‘Counterstrike’: China threatens Australia
Beijing has threatened a "counterstrike" against international moves to preserve the democracies of Hong Kong and Taiwan. And Australia's on its hit-list.
Foreign ministers from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia condemned the arrest of over 50 opposition parliamentarians and democracy activists in Hong Kong in a joint statement on Sunday.
The four members of the Five Eyes agreement (New Zealand did not sign the condemnation) have called upon China to respect the freedoms these island peoples enjoy.
"It is clear that the National Security Law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views," the foreign ministers said in the joint statement issued by Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne.
"We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention."
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is incensed.
#HongKong and #Macao Affairs Office of the State Council strongly condemned #UK, #Australia, #Canada foreign ministers’ joint statement on arrest of 53 anti-govt figures for illegal primary election, calling Benny Tai is a political agent of foreign forces meddling in #HK affairs pic.twitter.com/kcwsB1PEy6— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 11, 2021
Beijing has responded by declaring it "strongly condemns and firmly opposes" meddling in its "domestic affairs" by the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.
The problem is the definition of "domestic affairs".
Taiwan is an independent democratic state.
Hong Kong is the subject of a handover treaty as it transitions from British colonial rule.
"The Chinese people's resolve to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity is unshakeable and we will not permit any person or force to stop the process of China's reunification," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press briefing on Monday.
"Any actions which harm China's core interests will be met with a resolute counterstrike and will not succeed."
'WITHOUT END IN SIGHT'
Canberra's willingness to contradict Beijing on the world stage has unleashed a torrent of abuse from the rising world power in recent weeks.
"Many Chinese people feel as if they have swallowed a fly when hearing about Australia," the CCP-controlled Global Times declared last month.
"Australia treats China's goodwill with evil. It is not worthy to argue with it. If it does not want to do business with China, so be it.
"Its politics, military and culture should stay far away from China - let's assume the two countries are not on the same planet."
A senior Chinese academic advisor to the Chinese Communist Party says the worsening relationship with Australia and Japan is proving a hurdle to improved relations between Beijing and other ASEAN nations.
But he added the diplomatic spat "is without end in sight".
Dr Shi Yinhong told a forum hosted by Singapore's Straits Times Beijing's efforts to improve its standing with South East Asian nations would continue, regardless.
Dr She tacitly conceded that Beijing's economic actions towards Canberra were "sanctions" in response to Canberra's call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19.
The University of China international studies academic went on to say China's stand-off with the West was unlikely to abate any time soon.
"Disputes and occasionally low-intensity conflict over the South China Sea will continue as before," he said.
"There will be no sufficiently significant difference between Mr Biden and Mr Trump … over the major issues such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Xinjiang, Tibet, China's religious and human rights situations."
Outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pulled the pin on another political hand grenade at the weekend, leaving the Biden administration to deal with the fallout.
He has scrapped all curbs on interactions between US and Taiwanese officials - measures introduced decades ago in order to appease a hard-bargaining Communist China as it tentatively opened up its economy to the world.
Beijing's response has been predictably bellicose.
It is outraged.
It won't accept any diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, which it insists is an "inviolable part of China".
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday voiced firm condemnation and strong opposition against the latest move by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on lifting restrictions on official contact with China's Taiwan region. pic.twitter.com/lRbBIujMnI— China News 中国新闻网 (@Echinanews) January 11, 2021
It will enforce "severe punishment" against any attempt to do so.
Taiwan, for its part, points out it never surrendered to the Chinese Communist Party-led revolution of 1949 and has since evolved into democratic economic powerhouse.
The CCP brushes such inconveniences aside.
Instead, its Global Times propaganda mouthpiece has warned China's response to international recognition of democratic Taiwan would be "overwhelming".
"Those on the island of Taiwan must not take for granted that they can seek secession … On the contrary, such madness is very likely to bring them annihilation."
The stage has been set for a major escalation in tensions between Beijing and Washington.
The US ambassador to the United Nations will visit Taipei for three days starting Wednesday. The visit is significant as the UN and its representative bodies - including the World Health Organisation - do not recognise Taiwan's independent status.
This has long been Communist China's demand. But the weaknesses of this policy of appeasement became apparent during the crisis response to the emergence of COVID-19 as Taiwan - and its pandemic expertise - was repeatedly sidelined at international forums.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the visit was a "big thing".
"The foreign ministry will not let our guard down and hopes to continue to boost the development of Taiwan-US ties," he said.
The visit is part of outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo's declaration that "all contact guidelines regarding relations with Taiwan … to be null and void".
Taiwan has welcomed this final act of the troubled Trump presidency.
But the CCP's Global Times has declared: "The dire consequences will be beyond anyone's predictions".
"If Washington arbitrarily removes these restrictions it had previously complied with, China-US relations will be totally redefined, and the two countries will move into hostility. The international basis and foundation for a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan question will collapse."
Jamie Seidel is a freelance writer | @JamieSeidel
Originally published as 'Counterstrike': China threatens Australia