A few weeks ago MB highlighted the end of times for Tasmania’s iconic Cradle Mountain which is about to become “Tasmania World” for Chinese tourists. Apparently this is not a isolated phenomenon. Via Domainfax:
What’s happening in Tasmania? It’s hard to say but it’s happening awfully fast. In 2014, the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Hobart. Four years later, Hobart has the biggest Chinese population of any city in Australia other than Sydney and Melbourne.
…As a ratepayer of the Glamorgan/Spring Bay council on Tasmania’s east coast, I went from knowing absolutely nothing of the Chinese-funded Cambria mega-development proposed for Swansea to learning that the council was voting on the first stage of the process the following evening through a news story in the Hobart Mercury on April 23.
I have respect for Chinese culture and its great thinkers. The Book of Tao informed my youth. I have no fear of Australia becoming, in time, a predominantly Asian country if it has democratic values. I would vote for Penny Wong as prime minister. This is not an issue of race but it is, among other things, an issue of political culture, of two very different political cultures, one immensely more powerful and wealthy than the other, and what can happen when they meet behind closed doors.
As recently as last month, Australia was told by a senior Chinese official that “it must abandon traditional thinking and take off its coloured glasses”. What does that mean exactly? It seems necessary in this context to state two obvious facts. One, China is not a democracy. Two, it is a country we have indicated we may be prepared to go to war with in the event of conflict in the South China Sea.
…Australia’s policy towards China is a dangerous contradiction. I say to our politicians: you got us into this mess, you get us out of it. What is needed is an open debate about economic sovereignty, one that avoids racism. It can’t be ignored.
It is being ignored. To persist with the present mass immigration model of growth is to implicitly edge further into the Chinese sphere of influence. We can’t apply discriminatory immigration. That violates every principle of modern Australia. So we must wind back the entire program.
Yet even this is only one step towards securing the political economy against excessive influence by the Chinese dictator.
First, our economy must seek balance. To achieve that we will need a raft of new policies that aim to improve Australian competitiveness and get us out from under the commodity dependence. This is necessary anyway as China slows and changes and wants less dirt. We must reform energy, banking, and real estate to lower the currency, boost productivity and move from urbanisation growth drivers to tradables.
Second, we must engage strategically and diplomatically across our entire region. ASEAN is a natural partner to hedge Chinese influence. The Quadrilateral is also useful in bringing together allies. The US alliance must be constantly tended and revitalised. The Pacific must be treated as the good friend and partner that it is with significant aid and bilateral economic exchange, not the usual afterthought.
Third, Australian politics and society must be prepared and shielded to contain excessive Chinese Communist Party influence. This can easily be achieved via bans on foreign (or all) donations to political parties and the introduction of a federal ICAC. Society, too, is easy enough to protect if we have the will. There is no need, nor desire, for discrimination. We simply cut the permanent migration intake in half. It needs to be done anyway to take pressure off the east coast crush-loading. We should eschew both the cultural chauvinists of the Coalition and the “Asianising” influences within Labor. We are a multicultural democracy with liberal Anglophone roots. Let’s accept and protect it.
I agree o nothing with the former editor of The Australian, Chris Mitchell. Until now:
Analysts have suggested, wrongly, for decades that economic success will bring democracy to China, yet as recently as last week we saw an internet crackdown on attempts to flag the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989. I think Xi sits broadly within the traditions of both Confucianism and Leninist dictatorship. He will lead while ever the people prosper and his government will be as brutal in stamping out dissent as any former Soviet leadership. Local history too is worth looking at. How odd the NSW Labor right, the intellectual bulwark against communism that prevented NSW Labor from splitting in 1955 when the anti-communist, Catholic Democratic Labor Party split in Victoria and Queensland, should have thrown up so many critics of standing up against Chinese intimidation. Ironic too that many on the Labor left, which once played footsie with various communist tendencies, now fear the sort of foreign interference described in Charles Sturt University academic Clive Hamilton’s book Silent Invasion.
Even The Sydney Morning Herald, a critic of the Coalition’s continued alignment with the US, acknowledged in a piece by Nick O’Malley on June 2 that Labor’s position on China is confused.
This debate has created strange media bedfellows. News Corp columnist and Sky News host Andrew Bolt has praised Hamilton’s book and given him airtime, even though each has stridently criticised the other over their respective positions on climate change. The Fairfax papers and The Australian have criticised university publishing houses for refusing Silent Invasion, allegedly for fear of offending Chinese financial supporters of their universities.
The ABC devoted much reporting to Hamilton’s book, but its senior current affairs hosts favour the views of White and Carr over those of people like Sheridan who are more even-handed about how to deal with the challenges of a rising China. Fairfax has tended to let White be its main voice on China. The Australian has used University of NSW professor of international security Alan Dupont, Sheridan and editor-at-large Paul Kelly.
The intellectual policy debate is more nuanced than the media debate. Dupont accepts China could displace the US in the Asia-Pacific. But he gives Trump credit for stepping up pressure on China via trade, as well as boosting US defence spending.
Like White, he sees problems for Australia as China inevitably uses its economic power to force our hand on security and human rights issues. But unlike White, he does not write off the US this early. White believes China has already won in the region. Lowy Institute research shows US military power still heavily outweighs China’s, so I favour Dupont’s analysis, which is why I appointed him to this paper.
Discussing White’s latest Quarterly Essay, Without America, Kelly argued on November 29 last year, “The tedious mantra from progressives that Australia needs a more ‘independent’ foreign policy by distancing itself from the US and repositioning closer to China has long been devoid of realistic assessment about the consequences.” Anyone watching Paul Bongiorno on The Drum on ABC TV on June 5 will know what Kelly means.
Commenting on the blocking of trips to China from Carr’s think tank, Bongiorno, who was to participate in a trip paid for by the People’s Daily, said the Bennelong by-election and the framing of former Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s relationship with Chinese whom he asked to pay his bills was the real problem in the bilateral relationship. In fact, the ABC and the SMH reported the real facts on December 13. China had pumped out on social media platform WeChat a plea for Bennelong’s Chinese voters to oust the Coalition. Hence the foreign interference laws Labor and the Coalition agreed on last Thursday.
Australian newsrooms need to step up investigations of Chinese influence in land deals, funding of universities, political parties and think tanks, and attempts to intimidate Chinese expat students and Chinese citizens living here.
Damn right they do. The natural state of affairs between Australia and China as they are is one of tension. That doesn’t mean we can’t be pragmatic and friendly trading partners. Of course we can. But the period of calm we’ve enjoyed for a decade was a paid-for illusion during which we took the bribe and pretended it wouldn’t come with costs. It does. It jeopardises our democracy. It is finished. Let’s not bring it back.
Instead, let’s deal with things as they are so we don’t wake in fright one day to find the myriad children of the Lucky Country are born into something altogether less young and free.