In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing: “The label of ‘economic coercion’ cannot be pinned on China. All attempts to gang up with others to distort the facts and resort to malicious hype are doomed to failure.

He claimed Beijing’s trade bans on Australian products were in line with World Trade Organization rules. Last year, Canberra took action at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against punitive tariffs imposed by China on Australian wine and barley. Such cases usually take years to reach a decision.

Other Chinese trade bans against Australia are not officially declared by Beijing and are applied informally and opaquely, making it difficult to test them at the WTO.

Dr Jaishankar stressed that the Quad nations have come together ‘because we have a shared worldview and converging interests’ and ‘not because we have any particular immediate anxiety’.

His agenda was positive, not negative, he said. Most immediate was the group’s commitment to provide one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to poor countries in the region by the end of the year, of which half a billion have been provided so far.

Yet Dr Jaishankar also blamed Beijing for violating agreements covering border disputes on land and sea: “At this time, my great concern after 45 years of relatively stable, even peaceful, relations on the border with China is that two years ago, for reasons still not clear to us and not credibly explained to us, China moved a very large force to the border.


“We had agreements for the past 20 years that neither country would bring large forces to the border. Unfortunately, we had a very serious consequence. People were killed. Both sides clashed in 2020.

India reported the death of 20 of its soldiers and the loss of at least 45 Chinese soldiers. China reported the deaths of four of its soldiers.

Dr Jaishankar said that despite ongoing talks, “the two armies are very close, which is a very difficult situation.”

He also said countries that have signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should submit to the rulings of its arbitration bodies, as India and Bangladesh have done. This implicitly criticizes Beijing for ignoring an arbitration ruling that China has no legal basis for its claims to maritime territories also claimed by the Philippines.

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