| CANBERRA, March 30
CANBERRA, March 30 Australia's Sinophile Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd is fighting perceptions he has become a
"running dog" for Beijing as anti-China sentiment mounts at
home, threatening billions of dollars worth of Chinese
With Rudd urging a greater IMF role for China at a meeting
this week of major economies in London, Australia's
conservative Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull accused Rudd of
having become a "roving ambassador for the People's Republic of
Even a shock decision last Friday to refuse a bid by
Chinese state-owned Minmetals to buy Australian miner OZ
Minerals (OZL.AX) on national security grounds appears to have
backfired, with media accusing the government of belated
"The government has thrown up a series of arbitrary
investment barriers apparently to look like it is 'standing up
to China'", the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said on Monday.
"It has sent a message to the Australian public that
Chinese money is inherently dangerous. The result is red peril
The Mandarin-speaking Rudd, elected in late 2007, was
expected to take Australia's relations with China to a new high
with his expert understanding of the country, learned in
Beijing as a junior diplomat.
But Chinese investment bids now before Australia's foreign
investment watchdog, including a $19.5 billion tie-up between
Chinese state-owned metals firm Chinalco and Anglo-Australian
mining giant Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO.AX), have sparked public
Conservative opposition politicians and an influential
upper house swing vote independent senator plan television
advertisements with more than a whiff of nationalism, demanding
the centre-left government not sell the farm to Beijing.
At the same time, Rudd's Labor has given inadvertent
credence to populist attacks, although a poll on Monday showed
its popularity remains strong with voters. [ID:nSYD411392]
Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon is fighting for his job
after failing to declare two free trips given to him by a
Chinese-born friend, while Rudd has endured a media storm over
undeclared meetings with China's security and intelligence
chief Zhou Yongkang, as well as propaganda tzar Li Changchun.
Opponents had all but tarred Rudd as "Beijing's running
dog", newspapers said, with perceptions rising of the popular
prime minister as a "Chinese lickspittle" or "Manchurian
A cartoon in the mass-selling Daily Telegraph newspaper on
Monday depicted spies and military chiefs covertly
eavesdropping on Rudd as he ordered wonton soup at a Chinese
restaurant in London.
Those suspicions could yet influence Rudd's Labor to take a
harder line against billions of dollars worth of China
investment, although historically, Australian governments have
been loath to refuse dollars flowing in from overseas.
A security expert who asked not be named said on Monday
foreign investment bureaucrats had privately canvassed resource
firms about investment options other than China.
"It would be ironic if Kevin Rudd ends up as the first
prime minister since (1971) to derail the China relationship,
at the moment when Australia and the world needs China most,"
the Herald said.
Rudd's deputy and Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard
accused opponents of trying to stir "yellow peril sentiments"
and said the government had the right level of relationship
with Asia's emerging superpower.
Two-way trade with China totalled A$58 billion ($40
billion) in 2008, rivalling Japan as Canberra's largest export
"We need to understand China, we need to engage with China,
we need to understand all of its strengths and all of its
weaknesses," Gillard told state radio.
($1=1.444 Australian Dollars)
(Editing by Valerie Lee)