Why Australia’s luck may be running out: The country is becoming a lightning rod for Chinese anger towards the west, by Gideon Rachman.
Australians of a nervous disposition should probably avoid reading the Chinese press and social media at the moment. A combination of tensions over the South China Sea and the Olympics has made Australia the target of wild invective by Chinese nationalists. …
These events should not be dismissed as silly summer stories. Their significance goes beyond the confines of Sino-Australian relations. They speak to the broader tensions between a rising China and the west. For more than a generation, the Chinese public has been fed an official history that stresses the country’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. The notion that the west still conspires against China is widespread.
Australia, an outpost of the western alliance on the edge of the Asia-Pacific region, is in danger of becoming a lightning rod for Chinese anger towards the west in general and the US in particular. …
In the present climate, however, both China and America are becoming more demanding partners. The Americans have made it clear that they would appreciate some company from the Australian navy if and when the US conducts future “freedom of navigation operations” and sails past the artificial islands that China has constructed in the South China Sea.
The Chinese have made it clear that they might react very harshly to any Australian participation. Chinese pressure is still more likely to be psychological and diplomatic rather than military or economic. But the chances of a Chinese backlash aimed at Australia are likely to increase if Beijing feels that Canberra is discriminating against Chinese investors.
All of these developments suggest that, unlikely as it currently sounds, Australia could emerge as a geopolitical flashpoint in the coming decades.