Xi Jinping has finally called Joe Biden to congratulate him for his victory. However, before the President-elect takes the reins, China is trying to assert its dominance in Asia-Pacific. First, by imposing “temporary anti-dumping duties” of up to 212 percent on Australian wine. This is a blow for Australia, with 39 per-cent of its wine shipments in the first nine months of 2020 being destined to China. The Chinese government also did not authorise more than 50 Australian ships to unload their coal in Chinese ports, in a commercial battle that has been going on for months. Secondly, Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of China, visited Tokyo and Seoul to strengthen ties with both of the traditional US allies. In South Korea, he spoke of the need to leave the fate of the peninsula in the hands of Koreans, with China taking a “constructive role”. Korean president Moon argued that his country hopes to put a formal end to the war and build a peaceful future with its neighbours. Finally, Xi has pledged to build a “Digital Silk Road” with ASEAN’s countries.
Despite China’s assertiveness in its neighbourhood, it is also facing retaliation by the US and India. President Trump is expected to declare 89 companies with ties to Chinese military excluded from buying a range of US goods and technology. This would affect the production of a home-grown passenger jet by the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China. And India has blocked more than 200 Chinese apps in their market, with another 43 added to the list this week.
At the same time, a third wave of the pandemic seems to be hitting the region. While China argues that the virus did not originate in the country (after the publication of a controversial paper by an Italian team), Indonesia has surpassed the mark of half a million cases. South Korea reports more than 500 contagions for the third consecutive day, with growing fears of a shortage of hospital beds, and the Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, is hinting towards a delay of the election which was planned for January. On the face of this third wave, countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines or Thailand have started securing doses of different vaccines to cover at least 20 percent of their population.