A coalition of countries needs to be formed to resist China’s “economic coercion”, a security expert has said, warning the Asian superpower is now trying to force Australia into submission.
Risk consultancy executive Alan Dupont said Australia has suffered the greatest economic and trade blows from China’s “coercive practices” than any other county, and called for the US to take a more active leadership role to prevent further damage.
In the proposal published by think tank Centre for Independent Studies, “Resisting China’s economic coercion: Why America should support Australia”, Dupont said China was using Australia as an example to push other nations into submission.
“China’s recent trade actions against Australia offer a case study in economic coercion for geopolitical purposes. Capitulation to coercion would embed its malign use in a new China-dominated authoritarian world order, in which smaller states risk being reduced to vassals,” Dupont said.
China has in the last year imposed sanctions on wine, lobster, barley and iron ore after Australia called for an investigation into the source of the COVID-19 virus, and complained about China’s treatment of the Uighur people.
“The souring of Australia-China ties is a salutary warning to other countries that they may be next if they fail to comply with Beijing’s demands,” Dupont said.
Australia had also allowed itself to become vulnerable, he argued, claiming the trade spat would have been “far less effective” if Australia hadn’t set itself up to send nearly 40 per cent of all exports to China.
He said in order to end the trade spat, the US needs to make a show of strength.
“Uniting other nations fearful of a coercive China in an interlocking, but differentiated, set of arrangements, partnerships and understandings would make it much more difficult for Beijing to pick off smaller countries at will,” he said.
“Strategic patience in a team-based defence of shared interests is the only way to counter China’s wedge tactics.”
China’s use of economic coercion has increased significantly in the last two years, Dupont said, noting that of the 152 recorded cases of economic and diplomatic coercion most have also been targeted at Australia.
However, coercive diplomacy to achieve political goals is not a new phenomenon, Dupont added.
“Pre-World War 2 Germany was a “power trader”, manipulating trade for military and commercial advantage.
“But Xi has refined, and modernised, the use of coercive tools to threaten the independence and sovereignty of other states and undermine the foundational principles of the international trading system.”
Increasingly frosty relations
Both Australia and China have spoken out about the trade spat in recent days, with China’s ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye describing China as “disappointed” by Australia’s allegations of mistreatment of the Uighur people.
He also dismissed Australia’s genocide allegations as “fake news” and said China will not “swallow the bitter pill of interfering or meddling in China's internal affairs".
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said Australia wants a “positive relationship” with China, however the relationship also needs to align with Australian values.
“That [relationship] will never be, that will never be something that we would yield for the sake of a relationship and I think that that is very important.”