This week China imposed a ban on beef supplied by four Australian meat suppliers. Beijing is also looking at imposing crippling tariffs on barley imports.

Both of these come in the wake of Canberra’s calls for an independent investigation related to the COVID-19 outbreak in China to garner a better understanding of the systemic reasons for the outbreak, but more importantly to glean a path forward as to how to prevent another pandemic from emerging.

How should middle powers such as Japan respond to this economic coercion of one of its closest partners? This question is made more complicated by the fact that Japan’s economic prosperity remains deeply wedded to a stable political and economic relationship with its biggest trading partner, China.