Australia is standing up to China. Watch closely: It may be a harbinger of things to come, as the world's smaller countries respond to the increasingly coercive Asian economic superpower.
For years, the Australian political and business establishment had a paramount goal: protect and expand this natural resource powerhouse's booming exports to fast-growing China. Iron ore, coal, natural gas, wine and more: Until COVID-19 struck, Australia had a 29-year run without a single recession as it sent its signature goods to the world's voracious No. 2 economy. Canberra's diplomacy came to focus on balancing the Chinese trade relationship with the nation's equally important defense alliance with the United States.
But the paradigm through which the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison now views China has shifted dramatically, people inside his government told Reuters. The relationship is no longer shaped just by trade, but by a stark view emerging widely inside this continent-spanning country — that Beijing poses a threat to Australia's democracy and national sovereignty.