5 Jul 2018

Aust media bordering on hysterical over China threat stories

From , 5:03 am on 5 July 2018

An academic says some of Australia's media coverage of the growing Chinese influence in the Pacific has been bordering on hysterical.  

Stories have focussed on the threat China is posing to Australia and claims Pacific nations are being lured into Chinese debt traps.

Chinese Ambassador in Samoa Wang Xuefeng and PM Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi at the presentation of 20 brand new Sedan vehicles for the Pacific Island Forum meeting to be hedl in Samoa next week.

Chinese Ambassador in Samoa Wang Xuefeng and PM Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi. Photo: Tipi Autagavaia

Australian National University's Matthew Dornan says the stories were light on Pacific views.

Dr Dornan told Don Wiseman the Australian media is going off beam.

"I think it really sits within a broader discussion that has taken place in Australia over the last 18 months or so, regarding china's influence in Australia but also its growing influence more broadly in the region," he says. 

"A lot of the reporting has exaggerated the nature of China's involvement in the region and perhaps exaggerated the threat that China represents.

"These sorts of stories obviously sell better than stories that are more moderate.

He says the Australian government itself has played a part in the hype.

"The comments from the Minister for International Development from Australia, about China's aid programme earlier in the year, sort of helped put China's aid in the region in the spotlight.

"So, in part, the coalition government has itself to blame for this but that's not to excuse a lot of the reporting that has taken place."

He says the Australian government's White Paper on immigration has done a good job of stressing people-to-people links in the pacific, which is an area in which the country has not kept pace with New Zealand.

It is also about a general decline in Australia's reporting about the region. 

He says some of the blame perhaps lies with ABC management, but funding cuts from the government inevitably had an effect.

"Australian reporting on the region has weakened in recent years and the ABC is a very big part of that story - its coverage of the region has really suffered as a result of the funding cuts that the ABC has undergone.