After India, China’s relations with another country have deteriorated as Xi Jinping’s Communist Party of China continues its expansionist desires. China’s relations with Australia are currently at an all-time low.
The relationship between the two countries took a bad turn when a Chinese government spokesperson tweeted a falsified image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child. The tweet was accompanied by the caption stating that Australia should be ashamed of the alleged actions of its soldiers.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison responded to the tweet in a few hours and asked the Chinese government for an immediate apology for the tweet he called “repulsive”. France also criticized the Chinese government’s tweet, saying it was motivated by bias.
But the Chinese government did not hold back and further criticized Australia for allegedly treating its “goodwill with evil”. Such a series of back and forth actions have been described in the Chinese media as the low point of the relationship between the two countries.
Australian lawmakers have long been wary of China’s aggressive foreign policy and its rapid military modernization. These fears came to a head in 2017, when Australia banned foreign political donations after receiving disturbing news of Chinese attempts to influence and disrupt the political process in Australia.
Following this incident, Australia also became the first country to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from installing its 5G network in the country after it was discovered that the tech giant has installed backdoors into the network that would allow it. company and the Chinese government to access staff. and personal data of users.
This ban on Huawei was followed by the termination of at least ten suspicious Chinese investment deals in various sectors of Australia. Recently, the Australian government called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus that first appeared in Wuhan.
China has responded to Australia’s actions by trying to use its economic strength to force Australia to back down. China has curbed imports of Australian beef and barely imposed heavy tariffs. Australian wine has also been severely hit by Chinese tariffs, and the Chinese government is also expected to block further imports of sugar, lobster, coal and copper.
In this ongoing bickering between Australia and China, the Chinese government has been desperately trying to change the narrative for its own benefit. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, China secretly controls several Chinese-language media sources in Australia. The report also added that the federal government has received evidence from the Australian intelligence agency which claims control over Chinese media sources is a part of China’s foreign interference and influence operations aimed at furthering China’s strategic interests.
Briefings provided to the Australian federal government also highlighted that several WeChat news sites in Australia were controlled, censored and even run directly by the CCP. After Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted the fake image, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison even turned to WeChat to criticize the tweet calling it a fake image and praising the Chinese community in Australia, but according to a Reuters report, the message of the Australian premier on WeChat was blocked by China.
Chinese attempts to shift blame and change narratives to fit their political agenda are not something new. Beijing has also been trying for months to change the narrative surrounding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Chinese government’s deliberate and mistreated attempts to hide critical information about it that have led to the virus spreading around the world.
According to reports, the United States said on December 2 that the UN General Assembly special session organized on the COVID-19 outbreak on December 3 was just a stage for China to peddle its propaganda and stave off the fault from itself. The United States added that the special session had been “pre-engineered” to serve China’s purposes. The fact that questions during this session at the UN will be limited lends credence to the US allegations that the session is merely intended to spread Chinese propaganda.
Promoting the bickering between Australia and China over the falsified image of the Australian soldier, the Chinese spokesman Global Times responded to the criticism of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison by saying he had acted “radically”. The Global Times report went so far as to insult the Australian Prime Minister by claiming that he had an “unhealthy mindset”.
One of China’s most used rhetorical tools is to deflect any criticism or blame by accusing its opponents of having a “cold war mentality”. When the Chinese telecom giant Huawei came under criticism, it was proclaimed by Chinese delegates as a victim of “high-tech McCarthyism” (McCarthyism is another term for the Cold War mentality).
The American Freedom of Navigation exercise in the South China Sea was described by Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the UK as “gunboat diplomacy motivated by a cold war mentality”. China’s abysmal human rights record is contested by the CCP, which claims that China has once again become a victim of that biased form of thinking.
In a recent book titled “Hidden Hand: How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World”, written by Clive Hamilton and Mareike Ohiberg, he exposed the modus operandi and nuanced tactics used by the CCP for influence operations in Australia. The authors argue that China’s use of the “Cold War mentality” as a means of defense is indeed ironic since the CCP leadership itself is heavily influenced by the Cold War mentality.
Such thinking reached new heights under Xi Jinping’s regime. Under him, the CCP categorically rejected the concepts of constitutional democracy and universal human rights. Not only that, the CCP has also begun to attempt to eradicate the ideas it believes threaten its power.
The authors empirically argue that China is currently following a philosophy often attributed to Joseph Stalin: We will not allow our enemies to have weapons, why should we let them have ideas? “Anne-Marie Brady in her work ‘Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and thought work in contemporary China’ showed that the CCP began to massively expand its propaganda and ideological work after the massive student protests in Tiananmen Square, brutally repressed with the violence, and the fall of the Berlin Wall which triggered the decline of the Soviet bloc. These two major shocks forced the CCP to focus on the concept of “ideological security” as an integral and indispensable part of the regime’s security.
The United Front Department of Labor (UFWD) has rapidly expanded its influence in Australia through covert operations in Australian academia, media and civil society. Australian organizations such as the Australian Council for Promoting the Peaceful Reunification of China have faced backlash in the country for carrying out covert operations for China.
It also emerged that the recent UFWD has also begun to harness and use the influences of social media, independent professionals – especially lawyers, managers of overseas funded companies, overseas Chinese and young Chinese studying abroad, as well as a long list of groups and communities. It has also managed to successfully marginalize sensitive issues such as Taiwan among some Australian communities.
In recent years, China has also made serious attempts to enter the global media landscape. The CCP wishes to use the media as another of its strategies to move international discourse away from unflattering or critical narratives of the CCP and China. In 2016, Xi Jinping gave a speech in which he stressed the need for a “state of the art means of communication with strong international influence”. Some estimates claim that China has spent more than $ 10 billion annually trying to create a flagship media, as expected by China.
While blatant Chinese propaganda and heavy bits can often be ignored by the laity, there are also many subtle elements of the CCP’s strategy to control global discourse. Chinese outlets have a great advantage, they have the financial support of the Chinese state or through state delegations, on the other hand, the Western media faces severe financial restrictions. Over the course of the year, Chinese media with the help of Western media specialists expanded massively, but they were also able to become smarter in terms of content aimed at a foreign audience.
China’s ongoing bickering with Australia over alleged abuses showcases China’s double standards when it comes to protecting human rights. China routinely rejects the concept of human rights and even subjects its own people, such as ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, to grave injustices such as arbitrary detentions and mass forced sterilizations.
Despite China’s grim human rights experience, China continues to criticize other nations and attempts to change the narrative in its favor. One of the three main pillars that ensure the CCP’s iron grip on China is propaganda. This tool is not only used against its own people, but is also often exported through various means to the outside world as the narrative benefits the Chinese government.