The Crikey bunker is well in the swing of the Olympic spirit, channel-hopping between different sports instead of watching our usual Sky News feed, but one of the most amusing battles isn’t taking place on a court, a field or even in the pool. On Monday, Australia’s Mack Horton won gold in the men’s 400-metre freestyle and made disparaging comments about fellow competitor China’s Sun Yang, who had previously been suspended from the sport for doping. The Olympian’s comments have caused outcry in Chinese state media and social media, which have gone in guns blazing about both Horton and Australia. Sun was suspended for three months in 2014 after taking medication for a heart problem, which had only been declared a banned substance four months earlier. Before the race on Monday, Horton told reporters that he had a rivalry with anyone who had tested positive for drugs, leading to Chinese fans bombarding his social media with demands he apologise. The Global Times, a state-owned, nationalist newspaper has also taken up the case against Horton and in turn Australia. Yesterday the Global Times defended Sun Yang, saying Horton didn’t “act morally”:

“Sun is a distinguished swimmer, and a formidable rival. It is understandable that Horton might have harbored disrespect for Sun for some time. He couldn’t hold in his cynical smugness after beating Sun, and the Australian media recklessly spread Horton’s rude speech.

If Horton won the competition by disrupting his rival in an immoral way, his win is disgraceful, and not in line with the spirit of the Olympics. While challenging another’s morality, Horton didn’t act morally.”

It also said Australia was “on the fringes of civilisation”. Today’s effort takes aim at Australia’s place in the Western world, and of course makes reference to our convict history:

“From China’s perspective, Australia, an English-speaking and developed country, is a typical part of the Western world. But actually, Australia has always been a “second-class citizen” in the West, and many people from Western Europe, especially the UK, feel condescension toward Australians.

“Australia used to be a land populated by the UK’s unwanted criminals, and this remains a stigma attached to Australian culture.

“Eager to be completely accepted by the Western world and afraid of being overlooked, Australia has grown docile and obedient in face of the US and the UK.

“However, in front of Asian countries, it cannot help but effuse its white supremacy. The tangle of inferiority and superiority has numerous reflections in Australia’s foreign exchanges.

“We don’t have to take seriously the tinge of barbarism that comes out of some Australians, nor should we pay keen attention to some vindictive provocations. China cannot be distracted from its own path of development, so it should turn a blind eye to what should be despised.”

As we write, Australia is third in the medal tally, right behind China.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey