Australia's new security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, seen as a move to contain China, may worsen strained ties with its biggest export customer, but China's insatiable appetite for resources may limit its punitive responses, say analysts.
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The security pact with the Western powers, including access to US nuclear submarine technology, will be seen by Beijing, which is embroiled in a long-running trade spat with Canberra, as a threat, said Michael Sullivan, International Relations Lecturer at Flinders University.
"China will view the decision to expand defence cooperation with the US and UK and, in the future, base US strategic strike capabilities in Australia as confirmation that we are a growing military threat to its interests, such as the Belt and Road Initiative," said Sullivan.
China has in recent years imposed hefty tariffs and restrictions on Australian exports including wine, beef and barley, and outright banned coal imports to express its displeasure over Canberra's foreign policies, though with only limited success so far.
The sums at risk are massive as Australia exported a record A$173 billion (US$127 billion) of mostly resources to China in the 12 months to July, accounting for more than 35 per cent of Australia's total exports. Australia bought just A$87 billion of goods, mostly manufactured, from China in the same period.
That torrent of cash has blessed Australia with a run of current account surpluses, while boosting miners' profits and dividends. It's also been a vital windfall to government tax receipts at a time when it is running huge budget deficits to fund emergency support for citizens in COVID-19 lockdowns.