As the growing dispute between China and Australia makes headlines around the world, attention has been turned to other victims of China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy”.
Since 2003, Beijing has claimed it will not pose a threat to global peace and security under its policy of a “peaceful rise”.
But now that China has become the biggest trading partner for two-thirds of nations in the world, it appears the term “peaceful” need no longer apply.
Beijing is increasingly using coercive diplomacy, or “wolf warrior diplomacy”, against foreign governments, including the US and Canada.
That’s according to a 2020 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that tracked the CCP’s use of threats to force states to change their behaviour over the past 10 years.
It’s behaviour Australia is used to; threatening tactics like imposing trade sanctions (hello beef, barley) and the arbitrary detention of foreigners in China.
Of the 27 countries affected, China dished out the most threats and trade restrictions to Australia (17 cases), followed by Canada (10 cases) and the US (nine cases).
“I think Australia is seen by China as really tied to the United States,” said Professor John Garrick, a senior business law lecturer at Charles Darwin University and expert in Chinese commercial law.
“We’re with the power that is still really quite fundamental to everything globally, but is seen by many as having slipped. China sees the opportunity and they’re taking it.
“The strategy is not just an anti-Australian one. It’s about a giant tectonic shift in world power.”
Of course, Australia is not the only player in China’s firing line.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu told the ABC he was worried Beijing’s increasing aggression and authoritarianism could lead to a regional conflict.
For decades, China has viewed the island territory as a breakaway province that will eventually be part of the country again.
But many Taiwanese don’t want this to happen, and would prefer to be a separate, independent nation.
Amid growing fears China will launch an attack on Taiwan, Mr Wu called on democracies, including Australia, to help defend the island by sharing information and intelligence.
A lesser-known region that has been quietly targeted by China this year is Inner Mongolia.
In September, students protested against a new Chinese education policy that required schools to replace Mongolian-language textbooks with new national textbooks in Mandarin.
“The resistance was really brutally crushed,” Professor Garrick said.
“A number of protesters ‘disappeared’ so the push toward having Mandarin, simplified Chinese, adopted as a major initiative was swept through, irrespective of the Mongolian desire to retain their own unique language and cultural elements.”
The new policy for Inner Mongolia, an autonomous northern province in China, affects schools where Mongolian has always been the main language.
“This push to homogenise and ‘harmonise’ is not only applying to mainland China, but all the associated areas that come under China’s sway,” Professor Garrick said.
Last year, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets over several months to protest against China’s proposed extradition bill.
Critics feared the bill, which would allow extradition to mainland China, could undermine judicial independence and endanger local pro-democracy activists.
The bill was withdrawn in September, but now demonstrators are demanding full democracy over fears China is exerting more and more control over the region.
Tibet and Xinjiang
Tibet, a remote and mainly Buddhist territory, was invaded by China in 1950 and has reluctantly remained under Chinese rule ever since.
Beijing claims a centuries-old sovereignty over the Himalayan region, but most Tibetans view their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as their true ruler.
“Tibetan culture, over a period of time, has been wound back and ‘harmonised’,” Professor Garrick said.
“China uses similar tactics of making people learn Mandarin Chinese as a higher priority at the expense of their own culture and belief system.”
Meanwhile in Xinjiang, an autonomous territory in north-west China, similar strategies are being used on more than a million Uighur Muslims locked up inside mass “re-education camps”.
The camps, officially called ‘Vocational Education and Training Centres’, aim to stamp out alleged “extremism” among the ethnic Muslim population.