What Australia did to China

What Australia did to China shocks our sensibilities!

Professor James Laurenceson, Director, 

Australia-China Relations Institute, UT Sydney. 

Dear Dr. Laurencson,

In your recent ACRI newsletter you asserted, “After all, in 2020 it was Beijing’s decision and Beijing’s decision alone to respond to political disagreements by cutting off senior level dialogue and hitting Australia’s exports”.

A dispassionate review of our behavior, including our unprovoked invasions of four of China’s neighbors, suggests that Beijing’s response is fully justified. Let us count the ways.

In late 2017, the Solomon Islands featured in aggressive Australian efforts to influence the award of the contract to lay internet cable between Honiara and Sydney.  Said the Lowy Institute’s Jonathan Pryke: “This was seen as a red line that Australia would not cross and so we jumped in with a better deal providing the cable as a grant that would be implemented with a procurement partner of Australia’s choosing – that wouldn’t be Chinese.”

Our stigmatizing normal cooperation and imposing restrictions, like the revocation of Chinese scholars’ visas, caused a scandal in China, as did our intimidatory predawn searches and reckless seizures of Chinese journalists’ homes and properties without charge or explanation.  

Then the CSIRO told staff it will not renew its climate research partnership with the Qingdao National Marine Laboratory, following an unsupported ASIO assertion that ocean temperature modelling could assist submarine operations against Australia–a pronouncement met with robust criticism by Australian scientists.

We targeted China with one-third of our ongoing WTO actions and two-thirds of current measures, despite our Productivity Commission finding ‘no convincing justifications for the measures,’ and imposed hefty duties on their steel (144%), aluminium, and chemicals. China consistently lowered tariffs on our products to the point that ninety-five percent of our exports enjoyed zero duties, yet we initiated one-hundred six anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations of Chinese products, complaining bitterly when Beijing finally resorted to the WTO, for the first time, with barley and wine tariffs.  

When Rep. Shaoquett Moselmane repeated the WHO’s praise for China’s coronavirus response, Mark Latham MP called his approval ‘disgusting’ and, at dawn on June 26, 2020, forty police arrived at Moselmane’s home and stayed until 1:30 am the next morning. They brought sniffer dogs, took hair and dust samples from his car, searched the car engine and door rubbers, had a helicopter hovering and raided his parliamentary office, and froze the Moselmane family’s bank accounts. Despite Peter Dutton’s obvious, public allegiance to the United States, he told Ray Hadley, “You can’t have an allegiance to another country and pretend to have an allegiance to this country at the same time”. 

Our international attack on Huawei, however, was particularly cruel, since it is China’s first international tech leader. Malcolm Turnbull loudly campaigned against its domestic adoption, contravening our trade agreements on unjustified, unstated ‘national security’ grounds, then lobbied the British Government on the specious grounds that Beijing can compel companies to provide information. This ignores identical Australian, American, European laws and the technical impossibility of so doing. We further revealed our hypocrisy by ignoring Huawei’s offer to base its network security division in Australia.


When China listed its concerns, Canberra concealed China’s fourteen concerns from public scrutiny, and DFAT lied: “The fourteen items identified by the Chinese embassy document are seen by the Department of Foreign Affairs as key to Australia’s national interest and non-negotiable.. the government makes sound decisions in our national interest and in accordance with our values and open democratic processes”. No democratic process was involved, of course. The points, still unanswered, are

  1. In contravention of ChAFTA, we rejected a dozen Chinese investment projects, and restricted areas like infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry on ambiguous, unfounded (and ludicrously insulting) “national security concerns”.
  2. We launched 107 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations of Chinese products, more than any of China’s other trading partners. 
  3. We politicized and stigmatized normal exchanges and cooperation, created barriers, and imposed restrictions like revoking visas for Chinese scholars, in parallel with America’s identical, failed witch hunt.
  4. Though Covid-19 was endemic in Europe and the US before it reached China, PM Morrison loudly demanded a weapons-style inspection into its Chinese origins–then fell silent when the US refused to sign the UN resolution to investigate its source. 
  5. We spearheaded a crusade against China in multilateral forums.
  6. We legislated against Victoria’s participation in BRI.
  7. We paid anti-China think tanks to spread false reports, and peddle unsubstantiated allegations about Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
  8. Canberra funded investigations into so-called ‘China infiltration’ designed to manipulate public opinion against the country.
  9. Our police made pre-dawn searches and conducted reckless seizures in Chinese journalists’ homes without charge, explanation, or apology.
  10. Our politicians made repeated, false allegations about Chinese cyber attacks. 
  11. We condoned and repeated government-funded NGOs’ outrageous condemnations of the governing party of China. 
  12. We shrugged off hundreds of racist attacks against Chinese and Asian people.
  13. We permitted our media to repeat unfounded reports about China and made no effort to correct them.
  14. We were the first non littoral country to condemn China’s behavior in the South China Sea at the United Nations.

The Chinese see a pattern of bad-faith dealings, discrimination, and unprovoked hostility, best illustrated by our consistent opposition to their United Nations initiatives:

Since 2018, Canberra has rejected a dozen Chinese investments, citing ambiguous, unfounded ‘national security concerns’ – rejections that led directly to large Chinese losses – and put infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry off-limits while launching more than one hundred anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations of Chinese products. 

I am curious as to why you have not discussed What Australia did to China in your newsletter. Could it be that doing so would jeopardize your job?



Godfree Roberts

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