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Australian Media Accused of Stoking ‘China Panic’

FILE - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks at a joint press conference with New Zealand's Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee in Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2017.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. has alleged that two Chinese businessmen, who donated money to three of Australia’s major political parties, have links to the Chinese Communist party. The ABC documentary aired earlier this month and claimed to undercover how China’s Communist Party was “secretly infiltrating Australia”.

The program said Australia’s main intelligence agency had warned “that espionage and foreign interference are occurring here on an unprecedented scale, with the potential to cause serious harm to this nation’s sovereignty, it’s security and … our political system.”

The story prompted other reports into suspected ties between Australian politicians and financial donors from China.

'Wild and morbid' imaginations

The allegations have infuriated China’s Ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, who accused media organizations of having “wild and morbid” imaginations.

Speaking at an Australia-China Business Council meeting at Parliament House in Canberra, Cheng said the claims were “groundless.”

“In Chinese, we call it ‘cook up the overnight cold rice,’ which means repeating the same old stuff again and again,” he said. “Maybe the producers of the program believe that those groundless allegations may turn (out) to be true after repeating a thousand times. The main purpose as I see it is to instigate China panic.”

Focus on trade

In the audience for Cheng’s speech was Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who had earlier this week been questioned by opposition lawmakers over Chinese donors to the governing Liberal Party.

Bishop, however, made no reference to the controversy in her address, focusing instead on growing social and economic links between the two nations.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, and commercial ties between the two nations grow deeper every day.

China’s appetite for resources, most notably iron ore and coal, helped Australia avoid the worst of the global financial crisis. Analysts believe that as the mining boom fades, Australia’s future prosperity depends on Chinese demand for its education and tourism services, as well as manufacturing and agricultural products.