Australia’s ‘very useful’ strategy to overcome China’s ‘bullying'

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·4-min read

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Australia's Quad meeting with Japan, India and the US last week will help it fight back against bullying from China.

Detailing Canberra's plight at the hands of Beijing in an opinion piece for Japanese publication Nikkei Asia, Mr Turnbull said China has been attempting to isolate Australia from its allies.

"China has been trying to make an example of Australia for some time now," he said, noting a raft of Australian actions including the recent condemnation of the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, that have fuelled the rapid fallout between the two countries.

He labelled China's retaliating trade sanctions on Australian exports as "utterly counterproductive".

Australia's former prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull . REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Malcolm Turnbull has praised Australia's involvement in the Quad. Source: Reuters

Yet in the past 12 months, dialogue surrounding the strategic group of the Quad and Australia's involvement has increased. Last week the four nations took a significant step by holding its inaugural summit in which they vowed to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific led by democracy.

And while a joint statement released by The White House failed to directly mention China, the meeting was used by the leaders of the four nations to discuss the growing threat of Beijing.

After all, Japan, the US and India themselves have all clashed with Beijing in the past 12 months, while also facing security challenges from China.

Freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas, recent cyberattacks and semi-conductor supply-chain security were all discussed in the meeting.

"We strive for a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion," the statement read.

Quad a 'very useful' tool

Mr Turnbull himself was responsible for reviving Australia's involvement in the Quad in 2017 after reluctance from former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.

On Tuesday he said the meeting was a "a very useful signal that the US and Japan are standing firm with Australia as it stares down the bully tactics from Beijing".

"Ultimately the only way to stop China from picking smaller nations off one by one is for democracies to stick together and support each other when the pressure is on."

Mr Rudd previously told Yahoo Finance Australia it was vital for the Morrison government to side with other nations when taking China to task.

"It pays to hunt in packs... It's much harder for China then to single you out," he said.

Mr Turnbull said he hoped the summit would cause concern for Beijing.

"The picture of the four leaders looked good in each of their capitals, but it was in Beijing that it will have given most cause for reflection and, hopefully, some course correction."

China hits out in wake of Quad summit

As expected, the summit prompted a frosty response from Beijing. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday evening hit out at those trying to band together in a bid to take on China.

"For quite some time, certain countries have been so keen to exaggerate and hype up the so-called "China threat" to sow discord among regional countries, especially to disrupt their relations with China," he said.

Delegates applaud as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of China's National People's Congress. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Delegates applaud as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of China's National People's Congress earlier this month. Source: AP

"However, their actions, running counter to the trend of the times of peace, development and cooperation and the common aspirations of the countries and peoples in the region, will not be welcomed or succeed.

"Certain countries should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice, refrain from forming closed and exclusive small circles, and do more things that are conducive to solidarity and cooperation among regional countries and regional peace and stability."

Turnbull encourages government to stay the course

Reflecting on his dealings with China during his time as PM, Mr Turnbull said it was vital not to fall victim to China's tactics and a resilient response over time should yield results.

"As I know from my own experience, Chinese foreign policy, especially of the indignant variety, is always instrumental. Once it is clear that its purpose is not being achieved, then it is likely to be dropped.

"This may take time, but giving into coercion only invites more of it."

Speaking at the National Press Club last week, Mr Rudd delivered a five-word piece of advice to Prime Minister Scott Morrison moving forward.

"Speak less and do more," he said.

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