China Threatens Australia Because That’s All It Can Do

Beijing has a lot of leverage over countries that rely on it for trade, but it’s hard to translate that into anything more meaningful.

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As cases of COVID-19 resurge elsewhere in the world, it’s worth remembering that Australia whipped the coronavirus into submission with relative ease, reducing the number of new daily cases to single digits by mid-April. Yet, the pandemic has left Australia with an acute case of economic and diplomatic whiplash anyway, not because of its public health shortcomings but because of its uneasy codependence with China. The country’s astonishing 29-year run of economic growth is set to come to an abrupt end, thanks in part to flagging demand from China, whose soaring commodities purchases helped keep Australia out of a recession after 2008. And Beijing, upset with Canberra over (among other seemingly trivial matters) its pro forma support for an international investigation into the origins of the virus and Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization, is going the extra mile to ensure Australia doesn’t take Chinese buyers for granted. Over the past month, China has halted shipments of Australian beef, imposed an 80 percent tariff on Australian barley, warned of consumer boycotts targeting Australian winemakers and dairy farmers, and urged the more than 200,000 Chinese university students in Australia to consider studying elsewhere. Beijing, in other words, is becoming less […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.