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China is bracing for a stronger pushback from the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, as its members unite to tackle an increasingly assertive Beijing together, observers said.

Analysts said that with China and the alliance’s members clashing on a range of fronts – from the handling of the coronavirus pandemic to Hong Kong and 5G technology – there was a growing understanding within the Five Eyes that taking on China alone or one at a time would not work.

But the concerted efforts of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States has not gone unnoticed, with state media highlighting action taken by the group.

Signs of joint action emerged two years ago when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, at the request of the US.

The detention triggered a furious response from Beijing, which saw the move as an attempt by the neighbours to contain China’s technological rise. Within weeks, Beijing had arrested two Canadians on state security charges.

The US also slapped restrictions on technological and scientific exchanges with China, limiting visa applications to Chinese researchers. Tensions continued to rise this year as the coronavirus outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan erupted into a pandemic.

The US blamed China for allowing the pathogen to spread beyond its borders, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus. Beijing, in return, imposed tariffs on Australian barley, and warned its citizens and Chinese students not to go to Australia.

In the last month, the US and Britain have denounced Beijing’s decision to enact national security legislation for Hong Kong, with Britain saying the alliance would “share the burden” if Hongkongers wanted to leave the city.

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