Less than a decade ago, Australia and China were warmly embracing: Australia opened up its economy to Beijing, was keen to teach Mandarin in schools, and invited the Chinese president to address parliament.
Xi had also personally invested in the relationship, taking an interest in native marsupials and signing a free trade agreement.
But these days, Australia is now purchasing nuclear-powered submarines, has been barred from key markets, and resents Beijing’s repeated attempts to compel Australian legislators and the media to fend off Beijing.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that Australia will not compromise its ideals or bow to Chinese “coercion,” per Reuters.
Diplomatic tensions between the two countries increased in April 2020, after Australia called for an international investigation to clarify the origin and spread of COVID-19.
China ended up joining with most nations to support an inquiry motion drafted by the European Union and co-sponsored by Australia in May but has taken a series of trade actions against Australian export sectors throughout 2020 and has rebuffed Canberra’s calls for ministerial talks.
John Blaxland, Professor of International Security from the Australian National University, said: “What happened was the growing realization that what came before was not good. We are talking about a country that has become surprisingly unfriendly.”
Australia realized they needed to improve their defenses—quickly.
Politico reports, Canberra announced a wide-ranging security partnership with the US and UK in early September 2021. The treaty, called AUKUS, comes amid Australia’s efforts to pivot it’s economy away from China.
The deal would grant Australia access to US-developed nuclear-powered submarines and long-range missiles. Australia recently backed out of a €50 billion submarine contract with France to buy American nuclear-powered submarines.
Richard Maude, Australia’s former top security official and now director of policy at Asia Society Australia said: “All of this is about giving the Australian Defense Force an edge in an area where energy is at its best. our defense force lags behind China.”
In addition, China has restricted students from studying abroad in Australia, banned the import of Australian beef, and imposed tariffs on Australian barley.
China’s Ministry of Education, according to Reuters, has advised students to reconsider studying in Australia. International education is Australia’s fourth-largest export industry, worth A$38 billion ($26 billion) annually.
“We are an open-trading nation, mate, but I’m never going to trade our values in response to coercion from wherever it comes,” Morrison spoke to the radio station 2GB on Thursday.
China banned not only Australian beef imports and imposed tariffs on Australian barley but also urged Chinese tourists to avoid Australia.
Officials in Beijing said the warnings were due to racist attacks against Asians during the pandemic.
“That’s rubbish. It’s a ridiculous assertion and it’s rejected. That’s not a statement that’s been made by the Chinese leadership,” Morrison said in a separate interview with 3AW.
Because Australia advocated tracing the origins of the Chinese Communist virus (COVID-19), the CCP launched a series of economic retaliation measures against Australia last year, including stopping iron ore imports and Australian coal. After Australia’s coal was banned, all parts of China started cutting power. As China’s domestic coal prices continue to soar this year, power shortages are on the rise.
Economic data group Refinitiv said only 687,000 tons of coal were shipped in December 2020, down 9.46 million tons from the peak in June 2019.
The China Electricity Enterprise Committee announced on the 27th that it is now “expanding procurement channels at all costs.” Importing a large amount of coal in the short term will be as difficult as Beijing’s bid to host the Olympics again. A trader in the northeast told Reuters, “Russia must first meet the needs of Europe, Japan and South Korea. Indonesia’s coal export has been restricted by rainy weather in the past two months, while Mongolia’s coal exports are mainly transported by trucks. The transportation volume is too small.”
China has cut its own huge supply at a time when there is a global shortage of coal. Meanwhile, another partner immediately jumped into China’s place to sign a contract to buy Australian coal worth 33.82 million tons in December 2020.
As a result, since August 20, the price of thermal coal in China has reached a record high, combined with Beijing’s recent measures to reduce gas emissions, which has caused China to fall into a severe shortage of electricity. The country’s industrial economy may be on the verge of paralysis!
The same holds for copper ores and concentrates. Australia used to be the mainland’s fifth-largest supplier of these products. But now, a global shortage is sending the price of China’s copper ore imports skyrocketing, pushing the country’s smelters to the brink of bankruptcy.