China’s hawkish Global Times newspaper has warned that Australia will pay an “unbearable price” if it sides with the United States in an economic “Cold War”.
Yesterday, Republican senator Rick Scott urged Australia to join forces with the US against China, saying the Chinese government “wants world domination”.
“We ought to do this together,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “All democracies are going to have to say to themselves: Are they going to continue to appease the Communist Party of China, which is clearly focused on world domination and has taken jobs from democracies all over the world and stolen technologies from all over the world?”
‘AUSTRALIA WILL PAY AN UNBEARABLE PRICE’
China hit back after Senator Scott’s comments were published, urging Australia not to take sides.
“If a Cold War is not the outcome Australia wants to see, then Canberra should be mindful of avoiding inappropriate statements from its officials or politicians that may echo what Scott urged,” the Global Times article said.
It noted China-Australia relations have already “been rapidly sliding to near freezing point”, citing Australia’s push for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, and its condemnation of the Chinese government’s increasing presence in Hong Kong, as reasons.
“A new Cold War may only further jeopardise the already fragile relations between the two sides,” it said.
Whether or not said “Cold War” breaks out between the two countries will depend on whether Australia sides with the US, the article warned.
Australia has important relationships with both China and the United States. China is our largest trading partner, and the US is our third-largest trading partner and a key strategic ally.
Earlier this week, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism warned its citizens against travelling to or studying in Australia, claiming they would be subject to racist attacks.
Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham subsequently rubbished the claims, saying they had “no basis in fact”.
But The Global Times was unrelenting about that too.
“As Chinese authorities cited rising discrimination against Chinese people as the main reason for their warnings, we sincerely hope the Australian government will learn its lesson and stop discrimination from spreading to more industries,” the article said. “If it does spread, the country will only bear more losses. The Australian economy will pay a heavy price if the country discriminates against not only Chinese people but also Chinese companies.”
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The article concluded by warning that Australia would pay an “unbearable price” if it chose to side with the US against China.
“We advise Canberra not to be so reckless as to closely follow Washington, or to do whatever American politicians ask it to do. If a new Cold War leads to a China-Australia showdown, Australia will pay an unbearable price. Given Australia’s high dependence on the Chinese economy, an all-round confrontation will have a catastrophic effect on the Australian economy.”
WHY CHINA POSES A COSTLY THREAT
China is now Australia’s largest source of international visitors. According to Tourism Australia, there were 1.44 million Chinese visitors to Australia in the 12 months to November 2019.
Chinese travellers contributed roughly $12 billion to the Australian economy in that period – or 27 per cent of the total amount spent by all tourists.
This is largely due to the number of Chinese students who study at Australian universities.
International education is Australia’s fourth-largest foreign exchange earner, worth $38 billion annually, and more critical to the economy than beef or barley, products hit with Chinese import bans and tariffs last month.
Around 20 per cent of Chinese tourists visit for educational purposes. These students spend an average of $27,000 in the space of about four months, contributing more than $10 billion to our economy.
Mr Birmingham is trying desperately to calm the diplomatic tensions but has been ignored by his Chinese counterpart for more than a month.
“We would feel the effect – our universities would – if we saw a downturn in international student numbers,” he said.
He also said it would also be a loss for Chinese students and in the long term “would do nothing to help further the mutual understanding between our two nations”.
Earlier this week, he told 2GB that Australia and China “don’t agree on everything”, but both parties “want and have a constructive partnership”.
“We are going to be tied in this region forever and therefore we’re open to continuing to work through difficult issues and we ought to continue to encourage engagement with our businesses, students and others.”
Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated in recent years amid accusations that China is meddling in Australia’s affairs and seeking undue influence in the Pacific region.
Ties have become more strained in recent months after Australia called for an international inquiry into the origins of the novel coronavirus.
Last month, the Chinese government imposed an 80 per cent tariff on barley and suspended some beef shipments from Australian abattoirs, which was seen as a retaliatory move to the probe push.
The Global Times newspaper has written numerous editorials over the past month warning that it has the power to cripple Australia’s economy.
Originally published as ‘Australia will pay an unbearable price’