Why China’s Pissed At Tony Abbott

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

A trip to Taiwan by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has caused quite the stir within Australia’s federal government, and now Chinese officials are lashing out at the former PM too.

Abbott claims he travelled to Taipei on a personal trip, but many are calling it a political one and are questioning whether it was a smart move given Australia’s current tensions with China.

The Chinese embassy in Canberra published a statement on its website in which it called Abbott a ‘failed and pitiful politician’, and described his trip to Taiwan as ‘despicable’.

So Why Did Abbott Visit Taiwan?

The former PM went to meet with Taiwan’s President Tsai ing-wen and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.

They apparently touched on issues like COVID-19, economic partnerships, and China.

While he was there, Abbott also gave a keynote address at a forum.

“It is quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously quite soon,” he said. “That’s why Taiwan’s friends are so important now.”

He also said, separate to the forum, that fellow democracies like Australia should “stand shoulder to shoulder” with Taiwan – which he referred to as a “country”.

But why is this such a big deal?

A Brief History Of Taiwan

Taiwan has long been isolated from the rest of the world because of China, who claims Taiwan as its own territory.

The two actually spilt in 1949 because of a civil war, in which a communist government took control of mainland China.

And China’s rival nationalist government withdrew to Taiwan because of it.

But China has continuously tried to claim its sovereignty over Taiwan, and this has meant the island nation has been excluded from having a seat with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations.

Why Is China Mad?

Well, it’s not that unusual for a former prime minister to visit another place and speak at international forums.

In fact, they do it all the time. Former prime minister Malcom Turnbull spoke at the same forum just last year.

But it’s Australia’s relationship with China that makes this trip – and the things that were said – a little bit risky.

Because the Australian government doesn’t recognise Taiwan’s sovereignty, any dealings the Australian government has with officials is done unofficially.

That’s also because of Australia’s ongoing relationship with China, which involves strong economic and trade interests.

But in recent years, that relationship has come under strain, especially after China unexpectedly implemented a series of devastating trade restrictions on Australian goods in 2020.

And some politicians are arguing Australia needs to be extra safe right now.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison even stressed that Abbott’s visit to the island nation was in a private capacity, and that in no way was he representing the Australian government.