Covid19 investigation calls by Australian government misplaced
An article I penned for the Lowy Institute's The Interpreter blog on the Australian government's calls for an independent international inquiry into the coronavirus has been published. Under the title Foresight and pragmatism missing in Australia's relations with China, it argues that Canberra's decision to go-it-alone in calling for the inquiry was a mistake bound to anger Beijing.
Indeed, it led to a threat by China's ambassador to Australia that if Australia persisted in this call it could result in economic repercussions. He said China's consumers could turn away from Australian products, such as beef and wine. China is, of course, Australia's largest export market, our largest source of foreign students and foreign tourists. Those repercussions could prove significant, and Beijing is not averse to issuing directives to its population to shun products from countries that have raised its ire.
I said Australia should have foreseen Beijing's response and I questioned why Australia was leading the global charge on the calls for an inquiry. I pointed out that it didn't make sense when we are not as badly affected by Covid19 as other countries and given our heavy economic reliance on China. Indeed, other countries, such as France and the UK, have thus far given a lukewarm reception to Australia's calls for an inquiry, perhaps because they do not wish to anger Beijing in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.
I concluded the situation could only worsen given neither Canberra nor Beijing could now backdown from their positions.
The full article can be read here.