In an escalating dispute, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham is taking his nation’s quarrel with China to the World Trade Organization for its tariffs on Australian products. As quoted in an article in The Guardian, Birmingham explains:
We have been a long-standing defender of the international rules-based system, of the importance of multilateral cooperation and engagement. In doing so it is appropriate that, when we argue for there to be international rules and an independent international umpire to resolve disputes, that when we find ourselves in the case of having such disputes we call in the umpire.
This is only the latest salvo in a spiraling series in the Asia-Pacific sphere, with China converting a rarely used island off Australia’s coast to a fish processing unit, which has raised fears of the potential for a military installation. The move led the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance — comprised of five Anglosphere countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States — to begin planning sanctions on China.
Something else started it all. China, an imperial power throughout nearly its entire history, has finally realized that Australia is fit to be an outpost. The stubborn Aussie refusal to cave to China on all regional concerns eventually led to a crushing tariff over Australian wines.
Of course, Australia and China’s issues didn’t just start with wine. Indeed, rising tensions between Australia and China are close to inevitable.
As reported by the BBC, the growing list of Chinese grievances includes “a 2018 decision to ban Huawei from its 5G tender, not recognizing China’s claim in the contested South China Sea, and supposed ‘wanton interference’ in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Taiwan.” Australia’s complaints about Chinese human rights abuses, as well as the fact it has openly aligned itself with India, Japan, and the United States in the “Quad” naval group, have also drawn ire from Beijing.
The relationship hit rock bottom with China announcing tariffs of Aussie barley as retaliation to Australia’s call for a global investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Recently, Chinese diplomats tweeted a repugnant doctored photo of an Australian soldier slitting the throat of an Afghan kid, which was globally condemned.
Before the wine tariffs in question, China consumed around 40 percent of Australian wines. In 2019, for example, China bought more Australian bottles than it did from France. But a few weeks ago, Australia realized what trading with an antagonistic imperial power looks like as China instigated a crippling 212 percent tariff on Australian bottles.
It was a blow designed to expose the pitfalls of economic dependence on one power, something Europeans became quite familiar with regarding Chinese-manufactured PPE when COVID-19 started to ramp up its spread back in March. Currently, more than 60 ships are stuck in Chinese ports, unable to dock. As the Daily Mail reported, “Australian exporters have already felt the brunt of harsh tariffs, with one winemaker losing $240,000 ‘overnight’ due to canceled orders.”
In this scenario, every one of us has a duty, in the spirit of Christmas, to stick it to the Chicoms by buying Australian wine. Before one can argue about the economic potential of this, consider the fact that the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance has already made an official appeal to do this, in a way to show solidarity.
A group of over 200 members of parliament as well as politicians from 19 different countries, are standing up against what one Australian senator called “authoritarian bullying.” Over time, that call morphed into public defiance against China.
So, consider it in a sort of seasonal “lend-lease” spirit, that wherever you are located, for whatever reason you ideologically prefer — be it the queen, the Commonwealth, the Anglosphere, or democracy and freedom — this Christmas season, pour a glass of good Australian shiraz. If you’re serving lighter fare, go for a fine Australian sauvignon blanc.
It’s the least one can do, facing the coming days of a binary world divided once again between the two sides, of shires and meadows, and jackboots and tyranny.