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Xi Jinping’s effort to break Australia’s will has only solidified it

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Dec 20, 2019
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China’s President Xi Jinping asked Australians whether they were prepared to stand up for their sovereignty if he applied some economic pain. We now know their answer.

“Yes”.

While China is applying punitive trade bans to over $20 billion worth of Australian exports, holding two Australian writers in prison on political charges, and refusing any high-level contact, Australian public sentiment is firm.

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The Resolve Political Monitor showed Australians were in no mood to negotiate over Beijing’s demands.CREDIT:AP


Sixty-two per cent of respondents to today’s Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age by Resolve Strategic, say Australia should be guided by the principle of “sticking to our values and speaking up” in its confrontation with Xi’s China.

Fewer than a quarter - 23 per cent - say Australia should “think twice before antagonising China”.


Australians were in no mood to negotiate over Beijing’s demands. And they stood ready to support further retaliation for any escalation in the Chinese government’s pressure tactics.

“I think it’s clear they are behind the government in sticking up for themselves,” observed the pollster, Jim Reed of Resolve Strategic.

Beijing’s top leadership decided to begin a long-term program of subversion of Australia because it was the West’s “weakest link”, according to the Chinese diplomat stationed in Sydney who defected in 2005, Chen Yonglin.

Based on today’s poll, they seem to have misjudged Australia’s people. The results will encourage the federal government in standing against Beijing’s list of 14 demands, and Labor to continue to stand with the government.


Asked whether Australia should agree to compromise on each of 10 specific points, respondents’ overwhelming answer was “no”, point for point.

For instance, only 17 per cent thought Australia should relent in its call for an inquiry into COVID-19’s origins. The same percentage thought the federal government should back away from warnings of possible war.


The number supporting compromise on other points was even fewer. Only 15 per cent thought Canberra should reverse its ban on Chinese telecommunications gear maker Huawei, for instance.

Australia’s authorities will be encouraged that only 13 per cent of people polled wanted Canberra to relent on its expulsion of China’s agents. More such actions lie ahead.

Taking all 10 points together, 56 per cent said Australia should make “no compromise”.


Compromises
Question: Do you think Australia should compromise on any of these points if it meant better trade and diplomatic relations with China? Please either pick 'no' or choose as many of the options as you like.


No compromises

56%
COVID source investigation

17%
Warning of conflict

17%
Lease of Darwin Port

16%
Huawei involvement in 5G

15%
Criticism on Hong Kong

15%
Launching cases at the WTO

14%
Cancelling visas of suspected agents

13%
Speaking out on human rights

13%
Cancelling Vic 'Belt & Road'

13%
Criticism on disputed Spratly Islands


Compromises
Question: Do you think Australia should compromise on any of these points if it meant better trade and diplomatic relations with China? Please either pick 'no' or choose as many of the options as you like.


No compromises

56%
COVID source investigation

17%
Warning of conflict

17%
Lease of Darwin Port

16%
Huawei involvement in 5G

15%
Criticism on Hong Kong

15%
Launching cases at the WTO

14%
Cancelling visas of suspected agents

13%
Speaking out on human rights

13%
Cancelling Vic 'Belt & Road'

13%
Criticism on disputed Spratly Islands

n=1600
Source: Resolve Political Monitor Created with Datawrapper


Not that Australians wanted a fight. Most people – 63 per cent – would like Canberra to “continue to seek a quiet diplomatic solution” with China.

“I think the prejudice is, ‘if this gets resolved and China starts buying our beef and barley again, that’s excellent’,” says Reed.
“People see value in the trade relationship and they realise there’s an issue here.”

But not at the expense of any Australian principle. The poll shows majority support of 53 per cent for retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods in the event of any escalation.

The effects of Beijing’s sanctions have been felt acutely by some firms and sectors such as wine producers, but the macroeconomic damage to Australia has been outmatched by surging Chinese demand for iron ore at record prices. China’s sanctions might have produced different results in other circumstances.

But, so far at least, Xi’s effort to break Australia’s will has only solidified it.

 

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