China has sharply rebuked an Australian government MP for comparing the West’s approach to China to what he called the “catastrophic” failure to hold back Nazi Germany.
Andrew Hastie, the head of a parliamentary security committee, said on Thursday that Australia was failing to recognise threats posed by China.
Beijing said it deplored Mr Hastie’s comments and his “Cold War mentality”.
Australian PM Scott Morrison said Mr Hastie was entitled to his own views.
Opposition lawmakers said Mr Hastie’s “extreme” comments would exacerbate recent strains with China.
Australia has struggled in recent times to balance its traditional security alliance with the US with its economic reliance on China.
What was said?
In a newspaper opinion piece, Mr Hastie wrote that China was aiming to replace the US as the dominant power in the Pacific region, and that this threatened Australia’s sovereignty and democracy.
He argued that Australia has failed to sufficiently prepare, comparing the situation to France’s military defences during World War Two.
“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become,” he wrote in the piece published by The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Our next step in safeguarding Australia’s future is accepting and adapting to the reality of the geopolitical struggle before us – its origins, its ideas and its implications for the Indo-Pacific region.”
China’s embassy in Australia denounced Mr Hastie’s views as “detrimental” to the nations’ relationship.
“We strongly deplore the Australian federal MP Andrew Hastie’s rhetoric on ‘China threat’ which lays bare his Cold-War mentality and ideological bias,” the embassy said.
“History has proven and will continue to prove that China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world.”
A former army special forces captain, Mr Hastie chairs Australia’s parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.
Mr Morrison did not support or criticise Mr Hastie’s views but noted he was “not a minister” and was free express opinions as a backbench MP.
“We seek to work closely with [China], in the same way we do everyone in the region,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
Australia passed new espionage and foreign interference laws last year which were widely interpreted as in part aimed at China.
Tensions have also flared over human rights issues and the exclusion of Chinese tech firm Huawei from Australia’s 5G network.