China and Australia
Two and a half years after China imposed trade restrictions on more than one dozen Australian products, bilateral trade may be returning to normal as the diplomatic thaw between Canberra and Beijing gains momentum. Chinese trade bans on products like coal, lime, lobster, timber, and barley were imposed after former Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in September 2020.
Relations began to warm this past November when Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met at the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. Since then, there have been meetings between the two countries’ foreign ministers and a virtual meeting between trade ministers. Early this year, China resumed coal imports from Australia, and some speculate the coal ban may soon be lifted completely. In another sign of warming ties, the Australian government approved a 1.38 billion US dollars Chinese investment in an iron ore joint venture, which is the largest Chinese investment in Australia since 2019.
So, what explains China’s sudden about face in its approach to Canberra? What does China seek to gain in return if anything? And is Canberra likely to moderate its approach toward Beijing to sustain the positive momentum?
To discuss China’s new approach to Australia, the motivating factors behind it, and the potential future course of China-Australia relations, host Bonnie Glaser speaks with Dr. Benjamin Herscovitch, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s School of Regulation and Global Governance and National Security College, whose research focuses on China’s economic statecraft and Australia-China relations. He is also the writer of Beijing to Canberra and Back, a fortnightly newsletter on Substack, that analyzes Australia-China ties. Previously, he was an analyst and policy officer in Australia’s Department of Defence.