China posts photo montage about Australia’s war crimes

Dhe stab of the Chinese diplomat was set precisely. With his tweet, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Zhao Lijian, hit what is currently the most sore point of the Australians. His post, posted on Monday, showed the photomontage of an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of a child. In this way, he addressed the alleged war crimes of Australian elite soldiers in Afghanistan in a provocative manner, which a military investigation report recently brought to light. In the text of the tweet, he was shocked by the “murder of Afghan civilians and prisoners”. “We deeply condemn such acts and demand that (the soldiers) be held accountable,” he wrote on Twitter.

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In Australia, the tweet sparked the deliberate wave of outrage. Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked the Beijing government to apologize. He described the tweet as “repulsive” and “deeply offensive” to any Australian who “served in this uniform” or is still serving today. “The Chinese government should be ashamed of this post,” said Morrison. The picture is forged and a “disparagement” of the Australian soldiers. The tweet should be deleted immediately.

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But the opposite happened. China used the outrage on Monday as an amplifier for its own message. “The Australian side reacts so sharply to my colleague’s tweet. Are you saying that the cruel killing of innocent Afghans is justified? ”Said Foreign Office spokeswoman Hua Chunying, describing in detail the alleged war crimes that Australia itself made public. Regarding Morrison’s statement that China should be ashamed, she said, “Shouldn’t the Australian government be ashamed of its soldiers?”

In addition, Hua adopted the slogan of the “Black Lives Matter” movement: “Afghan lives count.” On the one hand, the statements followed a pattern that is already familiar from China: It aims to relativize and criticize its own human rights violations watered down by pointing to human rights violations in Western countries. On the other hand, it appeared to be a decidedly aggressive variant of the Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

Does China want to make an example of Australia?

It should be, as the Australian “Sydney Morning Herald” commented, a “calculated insult”. Because the dispute over Zhao Lijian’s photo montage is only the latest low point in Sino-Australian relations. Just three days ago, China imposed punitive tariffs of 212 percent on Australian wine. For weeks, dozens of container ships with coal that are not allowed to enter Chinese ports have been anchored off the Chinese coast. China had already imposed tariffs on barley and import barriers for beef, lobster and wood.

The impression that China wants to make an example of Australia in order to put other allies of the United States in their place has long been evident. It may not be a coincidence that the escalation comes at a time when America’s partners around the world are betting on coordinating their China strategy more closely than before with President-elect Joe Biden. A good ten days ago China had listed in a 14-point list what it had to complain about in Australian politics. The China expert Richard McGregor then compared Australia to a “canary in a coal mine”: as an early warning system that shows how much China is now aiming to influence liberal societies from within.

Sticking to the confrontation course

In any case, Beijing made it clear that it is sticking to its course of confrontation with Western critics, despite some warnings in Beijing warning that China’s behavior is practically conjuring up the formation of an anti-China front.

Indeed, outrage over the Chinese attacks in Australia spread across the political spectrum. The nation stands side by side in its condemnation of the image, said opposition leader Anthony Albanese. Politicians from the various parties also defended the handling of the allegations against Australian soldiers. The results of the Afghanistan investigation are shocking, said opposition politician Penny Wong. “But what sets us apart from others is the dignified, transparent and responsible way in which we reacted.” Morrison had also referred to the open handling of events: “That is how a free, democratic, liberal country deals with it “Said Morrison.

In Australia, the harsh words from Beijing are likely to make the government’s efforts to get relations with China back on track. In an online lecture to a think tank in London a week ago, Morrison used very conciliatory tones towards China. But after the Beijing tweet was published, the prime minister vented his frustration. “There is no doubt that there is tension between China and Australia. But this is not the way to deal with them. “

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