Ground Zero in Australian Politics towards China

Fair Dinkum

The Australia-China relationship has fallen to zero – the worst it has been since the relationship was established in 1972. The trigger for this recent deterioration was the Australian Prime Minister’s calling for the World Health Organization to be given weapon inspector powers into China as part of the COVID-19 inquiry,[1] an idea rejected by Rob Barton,[2] a former UN weapons inspector sent into Iraq in 2003 as part of the UN Special Commission, or UNSCOM. In Iraq, UNSCOM was infiltrated by agents of US intelligence services who used espionage equipment to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military for three years without the knowledge of the UN agency which was used to disguise its work. [3]


It is reasonable to assume that Australia’s calling for the World Health Organization to be given weapon inspector powers could (and probably would) be used as a cover for Western intelligence services to infiltrate the WHO for espionage purposes against China. Armed with such powers, agents serving the interests of Western intelligence services could go anywhere in China, enter government buildings, seize documents, and gain much intelligence about China well beyond the aims of a genuine inquiry into COVID-19. Given the fiasco in Iraq, the attempt by Australia to gain weapon inspector powers must have offended the Chinese government. China has welcomed the inquiry and signed on to it.

There exists inside the Australian government an odious anti-China group that continues to fabricate and disseminate disinformation designed to create negative perceptions about China among Australians. They seem determined to destroy the relationship at all costs.

In recent ministerial speeches on China, the Australian government have entrenched themselves into a position that is very difficult to retreat from without the loss of face, as the damage created continues to snowball into our tourism, trade, and international education sector.  It is easy to blame China, but the truth is that at the highest levels, the Australian government lacks the fundamental skills needed to effectively manage our relationship with China. Their actions and words have only served to sabotage the relationship to the cheers of the anti-China group inside the government.

It is purely a political problem now, well beyond the scope of Australian diplomats to repair, as Chinese government ministers will not budge from their position, just like their Australian counterparts. Unfortunately, those rising to ministerial positions in China and Australia are often not the best people. It is disappointing to note that not a single government minister in Australia is able to contact their counterpart in China or demonstrate an ability to build effective relationships. This is a failure of politics. What is deeply unfair about it is that many Australians who are non-political, who seek to cultivate good people-to-people and business relationships with China will ultimately pay the price for the government’s mishandling of the relationship.

The Australian government has chosen to adopt an adversarial position against China. Understandably, China has now come to regard Australia as an enemy. Meanwhile, government ministers continue to make speeches implying China is at fault for the deteriorating relationship, which only serves to sabotage it further. The relationship is almost beyond repair.

A more successful statecraft approach to China can be found in a well-crafted essay by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, published in Foreign Affairs. Mr. Lee writes, “Asia-Pacific countries do not wish to be forced to choose between the United States and China. They want to cultivate good relations with both. They cannot afford to alienate China, and other Asian countries will try their best not to let any single dispute dominate their overall relationships with Beijing.” [4]

These words provide sound guidelines for Asian leaders to ponder if they genuinely desire to avoid being drawn into the trap of taking sides in the developing US-China confrontation. Likewise, it is not in the interest of Asian nations to follow Australia’s approach to China.


Gellman, Barton. U.S. Spied on Iraq Via U.N.  Washington Post, 2 March 1999; Page A1.

Lee Hsien Loong. The Endangered Asian Century America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation.

Foreign Affairs, July-August 2020.

Tillett, Andrew and Phillip Coorey. PM wants weapons inspector-like powers for WHO. Australian Financial Review. 22 April 2020.

Travers, Jamie. Former UN weapons inspector dismisses PM’s push to bolster WHO’s powers. SBS News, 24 April 2020.


[1] Tillett and Coorey, 2020.

[2] Travers, Jamie. Former UN weapons inspector dismisses PM’s push to bolster WHO’s powers. SBS News, 24 April 2020.

[3] Gellman, 1999.

[4] Lee Hsien Loong, 2020.

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