Michael Smith (left) and Bill Birtles speak to the media after arriving in Australia (Images: Supplied)

With the dramatic exit of the ABC's Bill Birtles and The Australian Financial Review's Michael Smith, Australian media will now have no reporters in mainland China, for the first time since the Whitlam Government recognised the People’s Republic in December 1972.

Worse, the Beijing take-over of Hong Kong means that bolthole for Australian media China-watchers is also largely closed.

The result? Most Australians will be forced to rely on reporting largely mediated through the United States and United Kingdom and analysis from Australia-based experts.