NüVoices Podcast #55: Unraveling Australia-China relations, with Natasha Kassam

“China is angry. If you make China the enemy, China will be the enemy,” a Chinese Embassy official told Australian reporter Jonathan Kearsley at a meeting in late 2020. Kearsley wrote that the comment seemed like the strongest public indication from the embassy of how “toxic” the relationship had become between China and Australia. In the last year, the Chinese government has suspended beef and cotton imports from Australia, slapped an 80% tariff on Australian barley, and instructed Chinese students and tourists not to travel to Australia.

But Australia used to be one of the strongest supporters of forging closer ties with China. NüVoices chair Joanna Chiu, author of the new book China Unbound on Beijing’s deteriorating global relations with Western countries, chats with former Australian diplomat Natasha Kassam on how Australia-China relations has hit such a low point and why diplomatic tensions seem to have impacted Australians of Chinese heritage the most.

Kassam is the director of the Lowy Institute’s Public Opinion and Foreign Policy Program, researching Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy, China’s domestic politics, Taiwan, and Australia-China relations. Before joining the Lowy Institute, Kassam was responsible for government policy on human rights and legal issues in China, and drafted the Australian government’s 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper.


Natasha: The new book The Beijing Bureau; also, the Lowy Institute’s interactive survey feature on experiences of Chinese-Australian communities where one in five said they were physically threatened or attacked because of their Chinese background in the previous year.

Joanna: An essay by Bobo Lo, Global Order in the Shadow of the Coronavirus.