All Quiet on the Eastern Front: The Emerging Tensions between Australia and China

The effects of COVID-19 have caused many nations to promise to investigate the origins of behind the epidemic, one of these nations being Australia. Due to such promises to pursue some form of response, Chinese officials have threatened to incur several economic consequences against Australia if it chooses to move ahead with their investigation.

This is due to it possibly looking at Beijing’s handling of the virus outbreak and if any form of misconduct is involved. Tensions first emerged when China’s Ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye stated that Beijing would encourage its own citizens to avoid or even outright boycott Australian products if Australia was to begin their investigation.

In response to such actions, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne responded by describing China’s threats as being a form of economic coercion, reiterating Australia’s position on the investigation into the China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. She stated that “Australia has made a principled call for an independent review of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unprecedented global crisis with severe health, economic and social impacts” (Kelly 2020). In addition to this, Payne also stated that Australia will “reject any suggestion that economic coercion is an appropriate response to a call for such an assessment, when what we need is global co-operation” (Kelly 2020). What this shows is that maybe things are not just quiet on the Eastern Front so to speak, but rather that Australia is echoing similar statements that the United States has made around arguments for an independent investigation into possible mishandling of the epidemic by the Chinese government. United States has also accused China of a possible coverup of the coronavirus outbreak and its failure to warn the rest of the world. Australia and many other nations may yet make similar accusations.

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