Pavlovian conditioning is not something that usually comes to mind when dealing with international politics. But that seems to be a key method of China’s foreign policy nowadays. Given the scale of the country’s demands for commodities from agriculture to heavy industry, Beijing can easily offer to buy massively from a resource-rich country as reward or withhold purchases as punishment, as it suits its interests at any given time. Han Kuo-yu, the popular mayor of Kaohsiung and likely Kuomintang presidential candidate next year, has just returned to Taiwan after a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland, during which he secured HK$1.1 billion worth of deals in agriculture and fisheries for his farming and business constituents. Han returned home to a hero’s welcome, though separatists on the island including those from the Democratic Progressive Party, have denounced him as a traitor. Canadian farmers are not so lucky. Ever since the detention of Huawei’s No 2 Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the Americans for possible extradition, relations between Canada and China have reached their lowest point in years. In its latest round of punishment for Canada, China has banned imports of canola, the country’s No 1 cash crop, from two major suppliers while mainland importers have virtually stopped all purchases of Canadian canola. In a normal year, 40 per cent of Canadian canola seeds are sold to China, which accounts for 17 per cent of all Canadian exports to the mainland. Ottawa has warned the ban could cost the country C$2 billion (HK$11.75 billion). Mainland inspectors claim pests were found in import samples but outside observers have been quick to link the latest ban to the tussle over Meng. As it is with Canada’s canola, so it is with Australia’s coal. Though Beijing has denied banning coal imports from Australia, mainland officials have been restricting or delaying their customs processing since February. Analysts estimate the restrictions could cost Australia US$200 million a year. Coal is Australia’s second biggest export earner while its purchases by China – its largest trading partner – accounts for 3.7 per cent of Australian GDP. Beijing has been angered by recent actions taken by Australia, not the least being its ban on mainland telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE from supplying 5G equipment to the country, following pressure from Washington. China is hitting America’s allies where it hurts most: their electorate’s wallets.