“The American presence in Asia is more important for Australia than for America,” Mr. Brophy said. “When Australia sees a sign of withdrawal, as we saw at the start of the Trump administration, it stokes that sense of panic. It is not enough to wait for the United States to get back into the game; Australia must show that it can do more and will do more. “
More and more, that meant tolerating economic pain and abandoning the approach Australia has long taken with China – say little and do what needs to be done. Instead, Mr. Morrison’s government and the Chinese propaganda machine traded blows and turns at the microphone.
Geoff Raby, a former Australian ambassador to China, described it as a self-perpetuating cycle of paranoid provocation.
“They each confirm the other’s worst suspicions,” he said.
The whispered complaints came out, replaced by competing press conferences and lists of grievances. Australia has launched two investigations into foreign interference with high-profile raids. He is now considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization over China’s blocking of barley imports – one of many products that China has rejected due to soaring tensions.
Two weeks ago, in turn, two Chinese embassy officials called an Australian journalist to a meeting and presented a series of 14 grievances. They included cancellations of university visas, a ‘crusade’ against Chinese policy in Hong Kong, a call for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, a ban on Huawei in 2018 and the blocking of 10 foreign investment deals. Chinese.
“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” one official said.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry (and the official who published the doctored photo), at the time called on Australia to “think seriously about this, rather than shirk the blame and to deviate from responsibility ”.