China is spreading false news about Australia to its citizens and the world – and there is not much we can do about it.
State Department secretary Frances Adamson told a Senate hearing on Thursday that reports in Chinese state media have tarnished Australia’s image.
“I think the Chinese are increasingly trying to project images of Australia not only in their own country but possibly elsewhere that are not … who we are,” said Ms. Adamson.
“Images that portray us as ideological … intolerant, shared, discriminatory.
“The reality is that it harms us in China.”
Ms. Adamson, a lifelong diplomat, said China is becoming the “challenge of our time” and warned that the influence of the Australian embassies there was “waning.”
Ms. Adamson said Australians value the freedom and nature of our democracy – one where you can have public or private debate and then “move on”.
But she warned that the cameras in Beijing understood the nuance.
“(China) will capture what you say, what is being said in parts of our society, they will play it to their own population (of) 1.4 billion people, mostly quite attentive to what is coming out through state media, and they will do it Form an opinion of us that, frankly, is very different from Australia, ”she said.
“What we can do about it is a very difficult question because, as a civil servant, I would never suggest censoring ourselves or not saying publicly what needs to be said.”
Instead, she urged Australians to be aware of how we represent ourselves.
“To be completely honest, I think Beijing is looking for division,” said Ms. Adamson.
“If we are able to project a feeling of bipartisanism and unity over what is most of all in our values, that is a strong message.”
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