AFP — The world’s approach to containing China’s rise resembles the “catastrophic failure” to prevent the advance of Nazi Germany, the head of Australia’s parliamentary intelligence committee warned Thursday.
Andrew Hastie said the country’s sovereignty and freedoms could be threatened by Beijing, much as France lost its territory to Germany at the beginning of World War II.
“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become,” he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.
“The next decade will test our democratic values, our economy, our alliances and our security like no other time in Australian history.”
Hastie added that his country had failed to recognise the role of Communist ideology in China’s infrastructure building spree in the Asia-Pacific region, just as Western countries had once failed to understand the motivations of former Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Hastie’s remarks were not the views of the government but added the lawmaker was “entirely entitled to provide his perspective”.
“We seek to work closely with [China], in the same way we do everyone in the region,” he told reporters in Townsville.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia said Hastie had revealed “his Cold-War mentality and ideological bias” and was “detrimental to China-Australian relations”.
“History has proven and will continue to prove that China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world,” an embassy spokesperson said in a statement.
“We urge certain Australian politicians to take off their ‘coloured lens’ and view China’s development path in an objective and rational way.”
Australia has been keen to maintain its traditional security alliance with the United States and its relationship with its largest trading partner China — an increasingly delicate balancing act as Washington and Beijing jostle for influence in Asia and the Pacific.
Though Canberra has long worked to avoid angering Beijing, the relationship has become strained by recent clashes over human rights and Australia’s decision to ban Chinese tech giant Huawei from its 5G network due to security fears.