Is China a bully?
If you stopped the average person in the street and asked this question, the answer would probably be a resounding ‘YES’.
A bully is defined as: Someone who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.
So how could China be a bully?
‘China’ is the name of a country, a landmass in Asia, even a collection of people, mainly Chinese in ethnicity. How could any of these entities be a bully?
Yet the perception that China is a bully is widespread. Why?
The average person would recall that very recently China threatened Australia with retaliation over its public push to have an inquiry into the origin, progress and management of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, which China’s leaders interpreted as Australia pointing the finger of blame at China for this disaster and how it handled it. Now that there is world wide consensus about the need for such an inquiry, the threats have quietened, and China’s ruling class have endorsed it.
Some would quote the words of representatives of China: ambassadors and trade officials, who have made angry threats of trade retaliation against our government because it had sought an inquiry. China’s ambassador to Australia was particularly strident and nasty in his condemnation and his unconcealed threats of retaliation.
Others would quote the savage threats of trade sanctions against Australian barley growers, based on the spurious accusation that they were guilty of ‘dumping’ into China’s markets. This is seen for what it is: retaliation for our government’s uncompromising stand on an enquiry, indeed its leading role.
Now China is threatening to limit coal imports from Australian coal exporters. Government authorities in Beijing have directed state-owned power plants to purchase domestic product instead. Analysts fear this could also lead China to delay cargoes of Australia's most lucrative export, iron ore.
Even as this piece was being written China’s National People’s Congress approved a controversial ‘security’ law that will override Hong Kong’s laws. Pro-democracy activists fear that pushing through the law will mean ‘the end of Hong Kong’ - that is, the effective end of its autonomy and its freedoms. If this is not bullying, what is it?
So there is bullying going on, no matter how you care to define it.
But as we’ve hinted that China as defined above could hardly be labelled a bully, who is it that has created this widely-held perception?
It comes down to the people who control the governing body: ‘The People's Republic of China’, which operates in a framework of a socialist republic run by a single party.
The top man is the President, Xi Jinping. Elected by the National People’s Congress, he is simultaneously the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, and thereby the top leader in the one party system. He has held this position for seven years. So he
is the one who controls the Party and the government of China. His subordinates follow his lead unquestionably.
If anyone is guilty of bullying, it is he,
not the Chinese people.
If other evidence of his bullying propensity is needed, take his attitude to the Spratly Islands, located off the coast of the Philippines and Malaysia, claimed by both of these nations as well as Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan. Xi insists that China
has sovereignty over these islands and has aggressively taken control of them to build military bases.
To highlight his military capability, Xi has ordered his navy to patrol the South China Sea, which encompass an area of around 3,500,000 square kilometres from the Karimata Strait, situated between Sumatra and Java to the west and Kalimantan to the east and the Strait of Malacca separating Indonesia and Malaysia, to the Strait of Taiwan, and in doing so China’s control over the strategic Zhongsha Islands. It claims all the islands, reefs, and shoals within the South China Sea.
The South China Sea is of great strategic importance; one-third of the world's shipping passes through it, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year. It contains lucrative fisheries in Scarborough Shoal, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. Huge oil and gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.
The ‘demarcation line’ used by the People’s Republic of China to define its sovereignty over this area is named: ‘the nine-dash line, or the ten-dash line or even the eleven-dash line’. It refers an undefined, vaguely located, but not internationally recognised, inverted U-shaped line that China itself has drawn in the South China Sea, shown as green in this image.
So whichever way you care to spin China’s attitude and approach to sovereignty, it is hard to escape the conclusion that China is indeed a bully, headed by the bully-in-chief, Xi Jinping.
But there is matching bully across the Atlantic. You know who he is. Writing in in The Age
, George Megalogenis says: The bully that is supposed to have our back, Washington, is often indistinguishable from the bully who now threatens our economy, Beijing. If the Chinese continue to pick off our second-tier exports to teach us a lesson for speaking out, perhaps Trump might want to open up his economy to Australia to compensate us for our losses? But this is not how Trump sees the world. He'd like Americans to buy local, and to sell their surpluses to the rest of the world. A world where China cuts out Australia, and leaves us to bargain with a protectionist US, is not one that serves our interests. This cartoon says it all.
Make up you own mind who the bullies are.