China’s army has used a Tang Dynasty poem to mock Australian concerns about China’s military build-up.
Deputy editor of China’s nationalistic Global Times Chen Ping has made a veiled warning to Australia that the country could be subject to the same economic coercion tactics that China used on South Korea.
Senior Colonel Wu Qian, Director General of the Information Office of China’s Ministry of National Defence, was asked about concerns raised in the Australian white paper and elsewhere that China is seeking to increase its military presence abroad.
“Your question reminds me of two lines of a Tang poem: ‘the apes are still keep screaming from the two sides but ten thousand miles away have been my boat’,” he said.
“Which means that no matter what kind of noises and hardship we are faced with, it is an irreversible trend for China to build up its military strength by taking the path of self-reliance.”
Australian National University researcher Adam Ni translated the poem as:
“The screams of apes on either bank had scarcely ceased echoing in my ear, when my skiff had left behind it, ten thousand ranges of hills.”
Senior Colonel Wu Qian also objected to comments in the White Paper about the South China Sea.
“Australia is not a party directly concerned to the South China Sea issue, so it is not in a position to make carping comments on the South China Sea issue.”
“We hope the Australian side does not stick to the old mentality in mind while having a new Asia Pacific in sight.”
Mr Ni said the message was that China’s military expansion would carry on regardless of western concerns.
“It’s mocking the voices in the media as ape screams or cries, and that the Chinese military build-up will be unperturbed (and continue to sail across vast hills),” he told The Australian.
Mr Chen’s editorial, which he also delivered in front of Australian leaders at the Fourth Australia-China High-Level Dialogue in Melbourne last week, attacked the Australian media and urged them to read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s policies.
He also said Australia could face an economic backlash from China if the Australian media continued to report on Chinese government influence techniques in Australia, which he dismissed as a “misunderstanding”.
“China has indeed imported large quantities of iron ore, beef and coal from abroad, but Australia is not the only country in the world that produces these products,” he wrote.
“What South Korea experienced in the past year is a good example of how the Chinese public could make an impact on another country’s economy and trade.”
Asked whether Australia would tolerate economic pressure such as Beijing’s attempts to strangle South Korean companies in order to end its THAAD missile program, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “we will not accept foreign interference or foreign coercion”.
Seoul’s installation of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to counter the North Korean missile threat had angered China, as Beijing argued the system’s radar could penetrate Chinese territory.
China responded by squeezing South Korea’s tourism, retail and entertainment industries. Then in October the two countries agreed to “normalize” relations without South Korea removing the system.