I N THE EARLY 19th century, Chinese and Indian labourers in what is now Western Australia noted that the sweet-smelling logs being burned in the colony's fires were sandalwood—a valuable commodity in their native lands. By the 1870s Australian sandalwood was one of the colony's major exports, shipped from Perth to Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, where it was particularly prized. Trade between the nations continued from then on, with Australia providing a range of raw materials, but never at a particularly impressive rate. Then China's market reforms took off in the 1990s, and with them an unprecedented appetite for coal and ores of all sorts. By the 2010s China was Australia's biggest trading partner, a hungry buyer not just of bulk materials but of high-end seafood and beefy shiraz. For a long time Australia's political establishment ducked the need for a proper debate on the risks of basing the country's prosperity on trade with autocratic China and its security on an alliance with America. In the past couple of years Chinese high-handedness has made that contradiction harder to ignore or to tolerate. Late last year China laid out a set of 14 grievances that was striking in its… Read full this story
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