China-Australia Dispute: Can Things Ever Go Back To The Way They Were?
Both countries have been involved in a simmering, long-standing standoff and neither party appears ready to stand down. With tensions high and goodwill almost at an all-time low, this conflict has also called into question the feasibility of continued bilateral trade between these countries, and exports at both ends are feeling the strain.
China's hard line stance is making it pretty difficult to see a return to previous warm relations between these two countries. The more pressing question now is, what is the way forward?
The Dispute's Origins
China's treatment of her Uyghur population has been a sore point in her foreign relations and Australia is only one of several countries to fall foul of this unspoken rule. There have been several other altercations apart from that and relations between the two countries began to sour in 2017. However, the real turning point, from China's viewpoint, came with Australia's call for an inquest into the origins of Covid-19.
In the fallout, China placed several trade restrictions on Australia. While China reducing certain Australian exports may have happened anyway- the country is targeting economic self-reliance- there's a sense of something bigger at play here. To many Australians, it feels like China is publicly scapegoating their country, sending a message to other would-be dissenters.
Apart from boycotting Chinese products or opposing Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Australia's options are fairly limited.
As heated as things are at present, relations between the two countries have not deteriorated to the point of no return. Australian exports remain hugely popular in China, while Chinese citizen still consider Australia a great place to study. However, as long as these warring factions continue to maintain their unyielding postures, there can be no return to their past relationship. As things stand, the best we can hope for is that these countries draw a line under the whole saga and forge a new relationship.