Australia 'Chinese power blunted in Asia' as Australia defies trade sanctions

05:26  06 december  2021
05:26  06 december  2021 Source:   9news.com.au

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Australia has weathered “sustained trade sanctions ” from its top trading partner, China , to become more resilient, but has lost ground when it comes to diplomatic influence in the region, according to the latest rankings of power in Asia . The Lowy Institute’s analysts said Japan and India’s loss of standing compared with China “has been more pronounced and continuous than is the case for other middle powers such as Australia ”. “By comparison, sixth-ranked Australia has weathered China ’s growing power better than most US partners over the course of the last several years,” the analysts

The value of Australian exports to China continues to surge, despite Beijing targeting them with trade sanctions . New Chinese government trade data showed that high commodity prices are fuelling the boom in value of exports to the economic superpower, the Australian Financial Review reports. Chinese imports from Australia jumped 50 per cent year-on-year to .36 billion in September. READ MORE: NSW residents to get more Dine and Discover vouchers to boost economy. © Getty Australian exporters with China are surging despite Beijing's trade sanctions , new figures show.

The Biden Administration has clawed back US influence in Asia, while domestic troubles have blunted China's regional ascendancy, according to an Australian think-tank.

The Lowy Institute's annual Asia Power Index measured 26 countries or territories across 131 indicators including economics, military might and diplomatic leverage.

For 2021, it found the US remained the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific region. China was placed second after steadily expanding influence on the index in recent years.

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a group of men in uniform: China is the dominating military power in Asia but it has lost ground in other key indicators of influence, a think tank report said. © AP China is the dominating military power in Asia but it has lost ground in other key indicators of influence, a think tank report said.

Biden wins back influence

The US power revival in Asia is largely due to President Joe Biden's attempts to build coalitions with regional allies and his efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic at home.

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China ’s influence in Asia receded in the second year of the pandemic as the country turned more inward, while the U.S. expanded its power in the region through better diplomacy, according to an Australian research group. The top 10 countries for overall power in the Asia -Pacific region are the U.S., China , Japan, India, Russia, Australia , South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the study said. The ranking this year reflected the longer term impact of the pandemic, with the overall power of most countries falling compared to last year in the index.

Australian government officials have denied the allegations and said the country's farmers are some of the least subsidized among OECD nations. Canberra has also asked the World Trade Organization to mediate in the dispute. Experts expect that dispute to take some time to resolve. Chinese media outlets have said that the country's top economic planner granted approval to power plants to import coal without clearance restrictions except for Australia , Reuters reported. That followed earlier reports that Beijing gave state-owned utilities and steel mills verbal notice to stop importing Australian coal.

And efforts to mitigate climate change, vaccine donations to poorer countries and overseas development funding also helped the US pull ahead of China.

But the report also warns that relative US military power in the region is waning as China's armed forces expand.

It also says Asian countries are less economically dependent on the US.

Australia weathering Chinese pressures

The index said Australia was proving resilient against Chinese trade sanctions.

Australian exports to China, including wine, barley, coal and seafood, have been hit with punitive measures over the past 18 months.

"Australia has weathered China's growing power better than most US partners. Despite coming under sustained trade sanctions by its primary trade partner, Australia has improved its resilience in 2021," the report said.

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Chinese authorities have since launched an investigation into claims Australia has dumped wine, and according to the Australian cotton industry, told spinning mills to stop buying Australian -grown cotton. Australia 's barley farmers fell victim to trade tensions with China , after it announced major tariffs. (Tara De Landgrafft). Exporters were already on edge, but things really went up a notch this week, when million worth of Australian rock lobsters were left on the tarmac at a Shanghai airport. Chinese customs claimed they were testing for chemicals but the delays meant some rock lobsters had to be

The diplomatic row between China and Australia just keeps getting worse, with no obvious off-ramp to the downward spiral in relations between the two key trading partners.Ties have been fraught since 2018 when Canberra barred Huawei Technologies Co. from building its 5G network on national security grounds. They went into the deep freeze earlier this year after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government called for an international inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.

Video: Taiwan warns of further China aggression (Sky News Australia)

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Australia has weathered Chinese trade sanctions against key export industries. © AP Australia has weathered Chinese trade sanctions against key export industries.

But on a key marker of defence capability, Australia has lost ground.

This is despite joining the AUKUS security pact with the US and Britain under which Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

But the Australian navy faces a wait of 20 years before it receives the advanced weaponry.

Australia continued to be ranked sixth in the power rankings for Asia, behind the US, China, Japan, India and Russia.

China big on hard power

While China's influence declined for the first time since the index started in 2018, its military might continues to grow.

Chinese military spending is now 50 per cent bigger than India, Japan, Taiwan, and all 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) combined, the index authors said.

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The leaders of China and another 14 countries in the Asia -Pacific region have signed one of the biggest free trade deals in history, covering 2.2 billion people and 30% of the world’s economic output. The RCEP agreement is loose enough to stretch to fit the disparate needs of member countries as diverse as Australia , Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam. Unlike the CPTPP – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – and the EU, it does not establish unified standards on labour and the environment or commit countries to open services and

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Global shoppers face possible shortages of smartphones and other goods ahead of Christmas after power cuts to meet government energy targets in China. © AP Global shoppers face possible shortages of smartphones and other goods ahead of Christmas after power cuts to meet government energy targets in China.

The rising superpower has also expanded its nuclear forces and developed advanced weapons that can threaten American and allied bases in the region, as well as the US mainland.

But China is also losing influence because of its high national debt, energy shortages, an ageing population and an inward-looking political system.

Vaccine diplomacy wins influence

The donation of COVID-19 vaccine to countries has become a major instrument of foreign policy, the report said.

Australia's donation of vaccines to countries in Asia have been generous but the Federal Government's prolonged international border closures have set it back in diplomatic stakes.

Question marks over the effectiveness of Chinese-made vaccines had blunted China's soft power ability, the report said.

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