- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, describing it as a “very reasonable and sensible course of action.”
- Morrison’s comments came after US President Donald Trump called for a “serious investigation” into China’s role.
- Australia and China are in a growing diplomatic row amid claims that Beijing concealed the true scale of its outbreak.
- Chinese state media responded by saying Australia was “like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison enraged China after backing calls for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Morrison on Wednesday defended his calls for an investigation into how the pandemic started, describing it as a “very reasonable and sensible course of action,” The Guardian reported.
“This is a virus that has taken more than 200,000 lives across the world,” Morrison told reporters in Australia’s capital, Canberra, according to the newspaper. “It has shut down the global economy. The implications and impacts of this are extraordinary.”
He added: “Now, it would seem entirely reasonable and sensible that the world would want to have an independent assessment of how this all occurred, so we can learn the lessons and prevent it from happening again.”
Morrison’s government has also called for an overhaul of the World Health Organization, whose funding was recently cut by US President Donald Trump.
Morrison has insisted that WHO must have the power to send in independent inspectors, akin to “weapons inspectors,” to identify the source of outbreaks in the future, The Guardian said.
Morrison’s latest comments came after Trump said on Monday that his administration was conducting “serious investigations” into Beijing’s handling of the outbreak.
“We are not happy with China,” Trump said. “We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe it could have been stopped at the source, it could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world.”
Chinese state media describes Australia as ‘gum’ on China’s shoe
Morrison’s government has been engaged in an increasingly heated diplomatic row with China in recent days.
China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, on Monday told Morrison’s government that China might sever the strong trading ties between the two countries if Australia pushed ahead with its investigations.
“Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'” he said.
Cheng’s remarks prompted Frances Adamson, the head of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to call the Chinese diplomat.
The Chinese Embassy in Australia on Wednesday denied that it had leaked details of the call, saying that it was “obviously leaked by some Australian officials” and that the embassy “doesn’t play petty tricks, this is not our tradition,” according to Reuters.
“But if others do, we have to reciprocate,” it added.
The state-controlled media in China has also taken aim at Australia.
Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-run media outlet Global Times, wrote on the blogging website Weibo on Monday, “After the epidemic, we need to have more risk awareness when doing business with Australia and also when we send our children to study there,” The Guardian reported.
“Australia is always there, making trouble,” Hu said. “It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.”
The UK says the world can’t return to ‘business as usual’ with China
Australia’s allies in Europe are reconsidering their relationships with China following the coronavirus outbreak.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government recently removed China from its list of international coronavirus-outbreak comparisons because of doubt about the accuracy of case numbers in China.
Dominic Raab, the UK’s first secretary of state who deputized for Johnson while he recovered from COVID-19, said last week that the UK’s relationship with China could not return to “business as usual” after the pandemic.
Members of Parliament in Johnson’s Conservative Party over the weekend launched a “China Research Group” to “promote debate and fresh thinking about how Britain should respond to the rise of China.”
The group is putting pressure on Johnson to rip up the UK’s deal with the Chinese telecoms company Huawei to develop the UK’s 5G network.
Conservative MP Neil O’Brien, the group’s secretary, told Business Insider he felt that Westminster was not thinking hard enough about how to respond to China’s growing global power.
“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the growing influence of China and issues that raise,” he said.
“Looking at other countries like Sweden, Germany, and the US, the debate about responding to Chinese industrial and technological policy in those countries is a bit more advanced than it is here.”
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe