Xi's plan to punish Australia for insisting on investigating the origins of COVID backfires

For almost a year and a half, China has been trying to bully Australia for that nation's insistence on getting to the bottom of the spread of COVID from the Middle Kingdom.  From the standpoint of Chairman Xi, Australia must have looked like an excellent target to use as a means of establishing China's power over lesser nations that are part of the world's club of advanced nations.

Xi's ambition for China to be the world's hegemon requires that other nations fear its power.  And getting to that point requires that the Western powers, dominated by their Caucasian majorities and full of hubris (from his perspective) over their adherences to liberal democratic values, be humiliated, forced to reconsider their presumptions on the superiority of their way of life.   

Australia is an ideal target for Xi because its population of 25 million is about one fifty-sixth of China's estimated 1.4 billion people, even though Australia's per capita GDP is much higher.  China is also Australia's biggest trading partner, taking 35% of its exports, giving China a ready means of retaliating.  After all, the sheer size of China's economy means that suffering a little harm for China by blocking certain imports from Australia could have a huge impact on Oz, simply because Australia's economy is such a small fraction of China's.  China's GDP of 14.72 trillion dollars is more than 11 times Australia's 1.33 trillion.

China targeted Australian wines for trade restrictions, a shrewd move because of the visibility in Australia of this small but very proud industry.  However, Xi made a big boo-boo in targeting Australian coal.  That's a strategic item, and world energy markets can be volatile.

Alex Turner-Cohen reports for News Corp Australia's news.au.com:

Communist China's plan to bring Australia's economy to its knees through economic boycotts has backfired after the nation had to wind back some of its policies as its energy crisis worsened.

Since September, the Asian superpower has been struggling to cope with a power crisis leading to rolling blackouts and factories shutting down across the country.

Some of the outages were so severe that Chinese citizens had to live without traffic lights and phone reception in some areas.

But even though more than two-thirds of China's electricity comes from coal-fired plants, the nation refused to buy any Australian coal.

Last year, China imposed a number of bans on Australian products including iron ore, wine, beef, barley and even lobsters to create "economic pain" after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an investigations into the origins of Covid-19.

The coal ban was imposed last November, wiping $1 billion off our economy.

But in China's latest customs report, it revealed that last month it imported 2.78 million tonnes of Australian coal in what could be a relaxation of its ban and a major backflip on its part.

Of course, the relaxation on the ban is temporary, and it will resume when market conditions change and when the backlog of Aussie coal waiting to be unloaded in China is exhausted.  But backing away from the stance of bully is not a good look for Xi, who, despite seeming to be in full command of China, does have his rivals and critics, who he fears (probably with justification) are plotting against him.

His newly aggressive behavior toward domestic entrepreneurs, Taiwan, his neighbors, the South China Sea, and the rest of the world is not without cost to important factions in China.  And now he has lost face.

Photo credit: Presidential Palace of Brazil, CC BY 2.0 license.

Hat tip: John McMahon

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