Perhaps, there can be no better comparison of the tug- of- hot-words war that continues unabated between Australia and Dragon than the proverb above. It would be pertinent to go back in history and time a bit and peruse the Sino -Australian relations. First Chinese consulate in Australia was established in 1909. Diplomatic relations were established only in 1941 and at that point of time Australia had recognised the Republic of China (ROC) Government. The ROC lost Chinese Civil War and retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Australia switched recognition to the People's Republic of China (PRC) on 21 December 1972. The relationship between China and Australia has grown considerably over the years. Both countries are actively engaged economically, culturally and politically which spans numerous organisations such as APEC, East Asia Summit and the G20.
Relations between the two countries began to deteriorate in 2018 due to growing concerns of Chinese political influence in various sectors of Australian society including the Government, universities and media as well as China's stance on the South China Sea dispute - all of which were seen as components of China's 'Salami -Slice' strategy.
In April 2020, Australia took the bold step of suggesting an international investigation into the role of China in COVID-19 and vesting special powers in WHO to carry out the investigation. A month later, the World Health Assembly (WHA) passed a European Union motion calling for a "comprehensive, independent and impartial" investigation. The motion was co-sponsored by Australia and China, as China adopted a damage control approach.
The Australian push incensed China. In late April this year, China's ambassador to Canberra, Cheng Jingye had openly threatened that Chinese people could boycott Australian products. "If the mood is going from bad to worse… Maybe the ordinary people will say 'why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?'" he told the Australian Financial Review. Not long after, China had suddenly slapped an 80.5% tariff on Australian barley, suspended some Australian beef imports and launched an anti-dumping probe into Australian wine imports.
In July, Australia criticized the Chinese intervention in Hong Kong and offered safe haven to students and graduates already in Australia. China retaliated by upgrading travel warning for Australia, asking its students and tourists to avoid travel to Australia in view of heightened tensions.
This week, Beijing has imposed a tariff of upto 212 percent on Australian Wine. China says, Quote, "It is a measure against dumping to protect its own Wine Industry", unquote. The lowest a nation could go was when a disturbing post was shared on Twitter by China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Here, a doctored image of a smiling Australian soldier against the backdrop of Australian national flag holding a sharp knife to the throat of a young child holding a lamb is shown ! It is not only stupid but criminal, immoral and barbaric to say the least.
Rightly, Australia's Prime Minister Morrison has asked for a written apology from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has also asked Twitter to delete the repugnant and falsified image.
Let Dragon not forget that Australia has been a haven for Chinese migrants for centuries. It is because of the goodness of the locals and environment that they have established themselves as a significant minority group in Australian society. There are now large numbers of Australian-born Chinese and Chinese-born migrants/Australian citizens in the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane with small Chinese communities in regional centres, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales.
China has maneuvered to establish Confucius Institutes with many Universities in major capital cities of Australia to foster better cultural ties. The Australian Confucius Institutes have today become subject to controversy. So a wily, cunning and scheming Dragon made naïve Australians gaze stars in the sky while it expanded its wings on the Australian soil and widened its footprint on the local economy and society.
Every time China attempted to "bully" Australia, the voices demanding a more assertive policy towards Beijing have grown louder and louder. Morrison has used tough language at times, and rightly so, insisting that Australia will not "trade away" its values or respond to coercion or Dragon's DADAGIRI. Well Done Morrison. The rising geopolitical influence of China and its expansionist approach in the past decade has been a matter of worry for the entire world, particularly the US and other democratic nations. Though Australia does maintain some military cooperation with China, it continues to maintain very strong political and military relations with the US since their 1951 Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS). It is a part of 'Five Eyes' (FVEY), an intelligence alliance that also includes Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Recently, there has been warming up to India in order to forge a collective front to counter growing Chinese influence.
While China may claim that the imposition of the tariffs is part of its push to bring about structural changes to its economy where the focus will shift from export driven growth to consumption driven growth, the truth remains that these have been done without any prior notice or negotiations. It also appears suspicious because both countries had signed a free trade agreement only about five years ago in December 2015. It is understood that China is targeting 13 Australian industries worth $54 billion.
A fortnight ago, a Chinese Embassy official in Australia, handed over a list of "14 Grievances" to media outlets in Australia, stating the areas of concern that were straining relations between the two countries. Being utter untruths, this List does not even merit to be written about.
The grievances make it quite evident that Chinese coercive approach is purely a retaliation against: Australia's principled stand on human rights violations in Hong Kong and other areas and its support for Taiwan; cooperation between Australia, US, and other countries to thwart Huewei 5G technologies, a likely conduit for Chinese government espionage; joining hands in international criticism of China for COVID-19 pandemic and a host of other reasons.
It is high time that all responsible Nation States of the World expose the sinister and expansionist Game Plans of Dragon and make the world – a better place to live in.