China’s war of words against Australia intensifies with new threat to reduce iron ore imports

A top academic has warned the Morrison Government’s combative approach to relations with China could end with a dramatic reduction in iron ore exports and result in a “wintry period” for Australia’s economy.

Morrison drew ire from China’s economic commentators after labelling Beijing’s campaign against Canberra as “economic coercion” in comments ahead of a G7 meeting where the frosty relationship between Australia and the superpower is set to simmer.

Without explicitly naming China, Morrison said the “defining issue” he would raise at the G7 meeting would be “the stability that we are currently seeking to maximise”.

On Wednesday, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Centre at the East China Normal University fired a warning in comments to Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times.

Chen told The Global Times Australia has “won a label as the vanguard for the US’ anti-China campaign, which is intended to create a public stunt and gain the backing of like-minded Western countries of the G7 group”.

“Their collusion is a sign of its own weakness,” Chen said.

The Global Times cited Chen’s claims that “Australia could hardly afford economic decoupling with China, despite Canberra-initiated tensions between the two countries, and it is in urgent need of help from its Western partners to rewrite the rulebook on the global economic order based on its interests”.

Trade tensions between Australia and China have bubbled for more than a year.

It began when Morrison called for an independent investigation into the origins of coronavirus and introduced foreign interference legislation – which culminated in the termination of Victoria’s Belt and Road deal.

Beijing retaliated with tariffs on multiple Australian exports, including barley and wine.

Experts earlier feared that the education sector would be the next one targeted, and analysts have predicted trade with China will fall further after all activities under the China-Australia Strategic Economic Dialogue were indefinitely suspended in May.

Foreign and defence ministers from both Japan and Australia have agreed to strengthen their security ties as China becomes more assertive in pressing its claims to contested areas in the Asia-Pacific region.

The talks held online were between Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Peter Dutton, and their Japanese counterparts Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi.

Motegi told reporters after the talks that the officials shared their concerns about China’s activity in the East and South China seas as a challenge to the international community.

Japan regularly protests to China over its coast guard presence near Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls Diaoyu.