SYDNEY (Reuters) – China said on Thursday it “strongly deplores” comments by the head of Australia’s parliamentary intelligence committee, who likened the West’s attitude to China to the inadequate French response to the World War Two advances of Nazi Germany.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia said in a statement that Australian lawmaker Andrew Hastie had a “Cold-War mentality and ideological bias”.
“It goes against the world trend of peace, co-operation and development,” the embassy said on its website. “It is detrimental to China-Australian relations.”
While China and Australia are major trading partners, their relationship has deteriorated in recent years over concerns Beijing is influencing the island’s domestic affairs.
Australia has also strengthened its long-standing alliance with the United States, which has accused China of destabilising the Indo-Pacific.
Hastie is a federal member of Australia’s Liberal party, which leads the ruling coalition. He is a conservative lawmaker and former special forces soldier.
In an opinion piece in Channel 9 newspapers on Thursday, he argued the West had wrongly calculated that economic liberalisation in China would lead to democratisation.
In World War Two, France had failed to appreciate the “evolution of mobile warfare,” believing its defences would guard again the German advance in 1940, he said.
“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become,” he wrote.
The diplomatic flare-up on Thursday coincided with the appointment of Mike Burgess as head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Burgess previously headed the Australian Signals Directorate, which played a key role in Canberra’s decision to ban China’s Huawei from Australia’s nascent 5G broadband network in 2018.
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Editing by Neil Fullick)