Pandemic year points to more crisis for Australia and China

21 Apr 2021

2020 marked a year of rolling crises for both Australia and China that have shaken the two nations and their relationship, a new book from The Australian National University (ANU) argues.

The China Story Yearbook: Crisis surveys multiple crises in both countries during the year of the metal rat, which symbolises a 'new day', including the COVID-19 pandemic, catastrophic floods in China and devastating bushfires in Australia.

Produced by the ANU Centre on China in the World (CIW), the book is available for free download via ANU Press - one of the world's largest open access presses.

The book is launched at the National Press Club today with a special panel featuring journalist Michael Smith and Wang Xining, Deputy Head of Mission, Minister at the Embassy of the People's Republic of China.

"I don't think there was any other title that we could've chosen for this yearbook other than crisis," editor and CIW Director Professor Jane Golley said.
"In the first quarter of 2020 China's economy contracted more than it has done in the last 30 years. The Chinese Government moved quickly to stimulate the economy, resorting to a familiar playbook by channelling government funds and investment into infrastructure and the construction sector.

"The book also examines how Chinese women fared through the pandemic, from the rise in domestic violence to portraits of female sacrifice on the medical frontline to the trolling of a famous dancer for being childless; the difficult tensions of China's relations with the US; the end of 'One Country, Two Systems' in Hong Kong, the simmering border conflict with India, and the rise of pandemic-related anti-Chinese racism."

Souring relations between the US, China and Australia is another key theme in the book.  

"As the US and Chinese governments spun their own versions of the truth throughout 2020, the pandemic fed into the 'downward spiral' of their bilateral relationship - so much so that by year-end Henry Kissenger described the two superpowers as being in 'the foothills of a cold war'," Professor Golley said.
"This 'new normal' makes life particularly uncomfortable for two other places: Taiwan and Australia. Yet the small island is struggling to find a viable alternative, thereby facing a crisis of 'grand strategy'.
"As the most likely flashpoint for military conflict between the US and China, a crisis for Taiwan could easily mean a crisis for Australia too. And that would make the world far, far more uncomfortable than the cold war I think we are already in."

The China Story Yearbook: Crisis is available online.