KEY POINTS

  • China warns Australia not to flex its muscles in South China Sea
  • Rejects Australian PM’s demand for apology for tweet with fake image
  • Chinese Embassy says Australia’s outrage unacceptable

China’s official establishment stepped up its offensive against the Australian government as WeChat took down Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s post critical of a top Chinese official’s tweet that showed a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding an Afghan child at knifepoint.

The Chinese Communist Party-run Global Times followed up on the foreign ministry's refusal to apologize for spokesman Zhao Lijian's tweet that referred to the killing of 39 Afghans by Australian soldiers between 2005 and 2016. Global Times alleged that Morrison has "lost his diplomatic manners" and said Australia was treating "China's goodwill with evil."

"If it does not want to do business with China, so be it. Its politics, military and culture should stay far away from China - let's assume the two countries are not on the same planet," Global Times wrote in an editorial.

The daily also warned Australian warships to stay away from the South China Sea. “As a war hound of the US, Australia should retain its arrogance. Particularly, its warships must not come to China’s coastal areas to flex muscles, or else it will swallow the bitter pills.” 

Australia's Defence Department did not confirm whether any Australian ships were currently deployed in the South China Sea, AFR reported.

Australia said on Nov. 19 that its special forces personnel in Afghanistan allegedly killed 39 unarmed civilians and prisoners between 2005 and 2016. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Morrison had expressed his "deepest  sorrows" for the incident.

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman took to Twitter on Nov. 30 to condemn the attack but he also posted a gruesome image along with his comment. The Australian Prime Minister said his government was seeking an apology from the Chinese government and called on Twitter to remove what he said was a false image.

Zhao's tweet remained on Twitter with a warning, but Morrison's message addressed to the Chinese community has been removed by WeChat.

The war of words between Beijing and Canberra follows a trade war involving punitive tariffs and petitions to the WTO. China was peeved by Australia's call for an inquiry into the origin of the coronavirus and the condemnation of human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. China had also objected to Australia's decision to rejoin an annual naval exercise with the United States, Japan and India.

Global Times said that punitive tariffs were imposed on Australian barley and wine for "dumping and government subsidies." 

Aircraft carriers the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan sailing in Asia in July -- Washington is pushing back against Beijing over its military buildup in the South China Sea Aircraft carriers the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan sailing in Asia in July -- Washington is pushing back against Beijing over its military buildup in the South China Sea Photo: US NAVY / Keenan DANIELS