Chinese state media has taken aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a scathing article, claiming Australia’s coronavirus crisis is “deteriorating fast”.
The Global Times, a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, took aim at the PM after Mr Morrison called for an alliance of like-minded nations in the Indo-Pacific region yesterday.
Mr Morrison told the Aspen Security Forum, which brings government and military leaders together with experts, that tensions over territorial claims in the region were growing.
“We need to build a greater sense of unity across all elements of our engagement,” he said.
“The sense of unity necessary among like-minded partners can be undermined if positive political and security relationships are accompanied by abrasive or confrontational trade relationships.’’
The comments have enraged Chinese state media, with the The Global Times saying that it shows “shows the Australian government has no sense of priorities”.
In an editorial published today, the editors wrote that Mr Morrison has much bigger fish to fry than the Indo-Pacific.
“The Morrison government clearly should have much more important things to care about domestically at present – for instance, how to contain the continuing coronavirus surge as the southern hemisphere enters into winter, and how to rescue businesses hit hard by the pandemic,” they wrote.
“A simple glance at the local news is already enough to tell the situation has been deteriorating fast and requires government attention.”
It comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, after Australian warships had an unplanned encounter with China’s navy and Australia publicly declared there is “no legal basis” to China’s claims over the region.
The declaration to the UN by the Australian Government said: “Australia rejects China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ or ‘maritime rights and interests’ as established in the ‘long course of historical practice’ in the South China Sea.”
Australia also noted that it does not accept China’s claim of sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands.
The United States is pressuring Australia to ramp up its presence in the South China Sea and last month, Australia said it would boost defence spending by 40 per cent over the next 10 years.
The Global Times said the move from Australia was “baffling”.
“All these moves are baffling enough for a country that is under no military threat from the outside world, suggesting that the government is now obsessed with the US-backed Indo-Pacific strategy,” it reads.
“It is, to a certain extent, disturbing to see that the Australian government is treating everything from the geopolitical perspective, which does not bode well for the government’s balanced decision-making.
“At a time when the political world is in turmoil, politicians lacking in careful economic calculations may make geopolitical decisions at their will, but it is their national economic power that will shoulder the real damage of political ignorance.”
By Ben Graham