Australia

China labels Australia 'gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe' over calls for coronavirus inquiry

Source: iStockphoto

The federal government is refusing to back down on calls for a global review into the origins of coronavirus despite China threatening an economic boycott of Australia.

Australia is continuing to rebuff China's threats of an economic boycott, with Scott Morrison refusing to back down on his calls for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chinese embassy has labelled the move politically motivated, with one Chinese state media editor comparing Australia to "chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China's shoe".

Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-run Global Times, wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo that strained ties between the major trading partners meant their relationship must be reconsidered. 

"Somehow Australia is jumping up and down again and again. It is like chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe. Sometimes you just have to find a rock and rub it off," he said.

"After COVID-19, those who are doing business with Australia, or sending kids there to study, will need to assess the risks." 

The attack comes amid a series of columns published in the Global Times criticising the Australian prime minister's for the global review.

In one opinion piece, author Chen Hong suggested Mr Morrison's comments would fuel racism and hate crimes against people of Chinese heritage.

"It is utterly senseless for Australia to start a blame game that amounts to pointing a finger at the victim," he wrote.

"Consequently, Chinese and other Asians in Australia have become a vulnerable target of racial discrimination and hate crimes."  

The author accused Australia of spearheading a "malicious campaign to frame and incriminate China with groundless conjecture and outlandish fabrications".

Beijing has also accused Australia of being a "mouth piece" of United States President Donald Trump through adopting his anti-Chinese rhetoric.

Morrison brushes off criticism

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday again defended his push for the independent inquiry.

He said commentary from Beijing officials criticising Australia was a "matter for them". 

"What Australia is pursuing is not targeted. It is said independently, it is said out of common sense.

"I find Australia's position to be not remarkable at all, but one that is entirely responsible."

China's ambassador in Canberra Cheng Jingye this week said calls for the global review could result in a boycott Australian education, tourism and agriculture.

The row intensified after a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy detailed a private phone call between DFAT head Frances Adamson and Mr Cheng about the threats.

"Ambassador Cheng elaborated clearly China's relevant position, stressing that no matter what excuses the Australian side has made, the fact cannot be buried that the proposal is a political manoeuvre," the spokesperson said.

"Just as a western saying goes: Cry up wine and sell vinegar."

Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye.
AAP

The saying is a reference to offering up a superior product but substituting it with a sham.

The ambassador also told Ms Adamson Australia must "put aside ideological bias, stop political games and do more things to promote the bilateral relations", the embassy said.

DFAT has responded noting with "regret"  that the Chinese embassy had issued a statement releasing purported details of official diplomatic exchanges.

"The department will not respond by itself breaching the long standing diplomatic courtesies and professional practices to which it will continue to adhere," a DFAT spokesperson said.

"How foreign missions engage the Australian media are matters for those missions."

The Chinese embassy again hitting back saying it does not play "petty tricks".

"This is not our tradition. But if others do, we have to reciprocate," a spokesperson said.

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade DFAT Frances Adamson - AAP
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade DFAT Frances Adamson - AAP
AAP

DFAT's Ms Adamson had told Mr Cheng the proposal didn't have a political motive and didn't target China. 

The Chinese ambassador Mr Cheng on Monday said Australia's support for the inquiry could result in Chinese tourists having second thoughts about visiting.

"Maybe the ordinary people will say 'Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'" he told The Australian Financial Review.

Labor is backing the government's calls for a review into the origins of the virus.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also rejected claims Australia was being unfair against China as "ludicrous" amid threats of an economic boycott.

"The reality is Australia thinks it's prudent and sensible for there to be an independent and transparent investigation into the origins of this global pandemic," he told Sky News.

"We won't bow to economic coercion (by China) we will continue to talk up in Australia's national interest and we won't trade off health outcomes for economic outcomes."

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