Chinese paper warns Australia on ‘interference’ in South China Sea — China is Australia’s largest trading partner

By Lindsay Murdoch

January 1, 2018 — 5:53 pm

Bangkok: A Chinese Communist Party-owned newspaper has published an article warning that Australia’s “interference” in the flashpoint waters of the South China Sea may prompt China to “adopt strong countermeasures which will seriously impact Australian economic development”.

Zhang Ye, a researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing, wrote in the hawkish Global Times that Australia’s “kissing up to the United States” will “poison its relations with China and shake up [the] foundation for its strategic balance between China and the US”.

“Australia has changed its policy considerably. Its bigoted actions have jeopardised not only China’s national interests but also Australian long-term interests, bringing Canberra’s structural contradictions and strategic dilemma to a worse level,” Zhang wrote.

The comments come two weeks after China’s top naval commander formally rebuked Australia’s Chief of Navy, Tim Barrett, over Australia’s policy on the waterways, where China and five other countries have overlapping territorial claims.

The rebuke was partly in response to Australian navy ships crossing into the South China Sea during multinational military exercises in September.

In early December, Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Australia’s ambassador to China, Jan Adams, for an official rebuke over revelations that China had meddled in Australia’s political system, prompting the Turnbull government to introduce new laws to counter foreign interference.

And in November China lashed Australia over its Foreign Policy White Paper, saying remarks on the South China Sea were “irresponsible”.

In a new year article, Zhang accused Australia of a “double standard” by supporting a 2006 finding brought by the Philippines under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea that China has “no historical rights” to the South China Sea.

“However when Australia dealt with its own conflict with the Timor-Leste [East Timor] over a sea border, it took a contrary stance and claimed all the results of the arbitration were meaningless and unacceptable,” he said.

Zhang, whose institute is an arm of the People’s Liberation Army, criticised Australian support for freedom of navigation operations by US ships close to Chinese occupied islands in the disputed waters, saying “once Sino-US relations are strained, Australia will have to choose between the two countries and fall into a deeper strategic plight”.

He said Australia’s provocations on the South China Sea “have increased Canberra’s strategic burden, widened the gap between its limited powers and its goal to become a middle power”.

“Australia has held this goal for a long time and wants to have its position in international affairs. However due its small population and limited strength, Canberra hasn’t stood out in global geopolitics,” Zhang said.

Zhang said Australia should recognise “China’s peaceful rise” and not let the South China Sea issue damage bilateral relations or become a “tool for foreign forces to undermine regional stability”.

Carlyle Thayer, an expert on the South China Sea at the University of NSW’s Australian Defence Force Academy, said the article was an intensification of China’s anti-Australian rhetoric and was written for Australia’s domestic audience, especially those who adhere to the view of accommodating China’s rise rather than opposing it.

Professor Thayer said Zhang’s view that China should economically sanction Australia for its stance on the South China Sea was “particularly disturbing”.

He said the tone of the article follows a consistent line by the Global Times to criticise, belittle and intimidate Australia, partly because of Canberra’s criticism of Chinese meddling in Australian domestic politics.

Professor Thayer said the Global Times “plays the role of a Rottweiler guard dog to threaten any country that advances a view contrary to China’s current propaganda line”.

Recent satellite images show that China has been busy building military infrastructure in the South China Sea during 2017 while the US and its key allies have been distracted by the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The work continued despite Beijing signalling its willingness to pursue protracted negotiations on a “code of conduct” with other claimants.

Australia’s first Foreign Policy White Paper in 14 years remarked how China has caused “tension” in the South China Sea.

“Australia is particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China’s activities,” it said.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang hit back after the paper’s release, saying “Australia is not party to the South China Sea issue”.

China claims almost the entire sea while there are overlapping claims by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Australia’s public position is not to take sides in the dispute while calling for a peaceful solution and using diplomatic channels and forums to pressure China to end its military build-up.

The South China Sea is one of the world’s most important shipping lanes with more than half of Australia’s coal, iron ore and LNG exports pass through the waters.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner.




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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.


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