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While global awareness of Beijing’s malign influence is on the rise, America lags behind in recognizing and countering the threat, analysts say

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gave the United States two lists when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited the megacity of Tianjin in July. One was “a list of U.S. wrongdoings that must stop”; the other, “a list of key individual cases that China has concerns with.” Together, they urged the U.S. government to reverse a slew of China-related policies.

Following the senior CCP officials’ reprimand of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Alaska in March, the lists sounded like an ultimatum.

Items on the “wrongdoings” list included investigations into the origins of COVID-19, visa restrictions on CCP members, and sanctions on CCP leaders. The indictment of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was in Canada fighting extradition to the United States, was also cited in the “wrongdoings” list. Meng later reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors and was allowed to return to China in late September.

At a press conference a few days after Meng’s release, the regime’s foreign affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying mentioned the two lists again when asked about Beijing’s response to the United States’ China policies. “We hope the U.S. can attach high importance and take concrete actions to empty the two lists,” Hua said.

The two lists didn’t get much media attention in the United States—a Google search in October resulted in fewer than five media articles.

Yet when the CCP issued a similar ultimatum to Australia—a list of 14 grievances, including some against Australia’s key policies—the nation roared back.

Following Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the pandemic origins in April 2020, Beijing has imposed a series of trade restrictions targeting major Australian imports, including coal, beef, barley, and wine. Collectively, these targeted exports to China were worth about $25 billion in 2019, or 1.3 percent of Australia’s gross domestic product, according to The Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank.

The Aussies, however, didn’t bow down. “Australia will always be ourselves,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an interview in November 2020. “We will always set our own laws and our own rules according to our national interests—not at the behest of any other nation, whether that’s the U.S. or China or anyone else.”

This response drew broad-based support, according to John Lee, a senior fellow at Washington-based think tank Hudson Institute and former Australian national security adviser.

“The people and even the media are right behind the fairly tough stance that the Australian government has taken against China,” Lee said during a Hudson Institute podcast in August.

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