China’s economic coercion fails to hurt Australia’s economy, says report

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China’s efforts to punish Australia through economic coercion seem to have failed. The trade ban imposed by China three years back did not impact Australia much. Instead, the economic decoupling impacted China significantly, Europe Asia Foundation reported.

China’s economic coercion has not been able to hurt the economy of Australia or change its national security policy, as per the Europe Asia Foundation report. However, Beijing’s action has led Australia to side with the anti-China block that has challenged China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Although Australia did not budge, China appeared helpless as the trade ban made Beijing struggle to get resources to address its domestic requirements. The Chinese government has now eased trade restrictions, permitting coal imports in the wake of meeting energy security challenges.

China imported 41.17 million tonnes of coal from Australia, which is 151 higher year-on-year and the highest in the three years. The exports of iron ore from Australia to China witnessed a rise of 24.3 per cent in March, as per the news report.

China – Australia ties were affected in 2018 after Canberra announced legislation to crack down on foreign interference, which was perceived to be aimed at China. The ties between the two nations were further affected after Australia joined the Western nations in their demand for independent investigations into the origins of Covid-19.

China responded by announcing a ban on Australian imports of coal, wine, barley and lobsters. Australia did not bend even after China’s decision and started exploring new markets. Australian coal found markets in Europe, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, according to Europe Asia Foundation report.

China’s decision of imposing a trade ban backfired as it affected its economic growth. Ultimately, Beijing was left with no option but to restart imports of coal and iron ore from Australia, as per the news report.

Norway, France, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and a few eastern European nations were subjected to economic coercion by China. European Union had raised over China’s tactics of deploying economic coercion to achieve political goals. Similar views were echoed in the Indo-Pacific region. The US, Japan, India, and Australia together formed Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD).

Australia has been vocal and active in confronting China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has supported the Group of Seven nations’ view on easing dependency on trade with China, according to Europe Asia Foundation report. This comes despite Beijing’s decision to restart imports from Australia.

China is now trying to establish cordial ties and smooth trade with Australia. Beijing will soon lift the ban on Australian timber and other products. Xiao Qian, Chinese Ambassador to Australia, said, “The Chinese customs has formally notified the Australian minister of agriculture that China will resume import of Australian timbers.”

Richard McGregor, Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute said, “Australians have grown in confidence about the country’s ability to withstand economic coercion from China…Beijing may tactically retreat now and again to fill shortfalls or if it wants for political reasons to present itself as a conciliatory partner,” Europe Asia Foundation reported.

The sudden reverse course taken by Beijing despite Australia showing no change in its stance demonstrates a message that China’s economic coercion decision has failed, as per the news report. Global observers have concluded that China’s bullying tactics to coerce Australia have turned out to be a “spectacular failure.”

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