China’s state media says Australia should “be well prepared to be abandoned at any time” by the United States, after a TV appearance by the Secretary of State sparked a diplomatic storm.
The Chinese government-owned Global Times newspaper urged Australia to side with China, drawing on recent remarks from Mike Pompeo that the US could “simply disconnect” from us at any time.
“Obviously, what is on the mind of Pompeo and his likes is only US self-interests, and Washington is not going to foot the bill for the lost Australian jobs,” the article says.
“Australia is already in a passive position in the face of wavering US policy. Canberra is forced to pick a side between Beijing and the Washington even when it is loath to jeopardise its relationship with China.”
On Sunday, Mr Pompeo spoke to Sky News Australia about a proposal by the Victorian state government to work with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
“I don’t know the nature of those projects precisely, but to the extent they have an adverse impact on our ability to protect telecommunications from our private citizens, or security networks for our defence and intelligence communities, we will simply disconnect, we will simply separate,” Mr Pompeo said. “We’re going to preserve trust in networks for important information. We hope our friends and partners and allies across the world, especially our Five Eyes partners like Australia, will do the same.”
The remarks raised eyebrows in Canberra, and prompted the US embassy in Australia to issue a statement making clear the US had “absolute confidence in the Australian government’s ability to protect the security of its telecommunications networks and those of its Five Eyes partners”.
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Based on Mr Pompeo’s comments, the Global Times report said “Australia should realise that the US views it only as a lackey”.
“The possibility that the US will not come to Australia’s rescue when needed is nothing new,” it said. “While the US maintains its global hegemony by running roughshod over the interests of its allies, it does not offer any rewards.”
The report concluded by accusing Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “not taking the interests of people in each state seriously”, after the PM said the federal government had never supported Victoria’s involvement in the trillion-dollar project.
“Boosting employment and economic opportunities is one of the essential tasks for every government, especially local governments. As the US tries to block Victoria’s BRI deal, what alternatives does the US offer?”
It’s just the latest in a series of targeted messages from the Chinese government.
Yesterday, the same newspaper warned Australia to “distance” itself from the US amid growing tensions between the two countries, saying it would be “extremely dangerous” for Canberra to get involved in a “new cold war”.
“If the Trump administration plunges the world into a ‘new Cold War’, forcing China to take countermeasures against the US and its allies, it would be extremely dangerous for Canberra to become a player in a diplomatic club led by the US, given Australia’s high dependence on the Chinese economy,” the article said.
“Once Australia is regarded as a supporter of the US in a ‘new Cold War’, China-Australia economic ties will inevitably suffer a fatal blow.
“Australia’s economic deterrent force is much smaller than the US’, so China to some extent will enjoy more room to fight back against Australia with countermeasures if Canberra supports Washington … it means Australia may feel more pain than the US.”
The debate over trade has intensified as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic becomes more pronounced.
The US, which is closing in on 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, is trying to pin the blame squarely on the Chinese Communist Party, while Beijing says the Trump administration is trying to keep it from becoming a global power.
Meanwhile, there have been reports China is considering targeting more Australian exports, with Chinese authorities reportedly drawing up a list of potential goods including dairy, wine, seafood and fruit, which could be subject to tariffs if relations continue to sour.