China has accused Australia of playing with fire and undermining efforts to repair relations between Beijing and Canberra after a group of six MPs touched down in Taiwan.
In an op-ed published overnight, the Chinese communist mouthpiece the Global Times slammed Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for failing to oppose the visit.
“Considering Albanese’s vague and cop-out remarks which will undoubtedly encourage the arrogance of anti-China forces and pro-Taiwan secessionist forces in Australia, there is a big question mark hanging over Australia’s sincerity on improving its relations with China,” the Global Times said.
The delegation of backbenchers includes former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, Labor’s Meryl Swanson and Libby Coker, and Coalition MPs Scott Buchholz, Terry Young and Gavin Pearce.
On Saturday, Mr Albanese sought to play down the significance of the visit and insisted it was not a government visit.
“There remains a bipartisan position when it comes to China and when it comes to support for the status quo on Taiwan,” he said.
It is, however, the first parliamentary delegation to visit Taiwan since 2019 and follows Mr Albanese’s meeting with China’s Prime Minister Xi Jinping at the G20 in Bali last month.
In its editorial, the Global Times said the visit would “cast a shadow” on the efforts to thaw relations with Australia and China.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it. The politicians from certain countries who visit Taiwan to seek limelight are like political god (sic) of plague and pestilence,” it said.
“They bring nothing but risks and tension to Taiwan and no benefit to their own countries, and they also hijack their own country’s China policy.
“As the Australian MPs’ Taiwan visit is under way, it has already generated negative impacts on the China-Australia relationship.”
But Mr Joyce denied the trip was ill-timed, telling Sky News the backbenchers were not there to “antagonise” China.
“We want to make sure that we are both close to mainland China and also close to Taiwan,” the Nationals MP said.
“I don’t think there is anything unusual (about the trip) at all. I don’t think people could read it any other way unless they chose to. Then it becomes a question for them.”
The delegation touched down in Taiwan on Monday and is expected to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.