To deal with an aggressive China, its opponents must hang together
China’s year of wolf warrior diplomacy is ending with a spate of sanctions. Beijing informally suspended visas for all Indians in September. Australia has been publicly battered, with China imposing barriers/bans on billions of dollars of exports. The world should not be surprised. China imposed similar sanctions against Japan and South Korea in the form of a rare earths ban and the expulsion of a retail chain. Go further back, and the Dragon’s tactics include European countries, Mongolia, and The Philippines. Trade spats are a common across the world, but Beijing’s actions are imposed in retaliation to sovereign political or strategic decisions. China was not responding to someone else’s trade actions, it flexed economic muscle to force another country to kowtow on an aspect of foreign policy.
China’s return on investment on these moves is mixed, but it is unlikely to change tack. Ultimately, Beijing carries out such policies because it faces no retaliation. If the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is to develop some heft, it should consider how its members can assist each other in diversifying away from the Chinese market as well as softening the damage caused by Chinese trade sanctions. The Japan-led Supply Chain Resilience Initiative is a step in the right direction. That China’s blockade of Australian coal has led to hundreds of Indian sailors being stranded in China is a reminder that its opponents need to band together.