Is All Quiet on the Beijing Front?

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Celebrations are premature. They should be replaced by a realistic understanding of the capricious nature of the Chinese regime.

Commentary

The decision by Beijing to lift its restrictions on the import of Australian wine is pleasing, but much of the resultant celebration is misplaced.

The restrictions should never have been imposed. They were political decisions taken by the Chinese communist regime as a mark of its displeasure with Australia about a range of matters, including our temerity in seeking an open, independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

“The Ministry of Commerce ruled that in view of the changes in the relevant wine market conditions in China, it is no longer necessary to impose anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties on imported relevant wines originating in Australia,” the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not cease wine imports; other nations, including Chile, filled the gap left by Australia.

Having lost much of the estimated $1.2 billion (US$782 million) exports, it is unlikely that Australian companies will regain such a sufficient portion of the Chinese market.

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That is no bad thing: the return of the exports is welcome, but over-reliance on one market is dangerous, as this saga indicates.

Having imposed an arbitrary decision once, the CCP will be willing to do so again if displeased about some issue. Celebrations are premature. They should be replaced by a realistic understanding of the capricious nature of the regime.

The political intent of the decision was clear. It was tied to the decision by Australia to cease anti-dumping action against China over wind turbines, despite protests to the contrary by the Australian government.

How These ‘Anti-Dumping’ Measures Came About

Consider the sequence of events. Beijing lodged a case against anti-dumping and countervailing measures imposed by Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission on Chinese wind towers, stainless steel sinks, and railway wheels in June 2021, only two days after Australia had lodged its case against Beijing’s wine tariffs to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The WTO panel found that Canberra’s Anti-Dumping Commission had not given an “adequate and reasonable explanation” for its decision to increase its estimates of the Chinese producers’ steel-making costs.

However, the WTO did not support the CCP’s attempts to get a finding on the countervailing duties, which Australia had already removed.

The WTO had made a few minor points against the Australian case about the calculation of value. Still, Australia walked away from the action which had the support of other nations including the European Union, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Even before the anti-dumping decision was made public in Australia, the CCP’s mouthpiece The Global Times reported the wind turbine decision in detail and described it as a “good gesture” from Australia in the context of the consideration of lifting the Chinese tariffs on wine and lobster.

The regime also claimed it was a sign Canberra was distancing itself from the “anti-China position” of the United States.

The Albanese government in turn claimed it had relied on the advice of the Australian Anti-Dumping Commission. The Commission found that the dumping was “likely to continue or recur” but that material injury is unlikely to continue or recur.

This is hardly reassuring.

It also supports the suspicion that the imposition of anti-dumping measures was inappropriate and has been dropped subsequently for political reasons, coming as they did before Beijing lifted its wine restrictions.

Coming in the days before the recent visit of Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Australia, the decisions establish a worrying precedent.

Australians have to ask what is the cost.

Despite its public rejection of Paul Keating’s pro-CCP stance, the Albanese government appears to be adopting his appeasement approach to the CCP.

This is a dangerous and worrying position. What else will the Albanese government concede to remain in the CCP’s good books?

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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