The strain to China and Australia’s relationship started when China refused to pull down a tweet containing a doctored image of an Australian soldier with a bloody knife, seemingly to have murdered an Afghan child. The photo was uploaded on Twitter by the then Chinese Foreign Minister Lijian Zhao and sparked fury from the Prime Minister of Australia; Scott Morrison (Henry (2020).  According to Henry(2020) Morrison also stated and described the photo as repugnant, utterly outrageous and falsified.

The relationship between Australia and China worsened significantly, with China introducing economic restrictions on Australian goods in addition to the myriad of attacks by the Chinese media pertaining various issues according to Giesecke (2020) In addition to that, China was previously accused by Australia for human rights violations for decades, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang(David (2020).

The tweet of the doctored image is one of many examples of China’s aggressive communication against foreign countries, which experts refer to as “wolf warrior” diplomacy. According to Shih and Wei (2020) Wolf Warrior and Wolf Warrior 2 are Chinese action blockbusters movies. Wolf Warrior diplomacy in a nutshell is a confrontational way in which the diplomats defend China’s national interests. Both movies showcase how Chinese special operation forces uplifted China’s national pride and patriotism thus, deriving similarity with the attack on Twitter, (Shih and Wei 2020). Shih and Wei(2020) added that the image was published during a sensitive time where the Australia government launched an investigation into allegations that its elite forces killed 39 citizens and prisoners in Afghanistan.

According to Shanapinda (2019), this turmoil between the countries worsened in 2019 when Australia excluded Chinese company Huawei from supplying technology for Australia’s 5G networks and this happened during the time where Australia took the lead role in lobbying its Five Eyes partners. It was also mentioned by Tommy (2020) that Australia was the first country to ban Huawei.

As if excluding Huawei was not seen as a hostile intent enough, Australia also lobbied others to follow suit. Hendrischke and Li (2019). However, Giesecke (2020) stated that the main factor Canberra officials excluded Huawei remains unknown. Beijing was enraged when this happened.

Meanwhile, according to Davis (2020) the tipping point was when Australia decided to prevent foreign political donations in addition to rumoured attempts by China to influence political process in Canberra.

Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison volunteered to lead the charge in investigating China’s responsibility for the outbreak of COVID-19 that started in the city of Wuhan in late 2019. However, the reason Morrison is directly participating and taking charge in the investigation also remains blurry stated Tommy (2020).

Another instance of this broken relationship is when Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg decided to prevent Mengniu Dairy, a Hong Kong Listed company from taking over Lion Dairy and Drinks which is Japanese owned in a 600 million acquisition deal.

There is no sign that the feud between these two countries will come to an end. However, as an ally to USA, and with newly elected president Joe Biden, the relationship between China and USA will indefinitely improve and resulting in a ripple effect that might positively influence a “treaty” between Australia and China.


  1. Davis, M. J. (2020). Australia and China: Framing an Ambivalent Relationship. Asian Studies Review, 1–19.
  2. Shanapinda, S. 2019. “Blocking Huawei from Australia Means Slower and Delayed 5G – and For What?” The Conversation, May 23,
  3. Li, W., & Hendrischke, H. (2019). Chinese Outbound Investment in Australia: From State Control to Entrepreneurship. The China Quarterly, 1–36.
  4. Hundt, D,. (2020) The changing role of the FIRB and the politics of foreign investment in Australia, Australian Journal of Political Science, 55:3, 328-343
  5. Wei Shi & Shih-Diing Liu (2020) Pride as structure of feeling: Wolf Warrior II and the national subject of the Chinese Dream, Chinese Journal of Communication, 13:3, 329-343
  6. Henry, I. D., (2020). Adapt or atrophy? The Australia-U.S. Alliance in an age of power transition. Contemporary Politics, 1–18.
  7. Sheng, T. H. C., (2020) How China attempts to drive a wedge in the U.S.-Australia alliance, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 74:5, 511-531,
  8. Giesecke, J. A., Tran, N. H., & Waschik, R. (2020). Should Australia be Concerned by Beijing’s Trade Threats: Modelling the Economic Costs of Restrictions on Imports of Australian Coal. Centre of Policy Studies Working Paper No. G-310, Victoria University, 3.

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