Australia will not bow to pressure from China, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted on Thursday after Beijing released a laundry list of complaints about the country.
A Chinese official gave a dossier to Australian media containing 14 grievances, highlighting the increasingly fractious relationship between the two nations.
“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” a Chinese government official reportedly told three prominent outlets on Wednesday.
Among the complaints are Australia’s strict foreign interference laws, the country’s ban on Huawei’s involvement in its 5G network and decisions that blocked Chinese investment projects on “national security grounds”.
Morrison said the “unofficial document” came from the Chinese embassy and would not stop Australia from setting “our own laws and our own rules according to our national interest”.
“We won’t be compromising on the fact that we will set what our foreign investment laws are or how we build our 5G telecommunications networks or how we run our systems of protecting against interference Australia’s way we run our country,” he told Channel Nine.
The document also claimed Canberra had engaged in “incessant wanton interference” in China’s affairs while singling out Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
It accused Australia of “siding with the US’ anti-China campaign and spreading disinformation” about where the virus originated — a particularly sore point for Beijing.
The United States weighed in on the diplomatic rift Thursday, with the White House National Security Council saying on Twitter that “Beijing is upset Australia took steps to expose and thwart Chinese espionage & to protect Aussie sovereignty”.
“It’s encouraging to see a growing number of countries following Canberra’s lead in taking such steps,” the tweet continued.
Relations between Canberra and Beijing have reached a new low in recent months, leaving Australian government ministers unable to persuade Chinese counterparts to even accept their phone calls.
The rift has left Australian exporters exposed as their largest trading partner places a series of retaliatory bans on agricultural goods including beef, barley and timber.
The latest diplomatic salvo comes just days after Morrison reached an in-principle agreement on bolstering defence relations with Japan’s leader Yoshihide Suga, a move widely viewed as aimed at countering Chinese influence in the region.