Drinking Australian wine has become a gesture of support for Australia’s fight against China’s punitive sanctions, with politicians around the world calling on consumers to buy a bottle or two.

As part of a global campaign, Taiwan’s legislators gathered for a video clip, each holding a bottle of Australian wine supporting the country.

Chiu Yi-ying, a Democratic Progressive Party legislator who led the effort on December 2, said joining the “Freedom Wine” movement is a way to counter China’s economic coercion and signal a refusal to succumb to China’s bullying behavior.

The “Freedom Wine” movement is a Twitter campaign to encourage people to buy Australian wine.

Taiwan’s show of support follows the launch of the Taiwan-Australia Inter-Parliamentary Amity Association, essentially an Australia caucus in the Taiwanese parliament.

“Australia is an important country in Taiwan’s foreign relations,” said Tsai Chi-chang, deputy speaker of the Legislative Yuan. “They feel the same irrationality and unreasonableness from China as we do.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang described Taiwan and Australia as “natural partners” as both are democratic countries and uphold freedoms.

Joining the legislators, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted a picture of two bottles of Australian wine, saying “we stand in solidarity with #Australia by serving #FreedomWine at MOFA Taiwan.”

On December 5, Marilou McPhedran, a Canadian senator, said she is not only buying Australian wine but also Taiwanese products to show support for democracy.

An attack on national pride and identity

The international rally came after China imposed a new tariff of 107% to 212% on Australian wine in November, making the Chinese market “unviable” for exporters, according to Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.

China is Australia’s largest overseas wine buyer, accounting for 37% of Australia’s wine exports, worth more than US$800 million.

The new tariff is “completely incompatible” with China’s commitments under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement and through the World Trade Organization, Birmingham added.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it came to the decision after finding preliminary evidence of dumping that caused “substantial damage” to China’s domestic wine industry. Australia accused China of being unable to provide proof.

China’s latest move is seen as one of the many retaliations for Canberra’s call for an international investigation into the source of Covid-19. In May, China announced a tariff of up to 80% on Australian barley and banned beef imports from four Australian firms.

Beijing has been stepping up the deployment of “coercive diplomacy” against foreign countries and companies, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said in a report. Common tactics include trade sanctions, investment restrictions, tourism bans, and popular boycotts.

When it comes to sanctions, the researchers in the study said China tends to target exports that are important to the sense of identity of a foreign country. For example, in 2016, South Korean celebrities were banned from appearing on Chinese television after a dispute over the U.S. THAAD missile defense system.

This may well be the case in the restriction on Australian wine. As a survey pointed out, an overwhelming majority of Australians feel proud to serve locally made wine to their guests.


Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

Bottles of Australian wine are seen at a store selling imported wine in Beijing, China November 27, 2020.

Tensions between Australia and China rose further on November 30 after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted a fake photo of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked China to apologize for the “repugnant” tweet, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying blamed the deterioration of bilateral ties on Australia, saying the nation “took wrong measures on issues bearing on China’s core interests.”

“China’s economic offensive against Australia is partly designed to warn countries against vocally opposing Beijing’s interests,” Bloomberg reported.

But such effort is likely to backfire. “[I]n the real world, when you have such a situation,” said Malcolm Rifkind, former British foreign secretary, “your potential victims join up to ensure a collective and coordinated response.”

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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