A Chinese Communist Party newspaper has said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is making a “U-turn” on his China policy, adding that Australia’s “unhealthy political environment” is damaging bilateral ties.
The editorial published as a leading story by the state-run Global Times newspaper on both its English and Mandarin platforms also said Australia was exaggerating the extent of Chinese espionage activities in the country.
“Australia became an anti-China pioneer in the last two years,” it said.
“The Australian government was even more active than claimants on the South China Sea issue.”
“High-level Australian officials and media outlets have constantly hyped China’s ‘infiltration’ and spy threat.”
The editorial compared Mr Turnbull’s comments about China ahead of his visit to the United States last week with those he made late last year — in Mandarin — on the proposed changes to Australia’s foreign interference laws.
“Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Sky News that ‘we do not see any hostile intent from Chin … we do not describe China as a threat,'” the editorial said.
“He declared in Chinese last December that ‘the Australian people have stood up,’ indicating Australia’s national sovereignty and dignity brook no infringement.
“Is Turnbull’s China policy experiencing a U-turn in only two months? … Or was Turnbull acting tough against China only to divert public attention from domestic politics?”
The editorial claimed Australian politicians sometimes “play the China card” because of political issues at home.
“The country’s unhealthy political environment prompts its politicians to play the China card. Apparently, the above cannot be altered in the short run, and will exert long-term negative effects on Sino-Australian ties,” it said.
“Turnbull’s remarks show positive signs for the Sino-Australian relationship. Canberra’s complicated attitude toward Beijing will gradually take clearer shape in the long run.”