Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo

China is continuing its campaign targeted against Australia on the social media platforms.

On November 30, Zhao Lijian, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman and now the most prominent “warrior wolf” diplomat, posted on his verified Twitter account a fake image of an Australian soldier threatening to slit a child’s throat with a knife on the background of Australian and Afghanistan flags.

Not only Chinese government declined to apologize for the outrageous expression by its Foreign Ministry spokesman but his Twitter account continued to put it on top of it as well, as if it meant for further provocation, it can not be a slur by an outspoken individual but an official position.

It’s not plausible suddenly China stands up for the right of Muslim Afghans and defend the freedom of speech by its officials.

Rather, it reflects a broader change in China’s attitude towards the world. This campaign would continue until a prime minister of a sovereign state yields to Chinese pressure and kneels down.

For the East Asian nationals, this type of China-centered order and its diplomatic protocol is not new but was a longstanding reality before the dawn of the modern history. Under the China-centered order which rose and fell cyclically in the East Asian history, a rising Chinese dynasty imposed unilaterally inferior status to surrounding nations, demanding each nations’ top officials to pay visit to the Forbidden City, capital of the Chinese Empire and bring tributes.

During the tumultuous period in the Chinese modern history, this tradition of Kowtow diplomacy and the international system of tributes have apparently abolished. China exerted great efforts to enter the modern international system and be recognized as an ordinary and normal state.

It seems, however, a temporal goal and regaining the sublime position in a China-centered new world order seems to be the real and ultimate Chinese dream which, according to some, is on the brink of realization.

Australia has been recently at the forefront of China’s assertiveness. Australia banned Huawei’s 5G technology and introduced laws aimed at restricting Chinese domination of its economy.

Australia’s early call in April for an international investigation on the Chinese responsibility for the coronavirus spread seems to be the “red line” for China. China slapped economic sanctions by blockading imports of Australian wine, coal, barley and cotton and now is the next phase of verbal assaults. Whether Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison succumbs to the Chinese pressure would teach lessons to other nations of the Indo-Pacific region.

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