Dan O'Heirity

Covid-19 Has Been an Absolute Non-event in Australia in 2020

It’s Boxing Day and we are rapidly heading towards 2021 with all the uncertainty that the New Year will bring. Australia has escaped the pandemic in a way that is utterly incredible. Using my preferred data source, as of today Australia has reported 28,292 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 908 deaths. That’s it for a 12 month period. Sure Australia is in a tizzy again with a small cluster of cases reported in a beach suburb in Sydney, but somewhat inevitably the cluster is very unlikely to grow. And then of course we have the vaccine or vaccines that will be distributed across Australia starting in March, 2021. Thus, whilst other countries have seen deaths numbering in the hundreds of thousands, Australia has come through this pandemic entirely unscathed. This has happened despite a bungled hotel quarantine program that saw a reasonably significant outbreak of Covid-19 in metropolitan Melbourne. If you go with the politicians explanation for why this outbreak did not spread, then you will conclude that the draconian lockdown measures imposed on Melbourne did the trick.

Whilst Australia has escaped the pandemic, the country has not escaped the ire of Beijing. This year has seen China impose multiple trade tariffs and sanctions on Australian exports to China in order to punish Australia for what Beijing deems to be a whole series of offences. These offences include calling for an independent inquiry into the origins and outbreak of Covid-19. China’s latest tactic is to stall importing Australian coal. However, happily, the coal tactic has backfired as some cities cannot generate sufficient power to meet consumers needs. This state of affairs is covered in the second half of this Sky News report. The first half focuses on new “food laws” in China to curb waste in restaurants. Perhaps Xi Jinping is looking ahead to a time when there may be food shortages in China. We can only hope.

Whilst China has acted tactically to damage Australia’s export market, China has not gone after the dairy industry and there is one simple reason for this fact. The Chinese are obsessed with buying Australian baby formula. The reason for this fact is that they don’t trust their own manufacturers because they produce fake formula that has led to deaths and to severe illness in infants. Call me callous, but if Australia wanted to hit China where it hurts then just stop exporting baby formula to China. This would likely see riots on the streets.

Trump and Xi Jinping Should Be Our Biggest Concern as We Look Ahead to 2021

When I first started writing this blog, each post was directly related to Covid-19. This remained the case until I had written well over one hundred posts. I then turned my attention to Trump and the American presidential election. The reason that I made this shift is that I considered China, the United States and Covid-19 to be inextricably linked. Xi Jinping is watching on as Covid-19 decimates the United States. He is also watching on as Trump divides America and undermines democratic processes. Finally, Xi Jinping will, in my opinion, believe that he is watching the demise of America as a super power. The ultimate demise of America might take another decade or so but Xi Jinping surely has reason to feel reasonably assured that America’s days are numbered. Today I came across a story which has brought together my various thoughts on Trump and Xi Jinping. The story is from MSN and I shall start with the concluding sentence, “At this moment, free societies do not appreciate the danger posed by an incredibly arrogant and deeply insecure China“. The reasoning behind this sentiment is that Xi Jinping believes China is in the ascendancy. China evidences hubris and arrogance and yet is, at the same time, deeply insecure. According to MSN this means conditions are ripe for China “to lash out and start a crisis that is unimaginable“.

Given that China has always had aspirations to global expansion and that Trump has always been made, some may ask what it is that has changed this year. Most obviously, Trump is no longer the president of the United States, even if he refuses to acknowledge that fact. However, at this point in time he still has more than 20 days in office before Biden is sworn in as the next president. Beyond lodging a raft of failed illegal challenges contesting election results, Trump has recently pardoned a whole host of people, many of whom we might refer to as his cronies. Personally, I think that we will be getting of lightly if that is all that he does ahead of exiting the Whitehouse. As for China, this year has seen Beijing grow in arrogance. This year has also seen Beijing engage in expansionist strategies by, for example, imposing a new security law on Hong Kong. However, here is the most notable point. This year has seen Beijing tell Australia how it is expected to behave if Australia wants to avoid China’s wrath. This fact is staggering with Beijing clearly now believing that it should be shown respect no matter what any particular country might think. The hubris is both astonishing and frightening. Essentially Beijing now believes that it is a law unto itself on the world stage. And so, yes, there are reasons to be fearful as we look ahead to 2021.

First Published December 26th, 2020

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