Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop: Outspoken about China.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop: Outspoken about China. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Australia was once an outpost of “rascals and outlaws” but
will soon adjust to the shifting realities of power, says a Chinese
state-owned newspaper, which also has called Foreign Minister Julie
Bishop a "complete fool".

“Australia's history is not short of records of human rights infringement on the Aboriginal population,” said the Global Times, China’s most popular tabloid, in an editorial published in the newspaper’s English and Chinese editions on Monday.

Editor of "Global Times", Hu Xijin, in 2010.
Editor of "Global Times", Hu Xijin, in 2010.

“The country used to be a place roamed by rascals and outlaws
from Europe,” it said. “Perhaps it has to boast its values to cover up
its actual lack of confidence in front of Western countries.”

The newspaper, owned by The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s self-described "mouthpiece", was responding to comments made by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop published by Fairfax Media on Thursday. 

The Chinese version of the Global Times editorial goes
further than the English version, using a Beijing colloquialism to
describe Ms Bishop as a “complete fool” and suggesting her government
won’t last long.

In the interview, Ms Bishop bluntly pledged to stand up for
Australian values and to “manage for the worst” when dealing with China,
while criticising the alleged temerity and incoherence of Labor
predecessors. "China doesn’t respect weakness," she said. 

Ms Bishop was making the point that the Abbott government's
more strident advocacy on China, particularly on security matters, had
not led to the punitive economic response that Australian critics had

Fairfax Media understands that the interview prompted
high-level diplomatic inquiries and some initial confusion about whether
Ms Bishop actually made the comments as reported. 

The Global Times editorial paired Ms Bishop’s comments
with Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments to his guest, Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe, in which he said he "admired the skill and the
sense of honour" of the Japanese submariners who attacked Sydney Harbor
in 1942.

“If Abbott's words were meant to flatter his visiting
Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, Bishop's provocation appeared to have
come out of nowhere,” it says. 

“Many Chinese people who read about this could not believe
these words came from the Australian Foreign Minister. China is
Australia's biggest trade partner and has not offended Australia in any
way. Bishop's verbal provocation made her look more like one of the
often pointless 'angry youths' found in the Chinese cyber sphere than a

The Global Times editorial is the closest that China
has come to admonishing Australia since last week’s high-profile visit
by Mr Abe, in which he advanced the capacity to work together with the
Australian military.

Still, the editorial hinted that China will not bother
pressing its views further because Australia would be forced to adjust
its rhetoric to the realities of international bargaining power.

“Bishop calls for standing up to China, but what resources
does she have to do so with? The next day, Australian leaders will smile
at China again, just as they do now to Japan.”

Within the Abbott Government, some said Ms Bishop was merely
giving voice to long-established principles that underpin China policy.

Others, however, questioned whether it would be able to
consistently match principles with actions, as the Rudd government
struggled to do.

The Global Times is famous for a distinct brand of fiery nationalism.

Its editor, Hu Xijin,
claims to represents the will of the Chinese people but his
commentaries are regularly more controversial abroad than they are at