Heng Kim Song has been the freelance editorial cartoonist
Last year, Western media attributed the cause of China's power shortages to the latter's unofficial ban on Australian coal. This year, Chinese netizens and we-media are claiming that power cuts are necessary and a result of “an invisible exchange of swordplay in big country economic competition”. Leveraging nationalism and big power competition to garner attention and support is indeed the order of the day. Zaobao journalist Liu Liu explains why Chinese authorities and state media are debunking these conspiracy theories and refusing to ride on the patriotism wave.
Australia, the US and the UK recently launched the enhanced trilateral security partnership “AUKUS”. American academic Zhu Zhiqun believes that AUKUS is divisive and serves the interests of the US military-industrial complex. It has also raised the stakes in China’s threat perceptions, given the unspoken target of the grouping. And now that Australia has picked a side, how will power dynamics play out in the Indo-Pacific region? Will China also seek alliances to strengthen itself?
The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) has undergone some intense internal power struggle recently, and the region is also subjected to rising global geopolitical competition and tension. In fact, the "Taiwan-China conflict is virulent in this region", says former German diplomat Dr Anne-Marie Schleich.
EAI academic Yu Hong notes that the RCEP will bring greater regional economic integration by increasing trade in Asia-Pacific and generating new business opportunities for companies in the 15 member countries of ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. China and ASEAN in particular, are well-placed to reap many of the benefits.
Recent extreme acts by Chinese diplomats have recast the spotlight on China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy”, or brand of brash and offensive tactics. Han Yong Hong points out that the damage this haughty diplomacy is doing is nothing to be laughed away. The term evolved from a Chinese patriotic movie after all. When Chinese officials blur the line between a movie scenario and reality, they run the risk of getting trapped in tautologies.
From China’s perspective, Australia has been trying to have its cake and eat it too by seeking to rely on the US for security and China for economic benefits. If recent frictions are anything to go by, this balancing act is fraught with contradictions. Will Australia and other countries start to see that the Asia-Pacific’s interests are best served by both China and the US having a stake in the security and economic well-being of the region?
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian's recent tweet of an image depicting an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child’s throat has brought China-Australia relations to a new low. While the Australian prime minister has softened his stance and even made goodwill gestures to China, these were rejected by Chinese officials and its people. Edwin Ong traces the deterioration of China-Australia relations and notes that China may not rein in its abrasive wolf-warrior tactics anytime soon. However, he says such tactics may not benefit China in the end.