China ‘offended’ by Australia’s influence
China now sees Australia as an influential player globally in shaping anti-Chinese sentiment and their aggressive rhetoric stems less from coronavirus and more with their public exposure at attempting to interfere in our domestic affairs, a top security analyst believes.
It is that interference campaign including sending agents to harass expats here that ASIO has described as "unprecedented and troubling".
Former government defence and foreign affairs adviser and leading strategist Dr Alan Dupont said words were bullets in diplomacy and the volley being fired from China shows the relationship "is going to get worse rather than better".
Dr Dupont said the subtext was the US and China had moved from a relationship of co-operation to one of strategic rivalry over the past few years with everything now contested with blame for real or imagined infractions.
For Australia, the balance has been a challenge and it's now a matter of our security trumping trade, and our US relationship over China.
"What's changed now in terms of Chinese perspectives or views of Australia over the last two to three years we are seen as firmly in the US camp and we have gone back to being proxies for the US," he said today.
"Whereas a few years ago China held out great hopes we could be weened off the US teat and become a friend to China which means we would be decoupled from the US alliance which would be a win for China. They genuinely believed that would happen."
He said critically it was Australia's intelligence of Chinese foreign interference that alerted the US, not the other way around.
"They now also see Australia as being an influential player globally, shaping anti-Chinese sentiment globally and in some ways being ahead of the game from the US foreign interference debate … we were telling the US and the Chinese were offended by that.
"They no longer see us (Australia) as passive followers of the US but see us as some kind of provocateur, leading the pack in some ways and shaping and influencing other countries' views which is something they are not going to accept."
Dr Dupont, founder of political and strategic consultancy Cognoscenti Group, said the speed and alacrity to anything now said was stunning.
But ultimately China wanted to be Number 1 globally in the 21st Century as did the US and that was a problem for Australia.
"Tensions are building in other areas between US and China relationship and things that were second order infractions before now could become potential triggers for something more escalatory," he said.
In February, ASIO chief Mike Burgess while not directly naming China, said interference by foreign states were at unprecedented levels.
"Regardless of the methods employed by hostile services and nation states, Australia is currently the target of sophisticated and persistent espionage and foreign interference activities from a range of nations … and perhaps most disturbingly, hostile intelligence services have directly threatened and intimidated Australians in this country."
Originally published as China 'offended' by Australia's influence