(Image: AAP/Private Media)

Three years ago, at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, Malcolm Turnbull said the quiet part out loud: “Some fear that China will seek to impose a latter day Monroe Doctrine on this hemisphere in order to dominate the region.”

The then prime minister was referring to the United States’ 19th century attempt to claw back territorial domination of the Americas from Europe. The speech is littered with warnings to China about coercion, and threats to peace and harmony in the region. The subtext was clear: China was a threat. Beijing needed to back off.

The Australia-China relationship really started to deteriorate that year, 2017. Just months earlier, foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop had chided Beijing about the need for democracy. It was the year our media became awash with stories about espionage and influence-peddling -- stories that unravelled Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s political career and drove the Turnbull government to introduce foreign interference laws.