Coronavirus: As things fall apart, the trouble with China has barely begun

Coronavirus: As things fall apart, the trouble with China has barely begun, by Greg Sheridan.

When Beijing is under pressure, it frequently resorts to Cold War insults and propaganda. Thus its huge defeat in the overwhelming support for the motion at the World Health Assembly calling for an inquiry into COVID-19 that is “impartial, independent and comprehensive” drew some undiplomatic language from Beijing’s increasingly rattled man in Canberra.

The ambassador described the claim that this resolution — which in substance is what the Morrison government called for several weeks ago — is a vindication of Canberra’s position as “a joke”.

No other ambassador in Canberra would use such aggressive language to describe an Australian government policy.

Beijing typically talks that way when it is both trying to bully someone and also feels it has lost control of a situation and cannot achieve its policy ends through the normal means of statecraft. … At least the Morrison government was not described as a clique of gangsters.

China will not even talk to Australia’s trade minister

I cannot recall a Chinese ambassador being so publicly aggressive, so routinely breaching the normal protocols of diplomacy, and being so publicly rebuked by a senior cabinet minister. These are indeed vexing and difficult times in the Australia-China relationship.

Beijing has also applied tariffs which, if they stay in force, will destroy $600m in Australian barley exports. …

The suspension of beef exports from four Australian abattoirs was carried out with even less notice and is believed to affect somewhere between $600m and $700m of our beef exports.

These are serious measures to hurt Australia, which Beijing has deliberately undertaken. Similarly, the ambassador’s aggressive threats are not him freelancing. They’re directed from Beijing. The question now is whether Beijing’s punishment phase is concluded for the minute or whether there will be more to come, with wine and dairy also seen as vulnerable. …

All the elaborate agreements, treaties and mechanisms that Beijing signs up to mean nothing when it decides to exert its power.

With friends like China …

hat-tip Stephen Neil