(Image: Private Media/Gorkie)

In all the coverage of the AUKUS announcement and the government’s continuing criticisms of China, one question has received too little attention: why has Australia gone from the Tony Abbott Coalition hosting Xi Jinping in the Parliament in 2014 to celebrate a trade deal to now pursuing a new Cold War with China?

It’s a difficult question not merely for the Coalition, which feted Xi and denounced any criticism of the trade deal as racist, but for its supporters at News Corp, which lauded the deal as a major historical event and the entry of Australia into a close "orbit" of China -- rather like AUKUS has now been declared a key moment in Australian history.

The primary response from China hawks is that Xi somehow began unmasking himself after 2014 -- though not so quickly that, in early 2017, the Turnbull government wasn’t seeking to ratify an extradition treaty.