Xi Jinping and Scott Morrison (Images: AAP)

Beijing ripped off the mask yesterday, releasing a dossier to Nine journalists accusing the Australian government of poisoning bilateral relations, including a handy list of 14 disputes. In briefing the media, a Chinese official reportedly remarked: “If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy.”

But is the dossier really “extraordinary”, as the Nine newspapers chose to label it?

“I was a bit underwhelmed,” said Australia China Relations Institute director James Laurenceson. “There’s really nothing on that list that we don’t already know China are already annoyed about.”

But more importantly, given the toxic state of bilateral relations, does Beijing have a point?

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Let’s go through the list:

Foreign investment decisions blocked on ‘opaque national security grounds’

Australia has indeed blocked investments. In August, Josh Frydenberg stopped a Japanese company’s sale of Australian beverage companies to China’s Mengniu Dairy, saying it was “contrary to the national interest”.

Blocking Huawei from 5G network

Once again, a thing we definitely did, and definitely knew would piss off China. The bone of contention here is whether our national security concerns were “unfounded”.

Foreign interference legislation viewed as targeting China

When introducing the legislation, Malcolm Turnbull cited media reports that the “Chinese Communist Party has been working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities”. While the legislation is neutral, it’s unsurprising China claims believes it’s targeted.

‘Politicisation and stigmatisation of normal exchanges … including the revoke of visas

Academic Cheng Hong had his Australian visa cancelled because he was in a WeChat group. It’s a sign of how deteriorating bilateral relations are drawing regular people into the diplomatic freeze.

Echoing the US’ call for an international inquiry into COVID-19

Laurenceson says China has a point here. Australia’s call for an international inquiry followed similar (but far more antagonistic) pronouncements from Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“If you were sitting in the Chinese embassy in Canberra and watching that, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to conclude that Australia and the US are colluding to attack China,” Laurenceson says.

‘Incessant wanton interference in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs

China has concentration camps in Xinjiang. Beijing is squeezing the life out of Hong Kong’s democracy. Sure, Australia has absolutely criticised that, but compared to what China’s up to, that seems a bit innocuous.

‘The early dawn search and reckless seizure of Chinese journalists’ homes and property’

Chinese journalists were raided as part of a foreign interference investigation. Of course, Australian journalists in China were also harassed by security services, and had to leave the country.

First non-littoral country to make a statement to the UN on the South China Sea

Australia was indeed one of the first countries to make a statement responding to an arbitral tribunal ruling between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea.

Siding with the US and importing US disinformation over COVID-19

Ever since Peter Dutton demanded China provide “clarity” over the virus’ origins, Beijing has made this accusation. It’s true that Dutton’s claims are similar to those made by some in the Trump administration. Whether it amounts to “disinformation” is a tougher judgment call.

Torpedoing’ Victoria’s belt and road initiative

Scott Morrison has absolutely tried to veto states entering into agreements with foreign governments, and it’s absolutely triggered by concerns about Victoria’s belt and road initiative with China.

Funding anti-China think tanks and peddling lies about Xinjiang.

This is a reference to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which does get government funding and has annoyed Beijing a lot with its work. The institute has documented the scale of repression in Xinjiang. China says that research, picked up in media around the world, amounts to lies.

Allegations of cyber-attacks without evidence

Australia has repeatedly pointed the finger at China over cyber attacks. And China repeatedly says the allegations have no basis. Nothing new here.

Racist attacks against Chinese people and ‘outrageous’ condemnation of China

Racist attacks on Asian Australians increased during the pandemic. Recently, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz’s demand that Chinese Australians condemn the CCP was criticised as an act of racial McCarthyism.

Unfair or antangonistic reporting on China in the media

Compared to China, Australia has a free media with diversity of thought. But let’s not pretend we don’t have a problem with racist coverage. The pandemic also saw its share of outright false reporting on the origins of the virus in China.