Trade war fallout? Australia demands China’s apology for derogatory Tweet by its spokesman over its soldiers

Australia’s shadowboxing with China has now ended up with a fight on social media. China’s relationship with Australia has deteriorated since the latter called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. China, which did not take it lightly, indulged in a trade war with Australia. Several Australian parliamentarians have blamed China for interfering in its internal affairs and for trying to influence the decisions of the government through covert means.

Now the shadow war is out in the open and has resulted in the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman targeting Australia through a derogatory tweet. On November 30th, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian shared a photoshopped image which showed an Australian soldier holding a knife to an Afghan child. The image was a sly reference to the dismissal to 13 soldiers following last week’s damning report on the murder of 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners by the Australian special forces.

“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers. We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.” Zhao Lijian tweeted with the message.

Australia has demanded an apology from China over its Foreign Ministry spokesman derogatory tweet, calling it “truly repugnant” and demanded it be taken down. Australia has taken the issue very seriously with even the PM jumping into the ring.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison called a media briefing to condemn the posting of the image. Morrison said “It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis. The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes.” The Australian government has asked Twitter to remove the image, posted on Monday by China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on his official Twitter account, Morrison said.

Not to take Australia’s comments lightly, Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman retorted “It is the Australian government who should feel ashamed for their soldiers killing innocent Afghan civilians”, said when asked about Morrison’s comments. China has justified its spokesman’s tweet by saying that Zhao Lijian tweet shows people’s “indignation” at the ‘war crimes’ of Australian soldiers.

Reacting to Zhao’s tweet, Phillip Coorey, Political Editor of Australian Financial Review wrote “Australia has investigated, owned up to and will prosecute its war criminals. China’s crimes against humanity (Uighurs etc) are state sanctioned, covered up, and more widespread. That’s the key difference.”

The verbal spat and wars of words over the tweet marks another downturn in deteriorating relations between the two countries. China fired yet another salvo at Australia earlier this month when it outlined a list of grievances about the latters foreign investment, national security and human rights policy. China said that Australia ‘needed to correct’ its actions to restore the bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner.

Further, on 27th November, China announced it will impose temporary anti-dumping tariffs of up to 212.1% on wine imported from Australia. Australia reacting to China’s dumping claims, said the claims were rubbish and trade was being used as a weapon by China which was in total breach of both the free trade agreement between the countries and World Trade Organisation rules. Australia protested the move and called it unjustified and vowed to retaliate if China does not address tensions in the relationship. Australia has called for direct discussion between ministers of the two countries.

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