Australia’s refusal to retreat from its call for a global inquiry into the causes of the coronavirus pandemic continued to draw a furious response from Beijing on Wednesday, with Chinese media claiming Australia is forever making trouble, “a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes.”
The state-controlled People’s Daily accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of seeking the probe to deflect criticism of his government, declaring his move will be defeated due to a lack of support by the UK and France. “This is a slap on the face which has come quickly,” it warned.
China’s ruling Communist Party has angrily dismissed Australian calls over the past month for an independent investigation into the spread of the disease from the Chinese city of Wuhan, as Breitbart News reported.
The Australians have also been among the most outspoken critics of China’s dangerous refusal to close the live animal “wet markets” seen as spawning grounds for the viral pandemic, and of the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.) baffling endorsement of their reopening.
Australia confronted the World Health Organization over claims it supports so-called wet markets reopening in the Chinese city of Wuhan. https://t.co/TjH4HmGDzv
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 17, 2020
Morrison has continually defied China’s rhetoric and defended the “entirely reasonable and sensible” call for an inquiry as the international political fallout over the pandemic deepens.
On Wednesday Morrison said his conservative coalition government will not be deterred by China’s sneering disdain, as SBS News reported.
“This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world,” he told reporters in Canberra. “It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary.
“Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.”
In recent days Chinese state media has run numerous inflammatory statements including that Australia was “gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe”, doing the bidding of the U.S. but without holding any influence, and risking longterm damage to its bilateral relationship and trading partnership with China.
On Tuesday, the Chinese embassy released details of a call from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat), and in a further attempt to embarrass the Morrison government, claimed the Dfat secretary had said it was “not the time to commence the review now and Australia has no details of the proposal”.
The move came after warnings by China’s ambassador to Australia, Jingye Cheng, on Monday that Australia would pay an economic price over its inquiry call, a move described by an Australian minister as “threats of economic coercion.”
Cheng said Australia’s support for the inquiry could result in Chinese tourists having second thoughts about visiting.
“Maybe the ordinary people will say ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'” he told the Australian Financial Review.
A Tuesday night editorial in the Global Times followed that up and accused Australia of “panda bashing” and victim blaming, and Morrison of “adventurism” which could damage the bilateral relationship “beyond repair”.
For his part, Morrison calmly insists the investigation “is not targeted” and refused to buy into the war of words with China, saying the response was “a matter for them.”
“Australia will do what is in our interest, in the global interest, and we will of course continue to support moves to ensure there is a proper independent assessment of what has occurred here.”
Morrison said Australia’s relationship with China was “mutually beneficial” and noted its trade with China consisted mainly of export of resources. “I see no reason why that would alter in the future.”
China’s anger at Australia’s refusal to bow to its demands is not new, as Breitbart New reported.
Beijing took the same approach when Australia became the first country aside from the U.S. to block China’s Huawei telecom giant from supplying equipment for its 5G network, and the latest diplomatic row is seen as an extension of that blow to China’s global standing.