A Chinese state media boss has described Australia as the “gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe” as the relationship between the two nations continues to sour amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Global Times editor Hu Xijin said relations between Canberra and Beijing were likely to deteriorate further as Australia pushed for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus.
“After the epidemic, we need to have more risk awareness when doing business with Australia and also when we send our children to study there,” Mr Hu wrote on Weibo.
“Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.”
Mr Hu’s scathing attack was the latest in a series from Chinese state media as Australia continues to demand an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.
The coronavirus outbreak was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. As it spread around the world, it has infected more than three million people, including nearly 7000 Australians. So far, 212,000 people have died worldwide.
Ambassador Cheng Jingye has floated a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian products, including agriculture, education and tourism in response to the probe.
The Chinese embassy also controversially released details of a private conversation with Australia’s top diplomat.
“Ambassador Cheng elaborated clearly China’s relevant position, stressing that no matter what excuses the Australian side has made, the fact cannot be buried that the proposal is a political manoeuvre,” an embassy spokesperson said.
“Just as a Western saying goes: Cry up wine and sell vinegar.”
The saying is a reference to offering up a good product but substituting it with a sham.
With relations in the doldrums, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is refusing to back down on his push for a global coronavirus inquiry.
“We will of course continue to support moves to ensure there is a proper independent assessment of what has occurred here,” he said on Wednesday.
“It is not a remarkable position. It is a fairly common sense position and one that we don’t resile from.”
Mr Morrison said he would keep up the pressure for an investigation ahead of a World Health Assembly meeting in May.
Earlier, China released details of Mr Cheng’s phone call with Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson in a major departure from diplomatic convention.
After DFAT expressed regret over the release, the Chinese embassy retaliated by accusing Australia of leaking details of the phone call first.
“The Embassy of China doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” a spokesman said.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton censured the ambassador for releasing details of the private call.
“I think some of the comments are very much out of line and regrettable,” he told 5AA Radio.
“We aren’t going to be held to ransom or succumb to threats from anybody.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described China’s latest criticisms of Australia as ludicrous.
“We won’t bow to economic coercion, we will continue to talk up in Australia’s national interest and we won’t trade off health outcomes for economic outcomes,” he told Sky News.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese echoed Mr Morrison in downplaying the significance of a coronavirus inquiry.
“I regard as completely unremarkable the idea that there should be an investigation into this,” he told Sky.
Crossbench senator Rex Patrick will have a sixth crack at establishing a parliamentary inquiry into relations with China when parliament sits next month.
“The ambassador revealed China’s true diplomatic face and confirmed concerns about China’s preference for control and coercion rather than partnership,” he said.