An alarming report from the US Pentagon has laid bare China’s bullying tactics, with Australia one of Beijing’s main targets.
China’s export tariffs on Australia have been blasted as “economic coercion”, and their propaganda has come under the microscope in a US Pentagon report.
The information was revealed in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on China’s military power, with Australia used as an example of how the People’s Republic flexes its muscle with tariffs.
The report also stated China is plotting to quadruple its nuclear weapons stockpile in a “major expansion” within just a handful of years.
The report revealed Beijing planned to ramp up its arsenal to 1000 nukes by 2030.
But Australia’s treatment by China was also mentioned in the report.
“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) employs economic coercion to advance its objectives during periods of political tension with other countries and to exert costs on governments, companies, and individuals that cross Beijing’s political red lines,” the report states.
“Both the threatened and actualised imposition of import bans, investment restrictions, product boycotts, and other costly measures have increased since 2018.
“In these cases, China seeks to leverage its economic influence to impose cost and alter the behaviour of targeted actors, as well as discourage others from pursuing similar actions.”
The report said China punished Australian exports after speaking out about Covid-19.
“Shortly after Australia called for an independent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in April, the PRC halted beef imports from Australian meat processing plants and imposed an 80.5 per cent tariff on its barley exports, citing pretextual anti-dumping and regulatory concerns,” the report stated.
It added, the “economic coercion” continued against Australian products: “In October, amid a continued deterioration in relations, China imposed additional restrictions blocking most Australian coal imports.”
The tariffs are now imposed on Australian wine and barley, while imports of beef, coal and grapes were limited.
In March, Beijing confirmed tariffs would apply for five years, in a significant blow to the Australian wine industry. A year earlier, China accused Australian wine producers of “dumping”, or lowering prices below the cost of manufacturing in a bid to increase market share in its economy.
As a result of the tariffs, wine exports to China have fallen drastically from a $1 billion industry to one of about $20 million.
The Australian government has said it will defend its wine makers from China’s action, complaining to the World Trade Organisation about the issue.
The WTO has now set up a panel to examine China’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on imported Australian wine.
The dispute settlement body met behind closed doors recently to agree to Australia’s second request for an examination, after its first attempt was knocked back earlier this year, and heard bilateral discussions had not been possible due to the two countries’ souring relationship.
China’s delegate to the WTO said in October it regretted Australia’s submission for an examination, saying China would “vigorously defend” the “legitimate measures” it took in introducing anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imported wine, and maintain it did not break any WTO rules.
The Pentagon report also mentioned how Australia had been a victim to China’s “Wolf Warrior” tactics.
“In 2020, PRC diplomats expanded use of a more aggressive and confrontational approach to pursuing PRC aims and responding to criticism, often called ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy,” the report said.
The method involves Chinese state-run media or Chinese officials posting inflammatory content to social media channels, banned in China, to infuriate or undermine other countries and their government officials.
In December 2020, Australia was on the receiving end of this tactic when a horrific digitally doctored image of an Australian soldier was cutting the throat of an Afghan person.
The image was posted after the release of a damning defence report that found “credible evidence” of the alleged unlawful killing of 39 people by 25 Australian special forces troops.
The image was posted on the official Twitter account of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao.
“Shocked by murder of Afghan civilians & prisoners by Australian soldiers,” he said. “We strongly condemn such acts, & call for holding them accountable.”
Originally published as China’s bullying tactics laid bare in a Pentagon report