When I was younger, I would get into fights with my sister where I would do exactly the same thing she’s done to me as a form of ‘revenge’. If she ‘accidentally’ took my toys, I would ‘accidentally’ take hers as well. It’s petty, it’s childish, and it’s exactly what the US and China are doing to each other right now. Except on a global scale. And their petty little spat will impact all of us.
To make a long story short, Mr. Trump claims that China is stealing technology from US companies and posed a tariff on any steel and aluminium being exported into the states. This aggressive line of action is intended to protect jobs in the American steal industry, and encourage American business to buy American. This gels very closely with Trump’s ongoing ‘America First’ rhetoric. In the past, Trump has labelled China a currency manipulator, and during the early days of his presidency when he was still working closely with the much maligned Steve Bannon, the two men deemed China to be the biggest economic problem of the modern world. In retaliation to the imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium, China’s has punched back, placing steep tariffs on food including almonds and meat. While the tariffs levelled against China are the most severe, Trump has issued similar tariffs throughout the rest of the world, including the EU.
In the trade conflict between the US and China, we are essentially, seeing the biggest hissy fight between two major powers that might lead to a trade war. Luckily, here in Australia we won’t be too negatively impacted by the tariffs since we do have a free trade agreement with the US on materials such as steel (but honestly, judging from you-know-who’s temper it could be completely disregarded for the sake of nationalism); we still have to tread very carefully.
Australia’s relationship with China is, to say the least, precarious.
According to an article in The Financial Review, Australia’s relationship with China is turning cold real quick due to a myriad of reasons. Tourism and education accounted for 10 billion dollars of exports to China to June 2017. That’s a whole heap of money we can’t afford to lose. If we decide to side with the U.S. or take advantage of this situation to strengthen our exports, we may risk deepening an already clear divide.
However, if we were to side with China, that would be disastrous for our long-term relationship with the US. We fought in a couple of wars so I would say the bond is still there, and although the quality of their leadership currently is questionable at the least, maintaining a friendly relationship is of paramount importance.
So, like an awkward only child caught between their parent’s divorce. Australia, come sooner or later, has to choose what and which side they prioritize as their ‘better ally’.