The worrying precedent in China’s quarrel with Australia

The worrying precedent in China’s quarrel with Australia

Democratic countries should co-ordinate responses to pressure from Beijing

“If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy”. That sentence, attributed to a Chinese government official, has been splashed all over the Australian press in recent days. It deserves to resonate well beyond that country’s shores.

The rapid deterioration in the relationship between Beijing and Canberra is much more than a bilateral affair. It demonstrates how a more assertive China is now seeking to intimidate nations that are a long way from its shores, by resorting to a bullying style of “wolf warrior” diplomacy. The treatment of Australia sets a worrying precedent since China is making demands that would impinge upon the country’s domestic system — affecting basic liberties such as freedom of speech.

Democratic countries should watch this conflict closely and be prepared to support each other in pushing back against Chinese pressure. Without such co-ordination, Beijing will be encouraged in its efforts to divide and rule, inflicting real political and economic damage on democratic countries that defy its will.