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Australia’s David Humiliates China’s Goliath


Beijing’s attempt to punish Australia backfires in more than one way.
For any who enjoy stories of failed bullying and humbled arrogance the saga of Australia’s recent trade dispute with China should gratify. In 2020, Beijing cut off much Australian access to Chinese markets. The move aimed to punish Canberra for asking questions about the origin of the Covid-19 virus in Wuhan. It looked grim, but in the end, it did little to hurt Australia economically. Producers down under found work arounds and alternative markets. Instead, China embarrassed itself diplomatically and no doubt contributed to longer-term trouble for Beijing. As they used to say in the old neighborhood, it could not have happened to a nicer bunch of guys and gals. The tale begins in April of 2020, early in the pandemic panic. Canberra called for an international investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus. Beijing, always super sensitive, immediately took offence. It instructed its ambassador to Australia, Chen Jingye, to threaten consumer boycotts of Australian products. In May, Chinese authorities imposed massive “anti-dumping” duties on Australian barley, one of the country’s principal exports to China. During the weeks that followed, Beijing discontinued export licenses for many Australian beef producers and placed heavy tariffs on Australian wine, wool, lobsters, sugar, copper, timber, and grapes. Tariffs on cotton, coal, and natural gas followed quickly. In November, Beijing handed Canberra a list of “14 grievances,” threatening no return to normal trade relationships until Australia complied. China has done this sort of thing before.

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