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Is China a bully?

By Ad astra

Is China a bully? If you stopped the average person in the street and asked this question, the answer would probably be a resounding ‘YES’.


A bully is defined as: Someone who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

So how could China be a bully? ‘China’ is the name of a country, a landmass in Asia, even a collection of people, mainly Chinese in ethnicity. How could any of these entities be a bully?

Yet the perception that China is a bully is widespread. Why?

The average person would recall that very recently China threatened Australia with retaliation over its public push to have an inquiry into the origin, progress and management of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, which China’s leaders interpreted as Australia pointing the finger of blame at China for this disaster and how it handled it. Now that there is world wide consensus about the need for such an inquiry, the threats have quietened, and China’s ruling class have endorsed it.

Some would quote the words of representatives of China: ambassadors and trade officials, who have made angry threats of trade retaliation against our government because it had sought an inquiry. China’s ambassador to Australia was particularly strident and nasty in his condemnation and his unconcealed threats of retaliation.

Others would quote the savage threats of trade sanctions against Australian barley growers, based on the spurious accusation that they were guilty of ‘dumping’ into China’s markets. This is seen for what it is: retaliation for our government’s uncompromising stand on an enquiry, indeed its leading role.

Now China is threatening to limit coal imports from Australian coal exporters. Government authorities in Beijing have directed state-owned power plants to purchase domestic product instead. Analysts fear this could also lead China to delay cargoes of Australia’s most lucrative export, iron ore.

Even as this piece was being written China’s National People’s Congress approved a controversial ‘security’ law that will override Hong Kong’s laws. Pro-democracy activists fear that pushing through the law will mean ‘the end of Hong Kong’ – that is, the effective end of its autonomy and its freedoms. If this is not bullying, what is it?

So there is bullying going on, no matter how you care to define it.

But as we’ve hinted that China as defined above could hardly be labelled a bully, who is it that has created this widely-held perception?

It comes down to the people who control the governing body: ‘The People’s Republic of China’, which operates in a framework of a socialist republic run by a single party.

The top man is the President, Xi Jinping. Elected by the National People’s Congress, he is simultaneously the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, and thereby the top leader in the one party system. He has held this position for seven years. So he is the one who controls the Party and the government of China. His subordinates follow his lead unquestionably.

If anyone is guilty of bullying, it is he, not the Chinese people.

If other evidence of his bullying propensity is needed, take his attitude to the Spratly Islands, located off the coast of the Philippines and Malaysia, claimed by both of these nations as well as Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan. Xi insists that China has sovereignty over these islands and has aggressively taken control of them to build military bases.

To highlight his military capability, Xi has ordered his navy to patrol the South China Sea, which encompass an area of around 3,500,000 square kilometres from the Karimata Strait, situated between Sumatra and Java to the west and Kalimantan to the east and the Strait of Malacca separating Indonesia and Malaysia, to the Strait of Taiwan, and in doing so China’s control over the strategic Zhongsha Islands. It claims all the islands, reefs, and shoals within the South China Sea.

The South China Sea is of great strategic importance; one-third of the world’s shipping passes through it, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year. It contains lucrative fisheries in Scarborough Shoal, which are crucial for the food security of millions in Southeast Asia. Huge oil and gas reserves are believed to lie beneath its seabed.

The ‘demarcation line’ used by the People’s Republic of China to define its sovereignty over this area is named: ‘the nine-dash line, or the ten-dash line or even the eleven-dash line’. It refers an undefined, vaguely located, but not internationally recognised, inverted U-shaped line that China itself has drawn in the South China Sea, shown as green in this image..

So whichever way you care to spin China’s attitude and approach to sovereignty, it is hard to escape the conclusion that China is indeed a bully, headed by the bully-in-chief, Xi Jinping.

But there is matching bully across the Atlantic. You know who he is. Writing in in The Age, George Megalogenis says: The bully that is supposed to have our back, Washington, is often indistinguishable from the bully who now threatens our economy, Beijing. If the Chinese continue to pick off our second-tier exports to teach us a lesson for speaking out, perhaps Trump might want to open up his economy to Australia to compensate us for our losses? But this is not how Trump sees the world. He’d like Americans to buy local, and to sell their surpluses to the rest of the world. A world where China cuts out Australia, and leaves us to bargain with a protectionist US, is not one that serves our interests. This cartoon says it all.

Make up you own mind who the bullies are.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

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  1. RosemaryJ36

    The bullies are indeed two men who have managed to work their way into positions of almost total power.
    The ‘almost‘ is more qualified in the case of Trump, because the USA does not have the one Party system which rules in China.
    Not for want of trying by Members of the Republican Party, whose corrupt approaches to vote rigging have too often been successful.
    The current unrest over racism and inequality has been a long time building and, hopefully, putting the genie back in the bottle will coincide with the end of Trump’s disastrous reign in power.

  2. Jack Cade

    Japan has created islands in the South China Sea. How much had the USA objected?
    Much of the huge amount of shipping going through the South Chins Sea is US armadas playing their war games, which they ALWAYS play thousands of kms from their own waters. Plus, of course, Uncle Sam has HUNDREDS of bases surrounding China.
    Which country has the greatest right to be active in the South China Sea?
    China has, in 50 years, dragged 1 billion people out of abject poverty. Meanwhile, more than 50% of the people in the US subsist below the poverty line.
    When China started to industrialise, it set the workers individual production targets. And told workers that anything they produced in excess of their targets was theirs to keep. Brilliant ploy.
    China currently has 1 city in turmoil, much of it provoked by the US government.
    The US currently has 29 cities in turmoil: ALL of it provoked by the US government.
    QE friggin’ D…
    China has one-party government. The US has, as the late Gore Vidal pointed out, government run by one party with two right wings. The Republicans and the Democrats are owned by the same corporate interests, and they do the same things. The Democrats invaded Vietnam, and the Democrats destroyed Libya. How are they different from the Republicans?
    They are not.

  3. Terence Mills

    Up until a week ago Trump supported by the Murdoch Media in the USA and Australia were condemning Beijing for introducing enhanced security measures in Hong Kong. The efforts of the Hong Kong administration guided by Beijing to quell the ongoing rioting and destruction of infrastructure which in turn has severely damaged the Hong Kong economy were fair game for western media and noisy politicians.

    All of a sudden the boot is on the other foot and USA cities are experiencing the same levels of street violence with greater levels of retaliation from National Guard, police and military adopting more ruthless tactics than we have seen in Hong Kong.

    Perhaps we need to acknowledge sometimes that China is not always the bad-guy and the USA is not always the good-guy.

  4. mark delmege

    Muchly factless and opinionated and buying into the anti-China rhetoric of empire

  5. andy56

    The facts speak for them selves. Yes china is a bully. So what are we going to do about it? Talk , act, run, join or get beat up.?

    Before you get hot under the collar, a little perspective. Who is the BIGGEST, BADEST bully in the whole world? Which country has a doctrine of being number 1 at any cost? Which country has started more wars in the last 50 yrs? Which country wields eminence economic power and is not scared to use it?

    What have we done about this one? Talk , act, run , join or get beat up.?

    Hypocrisy, doesnt win you any friends.

  6. Matters Not

    Concepts such as the separation of powers; checks and balances; and the rule of law seemed fundamental to good government but as we have seen of recent times, people who proceed from a position(s) of mala fides can render them impotent. The United States political system is broken – in tatters. No longer fit for purpose. And there is no savior on the horizon.

    China is filling the intellectual vacuum and that is cause for concern because many things we hold near and dear don’t resonate in their thinking or at least rate ‘low’ their priorities.

  7. Michael Taylor

    “Muchly factless and opinionated …”

    Mark, are you describing your own comment?

    Like all of Ad astra’s posts, this one is filled with facts.

  8. Jack Cade

    What we ‘hold near and dear’ has been trashed in Australia since John Howard crawled out of the slime and into the Prime Ministers job.
    And what the USA holds near and dear in no way resembles what Australians used to hold near and dear. But we have been conned into thinking that they cherish what we cherish.
    They are In the process of moving to sell barley to China.
    With friends like those…

  9. Jack Oliver

    The Zio/US is the bully – that is well and long established !
    The Rothschild’s have owned and controlled the media for at least the last 300 years !
    ALL your opinions on world affairs are moulded by them !
    Edward Berneys ( the father of public relations ) lived till he was 104 – because he KNEW that propaganda – passed off as NEWS – controlled every aspect of your juvenile thinking !
    Man never went to the MOON – Russia won WW2 !
    These are undeniable FACTS !!
    Russia lost up to 80 million when the Bolsheviks infiltrated the Russian government !
    Why was there no justice ??
    Because the perpetrators of these horrific crimes – OWN the media !!

  10. mark delmege

    thats your opinion Michael. You are welcome to your opinion, just like Ad. But its not mine.

  11. ajogrady

    As usual Jack Cade your thoughts are much as mine. If we take Jack Cade, Andy56 and Terence Mills critically thought out and reasoned points and distilled them into one sumarised peice then surely the only conclusion is that the western media is factually corrupt in its reporting of world events that has led the general public to believe that China is a bully and the West is without sin. This has created a vacuum of critical thinking bought on by misinformation, obfuscation and sophistry of the corporate media.
    What we now surely can conclude is the failure of what is now comically called democracy and its corresponding freedoms. Democracy and freedoms that so many have made the ultimate sacrifice for in the belief it was for future generations have been betrayed by politicians and their corporate masters who have trashed their legacy. Lest we forget

  12. A Commentator

    China’s leadership has no respect for diplomacy, it understands only pressure.

    It ignores the international court of arbitration and the legitimate claims of neighbours regarding the South China Sea. It threatens Hong Kong, in breach of its treaty obligations.

    Defending China’s dictatorship on the basis of the faults of the USA is fatuous. Look no further than the reports of Amnesty International. The US gets plenty of legitimate criticism, but the analysis of China is deeply troubling.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Mark, most people the world over are of good heart. I like American people, Russian people, Chinese people, and of course, Australians. But I don’t like or trust Trump, Putin, Xi or Morrison.

  14. andy56

    A commentator what are you suggesting? Nobody here is defending china’s actions. We all admit they are bullies. But if we allowed the americans to have their ways with us, why are we suddenly arching up to china? If we , in the west, cant get our own houses in order, we are pissing in our own faces trying to call out china. Prostitutes dont pick and chose customers when they are hungry. China is only doing what it saw us doing over the last 50yrs. eat that thought.
    You want to stop china, you better set a better example.

  15. Jack Cade


    Spot on! None of the contributors on here has done anything other than cite what China is vis-a-vis the USA, simply because the USA has fabricated real or imaginary ‘enemies’ for most of my long life, and we have just gone along with it for no other reason than the USA wanted us to. Nobody has really been starry-eyed in support of China.
    We all have points of view, and hopefully AIMN wants us to express them, cogently and reasonably. But simply going along with the infantile attitude that America adopts – like a primary schoolchild, whining ‘If you play with China you can’t be my friend’ – is ultimately to Australia’s detriment. What it does, and is doing, is It limits our own ability to influence world opinion, and now we see how it cripples our trading options. Everything we do is seen by the world as pushing the US line. Everybody wants to find out where the virus came from, including China, but we were seen to be doing Trumps dirty work in demanding an enquiry rather than suggesting an enquiry, like an honest broker.
    The USA has absolutely no shame in stepping in and stealing our markets when we lose them because of our taking their side in matters that should not concern us.
    Plus we have incurred huge expenditure on shite weapons of war that are not intended to be of any use to us, but as an adjunct to any foreign adventures the USA drags us into.

  16. Andrew Smith

    Often our media lacks sufficient balance, from Inside Story:

    ‘As James Curran, Sydney University’s specialist on the US alliance, observed, “It is one thing to be rightfully wary of the brand of Chinese exceptionalism espoused by Xi Jinping, quite another to thrash about in mouth-foaming fulmination.”…….’

    Journalists on the ramparts

  17. Kronomex

    mark delmegeJune 1, 2020 at 5:55 pm:
    Muchly factless and opinionated and buying into the anti-China rhetoric of empire

    In that case how about you use your more than obvious deep knowledge and put all us clueless people right about the CCP.

  18. A Commentator

    A lot of people seem to find it impossible to talk about the bullying by China’s leadership without adding – “…but look at the USA”

  19. Michael Taylor

    A Commentator, fully agree. People on our Facebook page provide plenty of evidence of this.

  20. andy56

    A commentator, no, you got the wrong arse of the stick. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. We accepted american shit on a large scale now we want to suddenly grow balls against china? We surrendered meekly to the big bully now we are looking for the next bully to present to the big bully. School kids stuff.
    Thats the point we are making. Your focus is on the snake in the room and your not seeing the elephant .

  21. Ad Astra

    Thank you folks for your contribution to this piece. It is obvious that the question of whether or not China is a bully is contentious, . That Trump is also a bully, is irrelevant to this debate. We all know he is. His response today to the current riots in the US exposes his character for all to see.

  22. A Commentator

    Ad Astra has written a comprehensive, analytical and thoughtful article. It deserves discussion, and continually diverting the subject to the USA isn’t participating in a discussion about the bullying leadership of China.

  23. Michael Taylor

    Indeed, A C, try telling the people of Taiwan not to live in fear of a Chinese invasion because, you know, Trump’s a bully.

    And try telling the people of Hong Kong not to worry about the abuse of parliament by the Xi supporters or the authoritarian legislation that is being pushed through because, you know, there’s another country the other side of the world that is just as bad.

    Ad astra made a clear point that the Chinese people are not at fault; the bully boy is Xi. Too many people have overlooked that statement.

  24. andy56

    . If your not prepared to face america, your just whistling dixie against china. Focusing on china is like being angry in a bubble or vacuum of thought. You cant just put china in its own little box to whip without CONTEXT. And context is what you fail to see. The context is we failed with one bully by basking in his shadow, and now you want us to bark at the other bully when he has in his sights. Clearly we can see both for what they have become. If you dont know how to deal with one bully, why is it going to get better dealing with the other? Your not concerned about anal but your damn certain oral is bad for you.

  25. A Commentator

    There are about half a dozen current threads on this site that are critical of the USA and Trump, and that’s as it should be. Yet some find it irresistible to make this one also about Trump and the USA.

    Here we have a thoughtful article about the bullying leadership of China, and there are half a dozen of our very near neighbours that feel threatened. It is a reasonable subject of discussion, the article is considered, unemotional and factual, why is there reluctance to discuss it?

  26. ajogrady

    If AIMM is still to be a place of fair and balanced articles and dialogue when is there to be an article up for discussion on let say, America is the problem NOT the solution or terrorism! Americans useful tool or what countries have ever benefited from America’s interferences. Let’s stop pussy footing about with childish tit for tats who is a bully bullshit. Lets get down to some real nitty gritty facts and figures about the elephant in the room.

  27. Michael Taylor

    AJ, we have done dozens about the USA or Trump, and we’ll no doubt do dozens more.

    It appears as though whatever we write about … someone isn’t happy.

    See A Commentator’s comment @ 4:32.

  28. ajogrady

    Michael Taylor.
    It is understood that it is difficult to take the middle ground against the constant drum beating of the mainstream media and its stand on China.
    Regurgitating mainstream media’s paranoia of China and the continuation of the American agenda of beware of China is basic fear mongering. Rather then look at America’s failings and disastrous approach to geopolitical situations mainstream media choose to turn a blind eye.This is not acceptable and needs to be called out for what it is, delivery of blatant propaganda to the masses. It needs to be discussed in an open and honest manner with facts and without jingoistic overtones.

  29. A Commentator

    aj – “It needs to be discussed in an open and honest manner with facts and without jingoistic overtones.”

    I don’t see any jingoistic overtones here. I see plenty of articles that are highly critical of Trump, and that’s responsible and in Australia’s interests.

    There is then a single article that provides a dispassionate, analytical, balanced discussion about the leadership of China. But you and others find it impossible to discuss the article and turn back to Trump and the USA.

    I think the article identifies a range of legitimate concerns about the behaviour of China’s leadership, it is a legitimate subject of discussion. There are numerous countries that feel threatened by China, and Australia needs to reduce its economic dependence of China (and its military/foreign policy dependence on the USA).

    If you want to participate in the reasonable dissection of Trump’s inadequacies, there are plenty of opportunities on various other threads here.

    But why do you seek to avoid the discussion about China?

  30. Socrates.

    The West has never been prepared to examine its own side of the road when it could blame someone else for the world’s woes.

    How does a country with Robodebt ever dare criticise others?

    Why should the Chinese be any better than we are and why are they criticised for following our example, nationally and internationally, over time?

  31. Andrew Smith

    Maybe Australia does follow in the footsteps of America’s more protectionist trade policies nowadays regarding China, and questions of how dependent should Australia be, assuming there are substitute markets for our exports (plus being more sophisticated and value added)?

    ‘China accounts for close to a quarter of all of Australia’s international trade, and over a third of its exports, including both goods and services…….Universities, farmers and other businesses make commercial decisions based on risk assessment that includes diversification. Diversification is a form of self-insurance and comes with a cost. One of the biggest risks for many businesses is to limit engagement in the huge Chinese economy with a rapidly growing middle class.’

    Is Australia trading too much with China?

    More relevant, in my opinion, was Howard focusing Australia’s interests back away from Asia, or merely engaging for trade, while promoting an ‘Anglosphere’ or exceptionalism, based upon culture and nostalgia for the UK and US (literally torrents of cultural and political media content from the latter corrupting our narratives and understanding of ourselves).

    In the not too distant future, in the ‘Asian century’, e.g. Indonesia will be top five or ten economies globally, yet out trade is negligible and our ignorance is significant, except for Bali…. maybe it’s simply not just about China and the US but Australia and the Asia region too?

  32. mark delmege

    You do know that China presented a case to the WHO mid January explaining that it had encounted a new potentially serious virus and it (WHO) declined to act. Australia and the USofA were on the Board. And I’m sure you know that the USofA was also conducting corona research at Wuhan up until a year ago – till the (US) funds stopped and I’m sure you know the USofA runs more biolabs within the USofA and in other countries than any other country on earth. And I’m sure you remember how Trump tried to cover his own sorry arse by blaming China. And I’m sure you remember seeing on our TV’s China begin its lockdown before the Chinese New Year in late January and how countries like ours and the USofA and others didn’t close their borders for well over a month afterwards despite being warned. And I’m sure you are aware that SARS CoV 2 deaths have now been traced back to last November and probably earlier and they were not even in China. You might even be aware that there are many varieties (non scientific term) of SARS CoV 2 that have spread about and that the variety that infected the USofA probably first came from Europe (not only but also). I’d suggest it is reasonable to assume that China did all that could be expected to do as a global citizen to warn the world through its own actions and advice to the premier World Health Authority that it had discovered a new virus of world importance. I’d argue that many people or as you say the ‘average’ citizen might not be aware of these details for the simple reason that the fog of war is serving a purpose.
    As for your statements regarding trade sanctions they are just so far off the mark. Perhaps you might like to revisit his comments and reflect on what he actually said. While you are at it you might like to investigate the near two year Barley kerfuffle or even the one associated with the Beef industry. And if you were really really keen you could investigate the rich history of Australian and Chinese trade disputes. As for coal do you not think China has the right to mine and use its own coal reserves as preference – especially while its own economy is facing headwinds?
    As for Hong Kong are you not aware that Honkers is being used in a form of irregular warfare and that its most prominent protest leaders have been feted in the capitals of the West and no doubt funded and at least in part organised by agents of Washington (and of course by its own corrupt megarich who stole money from China). As a matter of interest have you actually read the text or at least familiarised yourself with the ‘security’ law you mentioned. Personally if I was leader or had a vote on that measure I would applaud moves to kick out foreign agents and contain their front groups – I’m sure every country in the world, if it could, would do the same.
    I am not particularly familiar with the form of government that exists in China (and I’d be very surprised if you have many clues either) or its many complexities and I certainly don’t believe that our system of government is ideal or that it should be emulated anywhere else. Sure its has its own rich history that reflect our colonial past and neoliberal present but I am absolutely certain it wouldn’t work in China.
    Someone in the comments mentioned Taiwan. I wonder if that person is aware of the rich and complex relations – you know like investments trade and tourism – that exist between the two. Or the nature of the legal dispute that set off the whole faux Honkers democratic movement. Maybe some might remember if I give a clue that it involved the murder of a young women by a Honkers resident in Taiwan and calls for an extradition treaty. Perhaps the writer of that comment has an inkling of the escape and history of the take over of Taiwan by Kuomintang at the birth of Communist China.
    I think thats more than enough for now but I’ll leave you with one last thought.

  33. Ad Astra


    The responses to this piece tell their own story.

  34. mark delmege
    China publishes timeline on COVID-19 information sharing, int’l cooperation
    As you can read China was upfront in telling its ‘partners’ what was up. If I recall correctly an Australian researcher was one of the first to be given the genome sequence and the USofA was kept in the loop from the earliest of days. Its understandable that they would feel cheated when their ‘partners’ attempt to unload on them in some sort of dishonourable political blame game.

  35. Phil

    The title of this piece should have read is China a Bully compared to, put your own country in the space.

    China has been the subject of exploitation by the west since the mists of time and an invasion by the
    Japanese killing millions..
    The Brits of course will be fondly remembered for the opium wars. Their imperialist demands on the
    Chinese are well documented. Now the west want them to roll over again, like a well trained Pekingese.

    Ah then there’s those poor demonstrators in Hong Kong the west are having conniptions over, it is
    laughable. The west could give a flying fluck about the Chinese on Hong Kong, this is about trade and
    power, period. The anti Chinese rhetoric had better stop, we need them more than they need us. We can’t even
    buy a plastic bucket made in Australia. Those screaming for us to start manufacturing again, is even more
    laughable. Whose gonna buy a shirt made here for fifty bucks? To use that word Trump used at his rallies
    that grates on my nerves, it is the Chinese that are Winning and they’re winning, bigly.

  36. Jack Cade

    One of my daughters bought some baked beans today, from Coles. She didn’t say that they were Coles brand, just that they were made in Italy from Italian and Canadian beans. Neither country is notable for its coolie labour. But it is apparently cheaper for an Australian supermarket to import from Europe than buy locally. It’s not as if Itali-Canadian navy beans are gold standard.
    Buy Australian and bank the difference…
    Pigs arse!

  37. Jack Cade

    China is undoubtedly a trade bully. But it hasn’t bombed the shit out of any country whose politics it disagreed with. Just stops trading with them. We are so tied to the USA that our decisions are deemed by China to have been Uncle Sam’s wishes.
    And people relishing Donald Fart’s current discomfiture (among which I count myself) would do well to note that he still enjoys between 33% and 44% support, 33% of which is rock solid. That support will no doubt turn out for him in November. I’d remind you that he got only 28% or thereabouts in 2016. Biden is a joke and probably won’t get a large percentage of Sanders supporters, most of whom loathe Biden and feel betrayed by Bernies craven endorsement of him. If Bunker Boy still has his base when these riots stop, he will walk it in November, unless some independent like Jesse Ventura runs.

  38. Phil

    Biden will imho not be the Democratic nominee. They will dump him at the convention or earlier.. Andrew Coumo has been talking up a storm of late and makes both Trump and Biden look like special needs head cases. I will take bets, they will dump Trump on medical grounds. A few Republicans in other states have resigned and joined the Democrats. These riots may get worse, a lot of people have come to the realization the US economy is rooted. Depending on your source, I have seen a possible unemployment rate at 25% and thousands of people have not yet received a penny yet, from the government. ‘ This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Winston Churchill. If the US starts massing an armada in the South China Sea all bets are off.

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