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Australia has become Beijing’s preferred pinata as China lashes out against perceived disrespect from other governments. Apparently willing to take a wait and see approach on relations with the United States and Japan as new administrations find their feet — and, it is hoped in Beijing, reset relations in a more accommodating fashion — Canberra in contrast has been handed an expansive set of demands that must be met for bilateral relations to return to what Beijing considers normal. Until then, Australia’s number one trade partner is imposing painful trade sanctions.

The strategy is no doubt gratifying to the Chinese, but it is short sighted and almost certain to backfire. It exposes as humbug the claim that Beijing respects other country’s internal affairs, and creates a rallying point for other governments subject to its economic coercion. It also underscores the need for a farsighted and comprehensive national economic strategy, one that appreciates and anticipates all the elements of national economic statecraft.

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