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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/AFP via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison demanded an apology and said China’s government should be "utterly ashamed" after a senior official tweeted a doctored image showing an Australian soldier killing an Afghan child.

Background: The tweet referred to a recent inspector general's report about war crimes allegedly committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. But the hawkish messages from China toward Australia didn’t start there.

  • China has placed tariffs on key Australian exports like wine in response to what it claims are hostile policies from Canberra.
  • Australia’s primary offense appears to have been a call for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, but China has listed 13 other grievances. They include the exclusion of Huawei from Australia’s 5G networks and critical press coverage of China.

Why it matters: Australia is deeply reliant on trade with China. So are many countries around the world who will see this as a reminder from Beijing to toe the line.

  • The hardline approach isn’t winning China any fans in Australia. Trust in China to “act responsibly in the world” has fallen to 23% from 52% over two years, per the Lowy Institute.

Go deeper

Jan 19, 2021 - Health

WHO warns of "catastrophic moral failure" over coronavirus vaccine access

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Monday the world is "on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure" because of unequal COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Why it matters: Tedros noted during an executive session that 39 million vaccine doses had been administered in 49 higher-income countries, while one lowest-income nation had "just 25 doses."

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."