Amid heated debate over PRC influence in Australia, the country’s edition of 60 Minutes asked "Is China taking over the South Pacific?" in its broadcast on Sunday. "Somewhat arrogantly," host Tom Steinfort noted, "Australia has always considered [the region] ‘our patch of paradise’ to protect and nurture. But now the Chinese are moving in, splashing their cash in places like Fiji and Vanuatu." The show is available in two parts on YouTube for viewers outside Australia.
According to a separate blog post, producers received an "aggressive, threatening and loud" phone call on June 12 from the head of media affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, who complained that footage of the Chinese Embassy in Vanuatu had been obtained illegally and without permission, including with an unauthorized drone overflight. 60 Minutes denies these accusations, claiming that it filmed the site legally from public space, and that its drone never passed over the embassy grounds. From Charles Wooley:
Cao may have been channeling the rage of a regime only accustomed to getting its own way. She might not yet understand that unlike in China, in our system [executive producer Kirsty] Thomson does not work for, nor does she do the bidding of Canberra.
“You will listen,” the embassy-official shouted down the phone.
“There must be no more misconduct in the future.”
[…] Shouting at an editor or a producer might work in China but in this country such behavior will not scotch a story.
Indeed it is likely only to generate more reportage and comment.
[…] Ms. Cao at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra might also appreciate that if she disagrees with anything in this account there is space here to publish her right of reply.
Even if we don’t agree with it, we will publish it. That’s how a free media works in this country. [Source]
Cao’s intervention prompted some discussion on Twitter:
Judging from what we're hearing here, China's anger towards Australia has largely moved from Australia's government to the Australian media – and this is another example. At the root of it appears to be disbelief that the Oz gov't can't in some way quell critical stories https://t.co/PXQ72ENRYh
— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) June 18, 2018
— 💯Fergus Ryan (@fryan) June 18, 2018
(This comment sparked an exchange with Bishop herself, who denied having blamed the media as China’s Foreign Ministry reported.)
Seems the Oz gov't recently at pains to stress it's not in cahoots with the media. Minister Ciobo's visit featured some noticeably testy exchanges with journalists when questioned about the state of relationship. His tone w/ journos markedly different to previous visits.
— Bill Birtles (@billbirtles) June 18, 2018
Similar to Canada, where the Chinese Ambassador has complained of Cdn politicians’ deference to reporters w their questions on human rights.
Chinese officials basically trying to browbeat those “beneath them” as they would in China.https://t.co/bdEUMVIGtU
— Jonathan Henshaw (@JDBHenshaw) June 18, 2018
The interesting question for me here is whether the individual doing the scolding knows it's useless. If yes–which, to be honest, I think is likely–then it means they're having to put on a performance to ensure their position within the system remains secure. Which: yikes. https://t.co/wkgV9jKKhe
— Matt Schrader (@tombschrader) June 18, 2018
What's telling here is the embassy official trying to use the same tactics that would be used (successfully) to get an article taken down in China (threats, 'misconduct,' 'your leaders') in an environment where that will only worsen the problems. https://t.co/eR9cF7UESG
— James Palmer (@BeijingPalmer) June 18, 2018
c) she knows that it actually does work sometimes & we just don't know about it
(I'm hoping this is not the case but I don't think it's unthinkable any more)
— 💯Fergus Ryan (@fryan) June 19, 2018
How charming that the Chinese Embassy assumes it can boss the media around and tell them what can or cannot air. This would seem to me to be an example of attempted “interference,” for those who see no evidence
— Kevin Carrico (@kevincarrico) June 18, 2018
China's diplomats sometimes acts to China's detriment through outbursts. Important to note that they are performing for their bosses as much as conveying displeasure. The system demands loyalty and zeal to be demonstrated. https://t.co/1XCR2SlvC3
— Adam Ni (@adam_ni) June 19, 2018