Facing increasingly hostile diplomacy, Canberra is more likely to strengthen defense ties with Washington than cave to Beijing.
Wine Tariffs Follow Aggressive Pattern
China’s relationship with Australia keeps hitting new lows.
After threatening Canberra with a list of 14 demands, Beijing imposed heavy tariffs on Australian wine—a key export—last Friday, following a range of unofficial trade restrictions in recent weeks. Afterward, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who is well known for trolling other countries on social media, tweeted an image of an Australian soldier cutting a child’s throat—a reference to allegations of war crimes against several Australian soldiers. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has demanded the tweet’s removal.
This behavior is not new for Zhao, but it’s now clear that the Chinese state backs his trolling. In previous times, the tweet probably would have been quietly deleted. But under the current environment of ultranationalism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended the quote. Some Chinese advisors attempted to rein in the so-called wolf warrior diplomacy earlier this year, but the wind is clearly against them. Other Chinese media, including the People’s Daily, came out swinging for Zhao, and thousands of Chinese bots expressed their support on Twitter.
Jake Sullivan, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security advisor, has already offered a strong statement of support for Australia. China hawks in Washington closely watch Australia’s experience, as they see the country as being on the front lines of attempted Chinese influence efforts. Biden has also stated that he doesn’t plan on giving up outgoing President Donald Trump’s trade war tariffs until a “coherent strategy” is in place.