2020

Australia bans travellers from China

01 February

Australia was one of the first countries to impose travel ban from the entire mainland China. Foreigners from China were banned from entering Australia, while Australians were quarantined on Christmas Island. Australia claimed its approach was based on Chinese government's lack of transparency in reporting COVID cases. Beijing called it an "overreaction", pointing to the WHO advice against travel bans. more

Zero screening thresholds for all foreign investments

29 March

The Australian Government is screening all foreign investment regardless of value or purchaser, amidst concerns that Australian companies vulnerable to COVID could be targeted for takeover by Chinese companies. Previously, acquisitions by non-state-owned companies below a certain threshold is not subject to screening. Questions were raised as to whether Australia is in breach of its various FTAs. more

Reports that Chinese companies sending medical supplies to China in February

31 March

Several major Australian news outlets reported 'whistleblower' evidence that Chinese-owned companies were exporting medical supplies to China in February, when China was in a full-blown pandemic and Australia has not yet experienced the same. However, this was only reported at the end of March, when Australia was in the middle of a pandemic. This gave the impression that Chinese companies and individuals were illictly exporting equipment to China, while Australia was facing shortages. There was also debunked reports that Chinese-looking groups were buying up supplies at regional supermarkets. more

Calls for an inquiry into the origin of COVID

19 April

The Foreign Minister called for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID. Later, the Prime Minister added that WHO should have weapon inspector powers, alluding to the debate preceding the invasion of Iraq. The resolution that subsequently passed the WHO was initiated by the EU, supported by China, and substantially different from what Australia had proposed. more

China warning on trade consequences

26 April

In an interview, the Chinese Ambassador denounced Australia's call for an independent inquiry. He indicated that anti-Australian sentiment could affect consumer products, such as education, wine and beef. The Foreign Minister responded by warning China against engaging in economic coercion. more

China’s trade action against Australian barley and beef

11 May

China imposed tariffs on Australian barley, citing anti-dumping claims. Additionally, it also suspended imports from several Australian abbatoirs. However, subsequent trade actions indicate this is unlikely a simple trade dispute, but more likely a political response. more

Australia releases a joint statement on HK with Canada, UK and US

28 May

Australia, Canada, UK and US published a joint statement condemning the national security law in Hong Kong. Chinese media accuses Australia of following the US and acting against China's interests. more

Foreign investment reform focusing on national security

05 June

Australia tightened the foreign investment framework. Key reforms are a new category of businesses called "sensitive national security business" that are subject to a lower screening threshold, and new powers including "call in" and "last resort review". more

ASIO raid of a NSW MP, his staffer, and Chinese journalists

26 June

ASIO raided the homes of NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane and his staffer John Zhang, as part of an investigation into foreign interference. The raid was captured by media after a tip-off. Mr Moselmane has expressed positive views of China, including praising its government. ASIO also raided Chinese journalists, but this was only revealed in September, after Australian journalists were rushed out of China. The reasons for the raid include their participation in a private chat group. more

Australia takes position on South China Sea

23 July

Australia broke its previous silence on the South China Sea issue, calling for Beijing to respect the ruling of the 2016 decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. This occurred just before the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation. more

Cheng Lei detained

14 August

Cheng Lei, an Australian working as a business journalist for CGTN, has been detained. China later claimed it was for national security reasons. more

Mengniu’s takeover bid blocked

20 August

Mengniu's bid to purchase Lion Dairy, currently owned by a Japanese company, is blocked by the Treasurer as being contrary to the national interest. This is despite FIRB recommending approval of the sale. Some see this as an overly politicised decision, as the company has no strategic importance and is already foreign-owned. more

Foreign Relations Act proposed, targeting BRI

27 August

The Foreign Relations Act gives the federal government the power to invalidate any arrangement made by state and territory governments or universities. Shortly after the law took effect, the Government voided Victoria's Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative. Reports that Confucious Institutes may also be targeted. more

Two Australian journalists rushed out of China

08 September

Two Australian foreign correspondents based in China (ABC's Bill Birtles and AFR's Mike Smith) were flown out of China after a diplomatic standoff. They were threatened with exit bans and questioned about their knowledge of Cheng Lei and Haze Fan. After their departure, there are no Australian journalists working for Australian media left in China. more

Two Chinese academics’ visas revoked

09 September

Australia revoked the visas of two Chinese academics studying China: Chen Hong from East China Normal University and Li Jianjun from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Their visas were cancelled on security grounds. Shortly after, China banned Clive Hamilton and Alex Joske from entering China, labelling them "anti-China scholars". more

China restricts coal imports from Australia

12 October

In an unofficial ban on Australian coal, Chinese customs authorities reportedly directed state-owned steelmakers and power plants to stop imports of Australian coal. At the same time, some regions of China were facing winter power shortages. more

Senator asked Chinese Australians to condemn the Chinese Communist Party

13 October

During a senate committee hearing into Australia’s diaspora communities, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz asked the three Chinese-Australian witnesses to "unconditionally condemn the CCP". Senator Abetz only subjected Chinese-Australian witnesses to this treatment. more

More trade restrictions by China

02 November

China placed further restrictions on imports from Australia, including Queensland timber and Australian rock lobsters, citing "biosecurity". more

China’s 14 grievances

18 November

The Chinese Embassy handed a list of 14 grievances to several Australian news outlets. Top of the list was foreign investment decisions, followed by Huawei ban, foreign interference legislation, and revocation of visas for Chinese scholars. more

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson’s tweet prompted an emergency press conference

01 December

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian posted a computer-created image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child's throat. This came after the Brereton Report found evidence of 39 murders by members of Australian Defence Force during the War in Afghanistan. In response, The Prime Minister held an emergency press conference asking for an apology. more