- Associated Press - Thursday, August 8, 2019

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - China has rebuked an Australian government lawmaker for saying that it threatens to diminish Australia’s sovereignty and freedoms.

Conservative Liberal Party lawmaker Andrew Hastie drew parallels in a newspaper column published on Thursday between China and Nazi Germany. It has been described in the media as the strongest condemnation of China by any member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s coalition.

Hastie, a former Special Air Service officer who chairs an influential parliamentary intelligence and security committee, wrote that almost every strategic and economic question facing Australia in the coming decades would be “refracted through the geopolitical competition” between its most important security partner, the United States, and its biggest trading partner, China.

“The next decade will test our economic values, our economy, our alliances and our security like no other time in Australian history,” he wrote.

He likened Australia’s relationship with China to France’s failure to recognize the threat posed by Nazi Germany at the outbreak of World War II.

“Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbor had become,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s view of the future is one in which “capitalism will be eclipsed,” Hastie wrote.

The Chinese Embassy in Canberra said in a statement that they “strongly deplore” Hastie’s commentary “which lays bare his Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”

“It goes against the world trend of peace, cooperation and development. It is detrimental to China-Australian relations,” the statement said.

“History has proven and will continue to prove that China’s peaceful development is an opportunity, not a threat to the world,” it added.

Australia has angered China by passing laws that ban covert foreign interference in politics, blocking Chinese investment in critical energy infrastructure and by banning Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from involvement in its next-generation 5G networks.

Hastie wrote that Australia’s “greatest vulnerability lies not in our infrastructure, but in our thinking.”

“If we don’t understand the challenge for our civil society … then choices will be made for us,” he wrote.

“Our sovereignty, our freedoms, will be diminished,” he added.

Morrison separated his government’s China policy from Hastie’s views, saying that the lawmaker was not a member of his Cabinet.

Morrison said Hastie’s comments did not jeopardize the bilateral relationship.

“Andrew, of course, is not a minister within the government and … he’s entirely entitled to provide his perspective,” Morrison told reporters.

“What’s important is that the government maintains, I think, the very consistent approach that we have on these issues. We are very clear about what decisions we’ve taken in relation to that partnership we have with China,” he added.

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