China 'deplores' Liberal MP Andrew Hastie for Nazi Germany comparison

China says Liberal MP Andrew Hastie's comments about the threat posed by the rise of China is detrimental to its relationship with Australia.

China has condemned a Liberal MP for comparing its rise to that of Nazi Germany's, saying the comments will damage the relationship between Canberra and Beijing. 

The chair of parliament's powerful Security and Intelligence Committee Andrew Hastie warned Australia against underestimating China, pointing to the experience of Europe in the face of an aggressive Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

Committee chair Andrew Hastie reacts during a hearing of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security at Parliament House.
Source: AAP

In a statement, a spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy in Australia, said they "strongly deplore" Mr Hastie's rhetoric, urging "certain politicians to take off their coloured lens". 

"It goes against the world trend of peace, cooperation and development. It is detrimental to China-Australian relations."

China's reaction contradicts assurances from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Mr Hastie's strong condemnation would not damage Australia's attempts to rebuild the already rocky relationship. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Hastie at the Mandurah War Memorial in Mandurah, WA.
Source: AAP

Despite warning backbenchers to stop publicly speaking their mind to the media, the prime minister was unfazed by Mr Hastie's intervention.

"Andrew is of course not a minister in the government and Andrew is free to make comments he wishes to make as a member of the backbench. He's entirely entitled to provide his perspective."

Senior Minster Peter Dutton was reluctant to comment directly about Mr Hastie's views on China, but said the former Special Air Service captain "knows the space well and served the country well in uniform". 

Mr Hastie, who has declined to be interviewed, said Australia was facing its biggest democratic, economic and security test over the next decade as China and the US compete for global dominance.

The West once believed economic liberalisation would naturally lead to China becoming a democracy, just as the French believed "steel and concrete forts" would guard against Germany in 1940, Mr Hastie said.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers participate in a flag raising ceremony during an open day at the PLA navy base in Hong Kong.
Source: EPA

"But their thinking failed catastrophically. The French had failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare," Mr Hastie wrote in an opinion piece published on Thursday in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become."

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said Mr Hastie's intervention was extreme, overblown and unwelcome.

He said both major parties had to navigate complex economic and national security issues when managing the relationship with China.

"This kind of intervention makes that harder, not easier," he told ABC Radio National.

The Liberal backbencher said Australia had ignored the role of ideology in communist China's push for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

"We keep using our own categories to understand its actions, such as its motivations for building ports and roads, rather than those used by the Chinese Communist Party," Mr Hastie said.

Mr Hastie noted western commentators once believed Josef Stalin's Soviet Russia was the "rational actions of a realist great power".

"We must be intellectually honest and take the Chinese leadership at its word," he wrote of President Xi Jinping's speeches referencing Marxist-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.

Australia faces a delicate diplomatic balancing act with the US, the nation's closest strategic ally, and major trade partner China, going toe-to-toe in a trade war.

Mr Hastie said it was impossible to forsake America or disengage from China.

He said almost every strategic and economic question facing Australia in coming decades would be viewed through competition between the two superpowers.

Chinese PLA soldiers hold national flags.  The head of parliament's intelligence committee has warned Australia is facing an increased Chinese threat.
Source: AAP

"The next decade will test our democratic values, our economy, our alliances and our security like no other time in Australian history," the Liberal backbencher wrote.

After debate over a Chinese company having a 99-year lease on Darwin's port reignited during the week, Mr Hastie said there were broader issues to consider.

"Right now, our greatest vulnerability lies not in our infrastructure, but in our thinking," he said.

"That intellectual failure makes us institutionally weak.

"If we don't understand the challenge ahead for our civil society, in our parliaments, in our universities, in our private enterprises, in our charities - our little platoons - then choices will be made for us. Our sovereignty, our freedoms, will be diminished."

Published 8 August 2019 at 7:34am, updated 8 August 2019 at 12:45pm
By Rosemary Bolger