When the history of this latest low point in China-Australia relations is written, both sides will be blamed for mistakes. Australia is not without fault. However, China is primarily responsible for the continuing deterioration in the relationship.
Its ruthlessness in asserting itself far and wide, by fair means and foul, means there will be no going back to the status quo that prevailed before President Xi Jinping emerged in 2013 as China’s most nationalistic leader since Mao Zedong. Likewise, Beijing’s crude use of trade sanctions to penalise Australia for real or imagined slights signifies that a trading relationship born of mutual benefit risks being subject to persistent, politically-motivated interference. This is the reality, whether we like it or not. China is done with “biding its time” in line with former leader Deng Xiaoping’s advice in pursuit of its big power ambitions.