Australia is unfazed by economic pressure from China, demonstrating a resilience that has surprised international observers and underscoring Beijing’s limited reach, according to reports issued this week.
Japan’s Itochu Research Institute said in a report that Beijing’s attempts to restrict imports have had little effect. “The impact on the Australian economy is expected to be limited,” senior researcher Hisanori Takahashi wrote in a report.
Economic sanctions by China, Australia’s largest foreign trade partner, do not cover iron ore, the main export.
A ban on coal has been relaxed due to China’s energy crisis, while exporters have found other markets for the fossil fuel.
“In the medium to long term, efforts such as strengthening relations with trading partners other than China will continue in order to break away from the vulnerable dependence on the Chinese economy,” Takahashi added.
Meanwhile, Foreign Policy this week called Chinese attempts to bully Australia a “spectacular failure”, saying the episode will not be lost on other countries that have differences with Beijing.
Costs Lower Than Expected
“If this is what decoupling from China looks like, Australia’s resilience suggests the costs are far lower than many have assumed,” Jeffrey Wilson, research director of the Perth USAsia Centre, wrote in the US magazine.
Australia-China relations have long been marked by fundamental tension, Wilson noted in his analysis. Canberra is concerned by China’s belligerent behaviour in the South China Sea, while Beijing bristles at what it perceives as Australia’s anti-China stance.
From 2009 to 2019, Australian exports to China tripled to A$149 billion ($110 billion) per year. Around half of that is iron ore.
But in April 2020, the Australian government led an international call for an independent inquiry into the still-murky origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China. An incensed Beijing quickly denounced Canberra’s call as an affront and a “political witch hunt“.
Beijing slapped bans and tariffs on goods from coal and lobsters to barley to wine, a course of action that Canberra condemned as bullying.
“[Australia’s efforts], such as strengthening relations with trading partners other than China, will continue in order [for it] to break away,” Takahashi concluded.
- George Russell