Australia and China spat over coronavirus inquiry gets uglier

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India May 19, 2020, 09.50 PM(IST) Edited By: Palki Sharma

File photo Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

China derided as 'a joke' on Tuesday an Australian assertion that a resolution at the WHA for an enquiry into the novel coronavirus was a vindication of its push for a global review, another sign of worsening relations.

Australia's relative success in constraining the spread of the novel coronavirus has been overshadowed by the rift with its largest trading partner, China -- exacerbated by a World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution in favour of a global inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.

China derided as "a joke" on Tuesday an Australian assertion that a resolution at the WHA for an enquiry into the novel coronavirus was a vindication of its push for a global review, another sign of worsening relations.

The coronavirus, which has claimed over 3,20,957 lives and has infected 49,27,523 people across the world, broke out in China's Wuhan in December 2019.

Australia was the first country hence to demand an inquiry into the outbreak. More than 100 countries have since backed the proposal.

China, however, has dismissed as groundless the questioning of how Beijing handled the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had been open and transparent, despite growing scepticism about the accuracy of its official death toll.

In retaliation, China imposed hefty tariffs on Australian barley exports

The Chinese ambassador had earlier warned of a consumer boycott of Australian goods, which prompted Australian accusations of “economic coercion”. Australian diplomats worked with the European Union to gather support from the majority of nations at the WHA to support the resolution which was put forward by the European Union, Australia said.

Chinese embassies have recently taken a more assertive approach to international affairs, including criticism of its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, a policy dubbed “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy in both Western and Chinese media.

Chinese newspaper, The Global Times, to this end, ran a piece on Tuesday that said, "Australia gets slammed to the face as global community welcomes China-sponsored resolution on COVID-19."

This is quite in contrast with the global narrative -- according to which China has been pushed into this inquiry.  

Meanwhile, China is considering targetting more Australian exports. Wine, dairy, seafood, oatmeal and fruits are on target this time.

They could be subjected to stricter quality checks, anti-dumping probes, tariffs or custom delays.

But in the view of the several debts China has given to several smaller countries -- Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri lanka and a number of african countries, the trade war with Australia does not only appear useless, but also counter productive.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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