How do the Chinese see Australia?

China is angry - and Australia is clearly feeling this

China's diplomats are undiplomatically demanding that Canberra meet a list of 14 demands. It also addresses core values ​​of Australian democracy.

The threat is abundant: “China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy, ”a Chinese embassy representative in Australia told local media this week. The embassy wanted to inform the journalists why, from Beijing's point of view, relations between Australia and China are so bad. The embassy employee handed the journalists a list of 14 items that particularly bother Beijing.

Beijing is dropping pretexts

Some things were known: Beijing has long complained that Canberra has repeatedly banned Chinese direct investments for reasons of national security. The decision that the Chinese company Huawei was excluded from the Australian 5G network is also seen as unfriendly. Beijing also accuses the Australian government of meddling in internal Chinese affairs for leading an international campaign on Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong and for commenting on the South China Sea.

It is noticeable that the Chinese embassy does not make official contact with the Australian Foreign Ministry, but tries to put pressure on the government of Scott Morrison through the media. This in turn complains that Beijing does not take their calls. This year China imposed import restrictions on Australian imports from wine to wood and coal to lobster. So far, Beijing always pretended that there were trade and health reasons for this.

These pretexts are now being dropped. Beijing is ultimately demanding that Canberra change its behavior. If Australia stopped with the 14 listed activities, this would "contribute to a better atmosphere", it is said in a nutshell. Specifically, the government should stop funding a think tank critical of China, as well as “unfriendly and antagonistic reports about China” in the local media. Beijing also blames the Morrison government for statements made by individual parliamentarians.

These allegations may make sense from an authoritarian regime's point of view. The Chinese Communist Party tightly controls the media, universities and its own party members. In Australian eyes, on the other hand, it is about core elements of their own democracy such as freedom of expression or independent media. The fact that the communist rulers complain that the Australian government does not have the media there under control is downright ironic: Morrison and his ministers repeatedly complain that they felt they were being treated unfairly by the public radio and television broadcaster ABC in particular.

The Chinese frontal attack has closed ranks in Australia for the time being. "According to the list, the media and elected politicians are apparently not allowed to express their free opinion - but we will certainly not change that in Australia," said Prime Minister Morrison. Politicians from across the political spectrum made similar statements.

Lessons from Norway and South Korea

Nevertheless, Down Under people are beginning to think about how the icy relationship with China can be improved again. Because 40 percent of Australian exports go to China, every 13th job depends on China.

The think tank Lowy Institute analyzed the cases of Norway and South Korea, which previously landed on Beijing's hit list. Oslo was punished for the fact that the Nobel Prize Committee awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo; Seoul was blacklisted because it installed an American anti-missile defense system. Both countries have had to make humiliating compromises after years of poor relations. For Australia, too, it will not be enough to adopt a friendlier tone, the author concludes. You have to be prepared for the fact that it will take a long time to normalize. China will probably not go from being an enemy to being a friend again anytime soon.