Support among Australians for a diplomatic and trading relationship with China is decreasing, with growing numbers of people in favor of economic decoupling and the imposition of sanctions, according to polling from the Lowy Institute released this week.
The poll, which surveyed 2,448 adults between March 16-29, found that trust in China fallen dramatically over the past two years, with just 23 percent of respondents indicating they trusted China either a “great deal” or “somewhat.” In 2018, around 52 percent of Australians in 2018 said they trusted China to some degree.
This lack of trust has led to a desire to see Australia pursue other trade ties and reduce economic dependence on China. Just 55 percent of those surveyed believed that China can still be considered a “viable economic partner.” An overwhelming 94 percent of respondents also admitted they would like Australia to “find other markets” to establish trade relationships. Only five percent of people opposed the idea.
The poll was taken before Australia’s recent China-instigated trade dispute, which saw Beijing impose tariffs on Australian barley imports and ban all imports from four Australian abattoirs, meaning support may have dropped even further since then.
On the question of “critical threats” posed to Australia, 77 percent cited drought and water shortages. A similar number mentioned the Chinese coronavirus (76 percent), a global economic recession (71 percent), bushfires and floods (67 percent), and climate change (59 percent).
China Warns Australia: Drop Coronavirus Probe or Pay an Economic Price https://t.co/V54exGJuOT
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 27, 2020
The most common “important but not critical threats” included a potential military conflict between the United States and China over the sovereignty of Taiwan (54 percent) and foreign interference in Australian politics (50 percent), a crime regularly committed by China through secret support of pro-Beijing candidates and promotion of favorable sentiment in the country’s political system.
As a result of these threats and the increasing exposure of China’s countless human rights violations, a growing number (82 percent) of Australians now support the sanctioning of Chinese officials involved in these abuses, while just 12 percent of people oppose the idea.
The sanctioning of Chinese officials has been a hot topic in Australian politics over the past year. Lawmakers are reportedly examining the implementation of new “Magnitsky” laws allowing the government to sanction said officials by freezing their assets and banning them and their families from traveling to Australia. The term comes from the American Magnitsky Act, named after a Russian dissident, which legalized such a policy.
Tensions between the two countries have risen considerably over recent years as Australians become increasingly wary of China’s malign influence on their country on a number of issues, ranging from trade disputes to demands for censorship in Australian universities.
Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the country had been hit by a massive cyberattack from “a sophisticated state-based cyber actor” affecting all levels of national government, businesses, essential services, and critical infrastructure. He declined to name the country involved, although China is widely suspected to have had at least some involvement.