We should be alarmed, if not ashamed, at how some of these journalists behaved and reported.
The reporting on Chinese Ambassador Xiao Qian’s address to the National Press Club revealed as much about the reporters themselves as it did about the content of the Ambassador’s remarks.
His speech was friendly, conciliatory and constructive, not only highlighting the benefits of the economic relationship, but pressing Beijing’s willingness to reset and stabilise our relations and listing a number of specific issues on which we can have new or enhanced collaboration.
However, in the Q&A, pushed into a corner by aggressive and hostile media, he repeated the official government line on Taiwan, which as ambassador he must, but which most of these journalists breathlessly and sensationally reported as though it had never been said before by any PRC official. So little do they actually know, or seek to inform themselves, about China. From the body language of some, expressing obvious personal antipathy and animosity, one might speculate that they had already composed the headlines and much of their reporting before the event.
There are grounds for justified and rigorous questioning and challenging of the PRC, but as Australians committed to a free, informed and genuinely investigative media for the good of our democracy we should be alarmed, if not ashamed, at how some of these journalists behaved and reported.
I have long believed it’s important for PRC diplomats to speak publicly, and I applaud the Ambassador for taking this opportunity and for the professionalism of his presentation and responses.
As he rightly explained, Australia made a firm commitment on Taiwan by its “acknowledgement” of One China in the letters exchanged in Paris in December 1972, which has had solid bipartisan support ever since. Use of the term invasion by either, can surely be seen as an abrogation of that position.
I believe the Labor government must ignore the reporting, make its own assessment of what was said by the Ambassador, and press on with the already initiated moves to quietly rebalance the relationship.