The cause of the downward spiral in relations may not be Australian politicians’ unwise choices and China’s forceful reaction, but deeper structural forces at play in Australian society, particularly its cultural, political and economic ties to the US.
A New Zealand minister’s advice to Australia on dealing with Beijing may be impolitic, but it lays bare the challenges of small nations caught in the US-China competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Chinese investment in Keswick Island, located in the tropical Whitsundays archipelago, has caused outrage among local residents who fear the popular holiday destination is being developed exclusively for Chinese tourists.
Australian governments have inflicted mental and physical harm on asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians, supported Israel in its treatment of Palestinians and lagged in the fight against climate change.
Medical supplies have been deployed to islands with no Covid-19 outbreaks, while Australia has withdrawn from the Green Climate Fund. Donor-driven approaches rarely deliver what a recipient needs when geopolitics is driving the agenda.
The row over Australian findings of war crimes in Afghanistan is part of a long chain of Australia-China disputes. Australia’s allies have understandably taken its side. Such double standards in the West’s approach to China are nothing new.