A Chinese official has openly said that Beijing has chosen Australia for economic punishment, saying the federal government cannot take advantage of China while “slandering” it.
- The divide between China and Australia widened in 2021 after a turbulent 2020
- There are tensions over foreign interference, the COVID-19 outbreak and human rights violations
- In the past, Beijing has claimed that tariffs on Australian products are due to valid trade concerns.
The Chinese government has hit several Australian industries with economic sanctions, imposing high tariffs on Australian barley and wine exports while putting up barriers to several other products, including timber, lobster and coal.
But he generally did not portray these decisions as acts of political retaliation.
For example, Beijing insisted it was targeting Australian wine because it was “thrown away” at an unfair price, while other Australian products were blocked at customs after Chinese authorities reported problems. biosecurity or labeling.
Australian officials have long scoffed at the claims, saying Beijing has put a thin veneer of plausible denial on its campaign of economic sanctions.
And on Tuesday evening, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian also appeared to drop the pretext.
Asked about a decline in Australian agricultural exports to China, Zhao made it clear that Beijing has deliberately targeted Australian products.
“Mutual respect is the foundation and safeguard of practical cooperation between countries,” he said.
Zhao also said Australia was being punished for trying to attack China on behalf of the United States, and suggested that American farmers were the big winners of Chinese tariffs on Australian products.
“When a certain country acts like a cat’s paw to others, it’s the people who pay for misguided government policies,” he said.
“From what you mentioned in your question, we can see how such a practice has served the country concerned.”
An Australian government source denied the claim, calling it a “crass” attempt to drive a wedge between Australia and the United States.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not directly comment on Zhao’s comments, but said Australia was dealing with a “more assertive” China.
He also pointed out that Australia is still raking in huge amounts of income from iron ore exports to China.
“They made no secret that some of our exports are not going to China – our barley, our wine, our coal,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But we will not put economic interests first. We will put the broad national interest first.”
Preliminary data also suggests that while US cattle ranchers have taken a larger share of the Chinese market at the expense of Australian producers, a range of other countries including Indonesia, New Zealand and France have been the main beneficiaries in other sectors.
The divide between China and Australia deepened in 2021 after a turbulent 2020 that saw a high-level diplomatic freeze and growing disputes over trade, foreign interference, Chinese investments, the epidemic of COVID-19 and human rights violations in China.
China’s economic sanctions campaign has not intensified significantly this year, but Beijing has regularly publicly criticized Australia and blamed the federal government for the deterioration in relations.
In May, it suspended a largely dormant economic dialogue with Australia, while last month it announced it would take Australia to the World Trade Organization over Australia’s tariffs on several Chinese products.
Australia has also taken China to the WTO over its barley and wine tariffs.
Last month, outgoing Foreign Ministry and Trade Secretary Frances Adamson said China was “plagued by insecurity,” and described her decision to release a list of “14 complaints” against the ‘Australia as a’ target against his camp ‘.