China condemns Australian MP Andrew Hastie who compared its expansion to rise of Nazis

An Australian MP is standing by his comments comparing China's military expansion to the rise of Nazi Germany in an opinion piece.

Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, the chair of Australia's intelligence committee, has marked China as a growing threat, and it's sparked an angry response from the superpower. 

Pointing to Beijing's footprint growing in size in the South China Sea, Hastie compared China's overseas military expansion to the failure to stop the Nazis before the Second World War. 

China has responded harshly to Hastie's article, saying it laid bare his "Cold War mentality and ideological bias". 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is distancing himself from the conflict, saying: "Andrew is free to make comments that he wishes to make as a member of the backbench."

But other senior ministers are speaking out. 

Australian MP Andrew Hastie.
Australian MP Andrew Hastie. Photo credit: AAP

Australia's Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, said he "didn't agree" with the comparison Hastie made. He said he "thought it was a bit clumsy and inappropriate". 

It follows reports of new concerns over suspicions of a secret deal to turn a small naval port in Cambodia into China's second overseas base - claims China and Cambodia deny. 

It all leaves Australia in a difficult position between its biggest trading partner, China, and its closest military ally, the United States. 

Last week, during a visit to Sydney, the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China is on both nations' minds.

"We are both concerned about China's militarisation of their man-made islands in the South China Sea and we are both keeping an eye on investment that mires our friends in debt and corruption."

A trade war, with Australia caught in the middle, could spell serious risks in taking sides.