themselves.
Zhao maintained this line on Tuesday, “We hope the Australian side will admit the real reason, objectively examine the development of China and China, seriously manage our relationship on the basis of the principles of mutual respect and equal treatment, and will do more to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation. -operation, ”he said.
The obstacle, it seems, is the “mutual” side.
“We will not compromise on whether we define our foreign investment laws, how we build our 5G telecommunications networks, or how we manage our systems to protect them that protect against interference,” he said. said Prime Minister Morrison said.
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Likewise, Beijing insists that it will not compromise on its arbitrary claim of ownership of the seas of southern and eastern China, the Himalayas or democratic Taiwan. And how she treats Tibetans, Uighurs, Christians, Muslims – and any other group of people – is entirely nobody else’s business.
But Beijing’s belligerence turns against him.
Instead of forcing international compliance, it forces Southeast Asia to come closer for mutual protection.
“The ‘Beijing model’ was meant to be an effective alternative to democracy, which was meant to be more sclerotic and incompetent. Instead, the Beijing model has now inflicted untold misery on its own people and the rest of the world, ”Blumenthal writes.
Canberra and Tokyo signed a new defense agreement this week making it easier for troops from both countries to work together. Although obstacles, such as subjecting Australians to the death penalty in Japan, remain to be resolved.
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The need for such a “special strategic partnership” is pressing.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga joined Prime Minister Morrison in expressing “grave concerns” about “militarization” in Southeast Asia. They declared the alliance’s “strong opposition to any coercive or unilateral attempt to change the status quo and thereby increase tensions in the region”.
Beijing does not accept that such tensions exist. His land claims are unchallenged, he insists. And the opinions of neighboring nations and international arbitration courts are irrelevant.
“(The) Chinese side is strongly unhappy and strongly opposed to their press release in which they blame China for the South China Sea and East China Sea issue,” Zhao said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao told a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday that “some” Australians harbor ideological prejudices and view China’s development as a threat.
He went on to say that Australia’s actions had “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” – despite an editorial approved by the Communist Party after declaring “Australia immature to be afraid of the sincere opinions of Chinese academics”.
Australia, however, has its own feelings.
And Prime Minister Morrison is without excuse.
“Having a free media, having elected parliamentarians who are able to speak out is a source of concern, as well as speaking out on human rights in concert with other countries like Canada, New Zealand , UK and others in international forums … if that is the cause of tension in this relationship, then it would appear that the tension is that Australia is just Australia, ”he said. -he declares.
Zao accused Canberra of “doing a series of bad deeds related to China. This is the root cause of the worsening of Sino-Australian relations due to the current difficult situation ”.
The question is who defines what is wrong.
Beijing thinks it is itself.
“Under Xi, the goal of the Chinese government is… a new network of strategic partnerships with China at the center, and to propagate a ‘Chinese model’ of economic and political governance. He wants to create a new world order based on what he calls a “community of common destiny” that reshapes global institutions to be more compatible with the CCP’s own authoritarian governance, ”Blumenthal writes.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull summed up the situation last week: “These kinds of actions, whether it’s commercial actions like this or angry editorials in the Global Times or People’s Daily, are all instrumental, they are designed to elicit a certain response, which in our case is conformity.
Turnbull told a Peterson Institute for International Economics webinar last week that Canberra must stand firm in the face of growing pressure. “The only thing you can’t do with Beijing or any other superpower is to be sycophantic or demonstrate that you’re just going to flex whenever the pressure builds up, you don’t get thanks for it – you get less respect. . “
Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) analyst Michael Schoebridge says Beijing’s hopes of forcing Canberra to back down as a warning to other potentially recalcitrant states are a “major miscalculation”.
“The example of what Beijing is doing in Australia will have an impact on how many other countries assess how they can engage with China,” he said. “Australians don’t like to be bullied. We are much more likely to put our jaw down and behave in a way that shows that we are not going to be bullied.
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel
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