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Rapidly Deteriorating China-Australia Ties Provides a Sobering Lesson For African Countries

File image of an Australian iron ore mine. Australia's mining exports may become the next targets in the country's worsening trade dispute with China. AMY COOPES / AFP FILES / AFP

There’s an old Chinese idiom that says “kill a chicken to scare the monkey” (殺雞儆猴). According to the folktale, there was a street performer who made a lot of money from a dancing monkey. One day, that monkey, however, didn’t want to perform. The owner became very angry and went to get a live chicken that he then proceeded to kill in front of the monkey. The monkey resumed dancing at once and never protested again.

A similar dynamic is playing out today between China and Australia. It provides a potent lesson for other countries who, like Australia, depend on China for the bulk of its trade. Relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating for years over a number of issues but hit a new low last spring when Canberra crossed one of China’s proverbial red lines when it called for an independent investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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