Source: China State Council Information Office
A satirical computer generated image featuring an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child in Afghanistan has created a furor since November 29, when it was posted by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded China to apologize for the “doctored image,” successfully redirecting the international attention from focusing on the country’s war crimes to blaming China.
Following Morrison, the media in Australia and its allies such as New Zealand, France, the UK and the U.S., criticized the tweet as misinformation while keeping mum on the Australian soldiers’ gruesome deeds in Afghanistan. Neither did they express outrage about the mistreatment of David McBride, a former Australian army lawyer who faces five charges, including breaching the Defense Act, and possible jail, for informing the media about the soldiers’ involvement.
Having suffered centuries of humiliation including being invaded and trampled upon by foreign powers, the Chinese empathize with Afghans who have gone through the same suffering.
On December 1, the Afghanistan Times said in its editorial that “The agonized Afghans welcome China’s move not to only condemn but also react strongly over the unlawful killings in Afghanistan”
Australia media said diplomatic relations with China is at a 50-year low over the tweet.
People could still recall that the Chinese national flag, a symbol of national sovereignty and dignity, was distorted by a Danish paper in January. At a time when the Chinese were fighting hard against an unknown virus, the “cartoon” replaced the symbolic yellow stars on the flag with virus-like depictions. The paper’s defense was that they were practicing freedom of speech.
Similarly, Picasso’s Massacre in Korea, an uncomfortable painting which depicts America’s atrocities to pregnant women and children in the Korean War, is hailed a masterpiece. And no one is asking that the Musée Picasso in Paris, where it is on display, take it down.
That, according to the West, is freedom of expression.
However, when Chinese artist tried out political satire by creating a CG image to express his anger toward Australian army’s war crimes, it is not okay. The Australian prime minister labeled it “a disgusting slur,” “repugnant,” and said that”the Chinese Government should be totally ashamed.” The young Chinese artist probably had never expected his following Western culture would give the West a handle with which to beat his own country.
British scholar Martin Jacques was among those who pinpointed the truth about Morrison’s outrage that it was not about the image but who had posted it. “What really offends him is that he doesn’t think the Chinese have a right to comment on the murderous behavior of Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan,” Martin said.
Part of the mentality in the West’s dealings with China is condescension. “Some people always show the ‘I can, but you are not allowed’ mentality,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, citing examples from the fields of technology and economy, according to Xinhua News Agency.
“I can have the 5G, but you are not allowed. I can take you down economically, but you are not allowed. And I can openly criticize you, but you are not allowed.” Such an attitude reveals the arrogance and hypocrisy of some people and exposes the real purpose, which is to deprive China’s right to speak out the truth, Hua said.
“When Australia took the lead, banning Huawei on groundless security charges, it didn’t say business was business. When Morrison launched a series of battle moves hampering China’s core interest, he simply wished politics was just politics,” China Daily Deputy Editor-in-Chief Wang Hao said on Twitter.
“Shaking hands for good deals while stepping hard on your trade partner’s toe. How can the dance last long?” Wang added.
The Australian media have recently targeted China even more by peddling the “China threat” story. The Australian newspaper labeled Zhao the “supreme wolf” to justify their narrative that Chinese diplomacy is turning combative. The anti-China narrative and “China threat” story, unfortunately, will likely keep on being sold in Australia. Serious work must be done to bring bilateral relations back to business as usual.