China’s Bullying of Australia Reveals Hypocrisy of Its Words on Free Trade

China is heightening pressure on Australia by restricting its trade with the country.

Doesn’t this mean that China is rejecting its own stance of criticizing protectionist moves by the United States and stressing its position as a “flag-bearer for free trade”?

Australian products such as coal, barley, wine and lobster were added one after another to a list of China’s import restrictions. It is reported that more than 80 coal-carrying vessels have been left idling off the coasts of China, and many agricultural and fishery products have been unable to pass through customs on the grounds of inspection reinforcement.

While Japan, the United States, Australia and India are strengthening their cooperation under the banner of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision, China apparently aims to weaken the encircling net around itself by trying to cut out the Australian part of the mesh.

China is Australia’s largest economic partner, accounting for 30% of Australia’s total trade. Because of its heavy economic dependence on China, Australia is easy for China to target and make an example of as a warning to other countries.

China’s apparent approach — using its economic power to threaten countries that do not agree with China and forcing them to surrender — is totally unacceptable.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson posted on Twitter a photo that appeared to show an Australian soldier trying to kill an Afghan child with a knife. In fact, it turned out to be a fake image that a young Chinese created on a personal computer.

It is true that Australian soldiers are suspected of having unjustifiably killed civilians in Afghanistan, but it is outrageous for China to criticize Australia through such means as a fake image. The Australian government’s criticism of China and demand that the post be deleted are only natural.

The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping needs to realize that such high-handed behavior is damaging China’s image in the international community.

Australia is reviewing its dependence on China, taking such measures as removing China’s Huawei Technologies Co. from Australia’s development of the 5G next-generation communications standard. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that there is no need to sacrifice his country’s own values in order to maintain its relations with China.

On the other hand, there are persistent concerns in the Australian business community that a reduction in its trade with China could hurt Australia. It will be important to make efforts to develop new export destinations to replace China and diversify sales channels.

Countries with close economic ties with China are closely watching how things go in the case. It is hoped that Australia will find a way out that can serve as a useful reference for other countries.

On the security front, Australia has greatly increased its defense budget, taking into account China’s military buildup, and has begun joint development of new weapons with the United States and security cooperation with India. Morrison also confirmed cooperation with Japan during his recent visit to the country.

It is important for Japan, Australia and other countries to keep China in check and bring about regional stability by strengthening their shared frameworks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 8, 2020)