Diplomatic row after MP Andrew Hastie warns of Chinese mobilisation

Diplomatic row after MP Andrew Hastie warns of Chinese mobilisation

Coalition backbench MP Andrew Hastie has sparked a diplomatic row after he compared China’s mobilisation to that of Nazi Germany.

Mr Hastie, who chairs the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, warned that Australia’s economic and national security will be tested by China’s expanding regional influence.

“Right now our greatest vulnerability lies not in our infrastructure but in our thinking. That intellectual failure makes us institutionally weak,” Mr Hastie wrote in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“The West once believed that economic liberalisation would naturally lead to democratisation in China. This was our Maginot Line.

“It would keep us safe, just as the French believed their series of steel and concrete forts would guard them against the German advance in 1940. The French had failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare.

“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become. Even worse, we ignore the role that ideology plays in China’s actions across the Indo-Pacific region.”

The Chinese Embassy responded angrily to Mr Hastie’s commentary, accusing him of having a “cold war mentality and ideological bias” and undermining Sino-Australian relations.

“We strongly deplore the Australian federal MP Andrew Hastie’s rhetoric on ‘China Threat’ which lays bare his Cold-War mentality and ideological bias,” a statement issued by the embassy reads.

“History has proven and will continue to prove that China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world. We urge certain Australian politicians to take off their ‘coloured lens’ and view China’s development path in an objective and rational way.

“They should make efforts to promote mutual trust between China and Australia, instead of doing the opposite.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison distanced his government from Mr Hastie’s remarks, saying that although the criticism was not new, Mr Hastie is “not a minister” and does not represent the federal government.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers called Mr Hastie’s comments “extraordinary … extreme, overblown and unwelcome” in an interview with Radio National on Thursday, adding that “this type of intervention makes [it] harder” for Australia to “navigate what are pretty complex and multilayered issues — to weigh up all of the economic, strategic and national security interests.”

The Prime Minister affirmed that Australia and China would continue to maintain a “cooperative arrangement”.

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