If the United States is perceived as the indispensable country, China has more recently become the unignorable one. The days when China kept a “low profile,” to use Deng Xiaoping’s memorable phrase, are long gone. That is especially true of Australia, which last month was the target of a 14-point ultimatum from China (to use the most natural word for it) demanding that Australia make a series of changes to its own internal governance relations, refrain from lecturing China on human rights, and somehow prevent individual Australians from criticizing China, too. The media seems to want to skirt the obvious by calling it a “list of grievances,” but the Chinese embassy’s “if you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy” appears as a clear statement of hostility. China may not be invading Darwin anytime soon, but seems to have placed Australia squarely within its sphere of influence — if not yet within its empire.
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