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‘Australia will pay’: China escalates trade dispute with new threat

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
A Chinese state-owned newspaper has accused Australia for "colluding" with the US against China. (Source: Getty)
A Chinese state-owned newspaper has accused Australia for "colluding" with the US against China. (Source: Getty)

China has escalated the trade dispute with Australia in a searing new editorial that accused Australia of “colluding” with Washington’s “schemes” against China.

The editorial, published yesterday by China Daily, accused Canberra of being a “roughneck” in America’s “gang” for what it claimed were moves to contain China economically and militarily.

“Canberra ... has undermined what were previously sound and mutually beneficial ties by prejudicially fueling anti-China sentiment at home, baselessly sanctioning Chinese companies and aggressively sending warships to China's doorsteps,” the editorial stated.

“Canberra should realise it will get nothing from Washington in return for its collusion in its schemes, while Australia will pay tremendously for its misjudgment.”

The strongly-worded piece took aim at Australia’s relationship with the US, warning Australia should “steer clear of Washington’s brinkmanship with China before it is too late”.

“To put it simply, if Canberra continues to go out of its way to be inimical to China, its choosing sides will be a decision Australia will come to regret as its economy will only suffer further pain as China will have no choice but to look elsewhere if the respect necessary for cooperation is not forthcoming.”

The piece was published on the day that China reportedly moved to ban several new imports from Australian industries and companies, including sugar, lobster, copper, copper concentrates and some timber.

Beijing gives Canberra the cold shoulder

China and Australia’s trade relationship has been steadily deteriorating since Australia initiated the World Health Organisation (WHO) inquiry into the origins of Covid-19, which was unanimously backed by every member state.

However, the Communist Party State mouthpiece denied that the trade sanctions were “economic coercion” or “retribution”, and said that they were “normal trade investigations China is conducting”.

Last week, Australian rock lobsters were also delayed on a Chinese airport tarmac amid custom clearance delays.

But China Daily said the “impatience” on Canberra’s part to clear the lobsters through customs “betrayed … guilty conscience”, appearing to imply the Australian product could be a source of Covid-19.

“Imported seafood has been confirmed as the source of a number of novel coronavirus outbreaks in the country, which were fortunately quickly contained,” it stated.

Earlier this week, prominent Australian economist Tim Harcourt told Yahoo Finance that China’s trade blows were intended to send a political message.

“They want to target things that won't really hurt them a lot, but make a point,” he said.

“They really don't want to be seen as responsible for the pandemic. The best form of defence is attack.”

China is unlikely to significantly intensify the bans, he added.

“Ultimately this will really hurt them. If they broke down trade with Australia, it would really hurt their recovery, the middle class, and put them under a lot of political pressure.

“We do need China as a trading partner, but they need us – probably more.”

The latest escalation of the trade dispute comes as the world awaits the conclusion of the US Election, in which Joe Biden is looking increasingly likely to take the White House.

During his time as US President, Donald Trump first imposed tariffs on Chinese goods on 22 January 2018, which triggered a tit-for-tat trade war for nearly two years.

–with wires

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