Trade, sanctions, gas, people: weapons of choice in our new world war | South China Morning Post
Wednesday, January 12, 2022 5:33 PM
by Neil Newman
Trade, sanctions, gas, people: the weapons of choice in our new world war of economics and alliances
It may not be ‘war’ by its standard definition, or even a cold war, but geopolitical conflict in this century is being waged through weaponisation of relationships and people Perhaps the disappointing path of globalisation in the 2020s heralds the beginning of the end of interdependencies that have ultimately come back to hurt us
Being the world’s largest trading nation and most populous country, the most powerful weapon in China’s arsenal is the ability to inflict economic damage. One example of this weaponisation of trade is Australia, which has been deprived of a large degree of its economic independence because of how dependent its economy has become on China.
China, through its domestic companies, has acquired substantial Australian assets such as key ports like Darwin, mines, farmland, dairy processors, real estate, schools, water and energy, whilst flooding the country with cheap manufactured consumer goods and essential chemicals. When the Australians became critical of Beijing’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, it turned off the supply of money and chemicals, choking the country’s economy. China has also come close to bringing Australia’s logistics and trucking industry to a standstill, and could even cause its wine production to halt this year.
Lithuania found itself in China’s crosshairs when it allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in the self-ruled island’s own name. This directly led to trade problems for Lithuanian companies, whose exports have been disallowed at China’s border. To amplify the pain, multinational companies have been told that if they continue to do business with Lithuania, they may find themselves cut out of China.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, China also gained the ability to control other countries’ access to personal protective equipment (PPE). So-called “wolf-warrior” diplomats overseas have aggressively targeted governments and companies that criticised China, threatening to cut off aid, access to vaccines and PPE. As anyone who has been picking up boxes of lateral flow tests in the UK will have noticed, until September 2021, they were all “Made in China”.