From the Viewsroom

The Quad wrangles

Paran Balakrishnan | Updated on December 01, 2020 Published on December 01, 2020

China just turned the heat on Australia

It’s the oldest trick in the book. Pick off the slowest ship in the convoy and slam it with a brace of torpedoes. As China goes on the offensive, Australia is finding to its cost that it is the slowest ship in the Quad convoy. This week, China showed the disgraceful level to which it could stoop by posting a fake image of an Australian soldier cutting an Afghan child’s throat.

Australian business is also taking a pounding from the Chinese who’ve slapped 212-per-cent tariffs on Australian wines. Forty per cent of Australia’s wine worth goes to China and many Australian vineyards will collapse if the Chinese stop sipping their vintages. Australia’s economy’s been on a roll for over 25 years, mostly on China’s coattails. Australia’s vulnerability is highlighted by 80 ships carrying Australian coal waiting outside Chinese ports. China’s imposed an unofficial go-slow on unloading Australian goods that also hit 80 tonnes of live lobsters that met their end at Shanghai airport.

Will the Chinese soon turn their attention to other Quad members? India’s got a flashpoint border with China so it must perforce move cautiously. China is India’s third-biggest trading partner, accounting last year for 5 per cent of our exports and 14 per cent of imports. The Chinese could hit us badly by blocking drug raw material exports on which our drug giants rely. China’s hydel project could affect the Brahmaputra’s upper reaches. Even if we can avoid shooting at each other, the gloves look to be off between India and China and will remain that way as long as border tensions persist. Other Quad members may also be vulnerable. Some 35,000 Japanese companies have Chinese bases and trade is heavily interlinked. But here’s the catch for Chinese Wolf Warriors: hitting Japan could hurt their own economy as Tokyo is offering subsidies to firms returning from China. It’s still unknown whether the incoming Biden Administration will seek to defuse trade tensions in the face of China’s assertiveness. Escalating trade hostilities can only unsettle further a global economy struggling to recover from Covid-19.

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Published on December 01, 2020
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