China-Australia relations: Canberra hits back at Xi Jinping’s ‘bullying’ remarks amid trade dispute

China-Australia relations: Canberra hits back at Xi Jinping's 'bullying' remarks amid trade dispute

AFP

·2 min read
 
 

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s call for big countries not to bully the weak has exposed a “disconnect” between China’s behaviour and rhetoric, a top Australian minister said on Wednesday.

Still smarting from punitive Chinese sanctions on a range of Australian products and a rumbling war of words between Beijing and Canberra, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg took issue with the communist leader’s altruistic-sounding Davos speech.

Xi told the forum – which this year is being held entirely online – that relations between countries should be governed by rules and institutions, not dictated by might.

 

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“The strong should not bully the weak. Decisions should not be made by simply showing off strong muscles or waving a big fist,” Xi said in remarks seemingly courting favour with smaller nations and offering a veiled criticism of the United States.

But Frydenberg told reporters on Wednesday that Xi’s comments did not tally with China’s acts of economic coercion toward Australia.

“Well, we agree with that sentiment that big nations should not bully small ones but there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the words and the actions,” he said.

“The reality is, Australia has been on the receiving end of some pretty harsh actions when it comes to our trade.”

Relations between Canberra and Beijing were in free-fall throughout last year, with China hitting out at a list of issues including Australia’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus and a ban on Huawei’s participation in the nation’s 5G network.

China hit more than a dozen Australian sectors with import levies, with the barley and wine industries particularly affected. Exporters stand to lose as much as US$2-4 billion worth of sales.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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