Via our Paul:
During 2016-18 Australia underwent a necessary awakening about China. It was a worldwide phenomenon but also a particular Australian event. This is because more than any other Western nation Australia was the beneficiary of the post-2003 China boom and, as a consequence, became fixated on the need to prove an assertive China could not hold us hostage.
We have now made this point, over and over. Our attitude towards China must transcend a reoccurring cycle of “you cannot intimidate us” based on endless examples of Beijing’s infringements. It would be a mistake to “fix” relations by selling out to Beijing; but it is an equal mistake to offer nothing and make no effort to “fix” relations for fear of looking as if we have sold out.
…The second myth is that our massive resources trade is safe from Beijing’s retaliation. Why is this so? China now invests in alternative sources of iron ore. Yet we assume Beijing won’t act against our coal, liquefied natural gas or iron ore because that would hurt China. This answer is too short-term when China thinks long term; witness its 2025 Made in China strategy of self-sufficiency in core technology.
Does anybody doubt China wants to reduce its dependence on Australian imports? Yet the people who keep pointing out that China is an authoritarian, ideologically bound, one-party state are often the same people saying when it comes to the resources trade China will act as an economically rational liberal state, thinking only of price competitiveness. Have no doubt, if the downward spiral continues, Australia has stacks of treasure yet to lose. Resources will come into play.
And if you think relations between Western Australia and the rest of the country are strained now, you cannot imagine the fracture that will enter our federation at that point. China has thrown out the rule book this year; it has engaged in retaliations once merely the subject of university seminars — witness barley, beef, wine and media among others. And Australia doesn’t know what’s coming next.
The third myth is that because the rupture in relations is not primarily Australia’s fault but stems from China’s own actions that we have little or no discretionary capacity in this situation.
In this new normal Australian policy needs to rebalance. We need to give greater priority to where Canberra and Beijing can work together, not just assume we become permanent adversaries. This must start with the renewal of economic, trade and tourism ties in the post-COVID-19 world where substantial mutual interest still exists.
Sure, we can be friends. The CCP has made it abundantly clear what that requires of us: the end of ANZUS in all but name, controlling inference in Canberra, corrupted universities, bribed pollies, a business elite turned white-collar fifth column insurgency and a corralled ethic diaspora risking our social fabric.
That is the CCP. There is no other. All we have done is open the roof and let sunshine illuminate relations with it. Bejing has hissed like a scorched vampire in response, which tells us all we need to know about subtlety.
Thus, the only myth being spun here is by Paul Kelly; the line that we can have the billions without the bastards. How naive is that?
And stop the fear-mongering, Paul. An Aussie resource exports decline can be handled. LNG is no issue. If it falls then we’ll be better off as the local gas cartel (that Paul never writes about) is crushed. Coal is doomed anyway. Iron ore will be fine and will decline as China slows through this decade regardless. Other, and all, commodities are fungible and will recover as China displaces supply with its choices. The greater risk is students and tourists but an adjustment to a lower Australian dollar fixes that as well. It fixes most of it to be truthful.
We could also do ourselves huge favours along the way if we were to follow the dictums of a book called The End of Certainty, by some forgotten patriot. You know, productivity reform and all of that.
But be friends? 94% of Australians have seen what that handshake offers and have sagely concluded “no thanks”:
If you want more China, Paul, then take a junket, perhaps with Hugh White as your guide, but leave the rest of us out if it.