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David Fickling

Australia Has a Nuclear Option in Its China Diplomacy

By controlling the flow of iron ore, Canberra could wield tremendous power over Beijing. 

A doomsday weapon.

A doomsday weapon.

Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg

After years of slow deterioration, diplomatic relations between China and Australia have taken a sharp turn for the worse. The disputes range from pressure on journalists, to spying allegations, to an investigation of Australia’s wine exports. Beijing holds most of the cards, but Australia does have one doomsday weapon at its disposal. It’s better not used.

The conflict echoes China’s widening disputes with other countries. Two journalists working for Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the Australian Financial Review newspaper fled China this week, after a third Australian working for state-run China Global Television Network was detained. For their part, Australia’s intelligence services have interviewed at least one Chinese journalist in a probe of alleged covert foreign influence of a state legislator, according to reports in Xinhua news agency and the Sydney Morning Herald