CCP attack on Australia ramps into hostage diplomacy


Get used to it. Via Bloomie:

Chinese authorities have detained an Australian television anchor working with a government-run station as relations worsen between the nations over trade and security concerns.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement Monday evening the government had been been informed on Aug. 14 that Cheng Lei had been detained in China.

Cheng is a journalist and television anchor working for the Chinese Government’s English news channel, CGTN, the ABC reported. Cheng has not been charged, according to the ABC, but is being held in detention under a “residential surveillance at a designated location.” That can involve being held for up to six months without access to a lawyer or other assistance, the ABC said.

This is hostage diplomacy. One of Bejing’s favoured dirty tricks. It shouldn’t be too big a deal for a Morrison Government happy to strand 18k Aussies overseas during a pandemic.

The CCP keeps doubling down. Another wine inquiry is underway, via ABC:


In another blow to Australia’s wine export sector, China has confirmed it is launching an investigation into alleged subsidies.

China’s Commerce Ministry says Australian bottled wine in containers of 2 litres or less will face a one-year countervailing-duties investigation.

It comes a fortnight after China’s Government launched a separate anti-dumping investigation that caused the share price of Australia’s largest wine exporter, Treasury Wine Estates, to plunge.

Find a new market.

More debate at the AFR with James Curran, professor of modern history and a senior fellow at Sydney University’s US Studies Centre:

For where the government has sometimes run into difficulty is its tendency to be the first and loudest of the hailers on China. Subtlety and guile, so often needed in diplomacy, have been in short supply. In the gloating to Trump on the 5G decision, in the call for an independent pandemic inquiry, and by invoking the 1930s analogy, Australia has looked at once brazen and inauthentic. For all the existing differences between the US and Australian positions on China, the perception amongst some South-East Asian nations is that Australia remains too willing to do Washington’s bidding.

…Playing the “long game”, however, risks allowing domestic political imperatives to overwhelm and in some cases be used to churn Australian foreign policy.

In Australia’s China debate, references to the “guns of August” or “Munich” conjure Armageddon but miss the point. The closer comparison to the current circumstances is what happened to the debate over Australian foreign and defence policy in the 1920s and 30s as a result of the toxic conscription debates of 1916-17. Because the issue of “loyalty” played so central a role in those debates, critical questions over Australia’s external policies in the succeeding two decades could not be treated on their own terms. Rather they became captive to poisonous finger-pointing over patriotism.

Australia could well be headed for a repeat of that era. The government’s tough line on China has won wide popular support. Public trust in China has collapsed. Once more, as has happened at several points since diplomatic relations opened with the PRC in 1972, various crises have exposed the ease with which older images of a “China threat” can be mobilised and deployed.


“Subtlety” is what Chinese sharp power thrives upon. It is years of “subtlety” that got us into this mess as it welcomed corrupt CCP dollars into business, parliament and universities. Clumsy daylight is far better, to expunge the corruption that “subtlety” has already delivered with near-fatal consequences for Australia’s liberal system.

If that results in a deteriorating trade relationship then too bad. It was a false economy to begin with.

The pick of today’s China pieces comes from Australia’s best public economist, Adrian Blundell-Wignall:


In building its BRI empire, China is doing what it sees as being in the interests of its people. One can’t argue against that. But the West must look after its own, too. The China shock has been disastrous for advanced countries with significant basic materials and manufacturing sectors. The hollowing out of jobs for lower-skilled workers and the onset of global deflation forces have been unfolding for decades.

…But the West did not address the fundamental issues because there was no consensus to do so. Consensus gravitated instead towards transforming liquidity support needed in the financial crisis into some sort of permanent quantitative easing to counterbalance the real economy distortions.

…Trade bullying feeds into this. Ask Norway about giving Nobel prizes to unapproved Chinese citizens; Japan’s attempt to prevent illegal fishing; or the Philippines’ concern about unlawful territorial demands. Our own barley, beef and coal issues have plenty of antecedents. If you criticise China, you will be punished.

Those with a vested interest in not antagonising China point to these threats with an element of schadenfreude: “Told you so!” It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the use of trade as a weapon to achieve foreign policy goals is about as inconsistent as one can be with the rules-based trading system that has emerged over the past 75 years.

…Letting ourselves be vertically integrated into the wrong side of a bifurcated world economy is the path towards becoming an economic vassal state that is not in our long-term interest.

No, it is not. Liberalism made us. Illiberalism will break us. The end.

About the author
David Llewellyn-Smith is Chief Strategist at the MB Fund and MB Super. David is the founding publisher and editor of MacroBusiness and was the founding publisher and global economy editor of The Diplomat, the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics and economics portal. He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.