March 9th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Commissioner Hayne offers banking stimulus

EDITORIAL Beijing's warning shot hits our soft economic underbelly

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coal ban just one front in Beijing's war on everyone

RURAL AFFAIRS Activist groups harass farmers while claiming tax-exempt status

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION Dealing with disaster back into the too-hard basket

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Why Hungary and Poland rile the EU

RELIGION AND POLITICS Christians resolve to raise their voices in the public square

GENDER POLITICS Another freedom bites the dust under Daniel Andrews

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of 'Liberalism'

CHINA Thank you for your service, soft power; sharp power will take it from here

SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY Fermi's Paradox: Is Big Alien watching you?

MUSIC Perpetual vibe: From medium to media

CINEMA At Eternity's Gate: Impressions of Vincent

BOOK REVIEW Balanced account after the hysteria

BOOK REVIEW Golden Age for workers and its end



SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

THE CARDINAL PELL CASE: Triumphalism over Pell verdict shows civilisation just a veneer


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Coal ban just one front in Beijing's war on everyone

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, March 9, 2019

The decision by Beijing to block Australian coal ships at some of its ports is a concerning sign – of the present state of relations between the two countries but also of possible things to come for our economy as an increasingly emboldened China seeks to flex its muscles at lack of cooperation from key trading partners.

The Beijing coal scuttle.

It is no secret that China has been growing more frustrated with Australia in recent times, though it is not easy to pinpoint exactly what triggered the decision to make Australian coal ships sit idle waiting to unload coal outside several Chinese ports for a minimum of 40 days.

China says the decision is based on “environmental checks”.

However, the real reason could be any­thing from the rejection of billionaire donor businessman Huang Xiangmo from becoming an Australian citizen, the blocking of phone giant Huawei from establishing a super-fast mobile network in Australia (a decision described by the Chinese Communist Party’s China Daily newspaper as “poisonous to bilateral relations”), to new Australian laws aimed at cracking down on “foreign” interference.

The ban on Huawei was, in fact, the most comprehensive security ban of Huawei to date among the group of countries with which Australia shares intelligence: Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom (the group known as the Five Eyes).

Australia has also recently clamped down on Chinese investors in the property market, leaving many would-be long-term investors stranded and forcing the sales of others under tougher foreign investment rules.

Coinciding with these largely unrelated issues was a prominent hack of Australia’s Parliament and major poli­tical parties, which security agencies described as the work of an unnamed “sophisticated state actor”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not name the country concerned in Parliament but spokespeople for Beijing described media speculation that it may indeed have been responsible, as “irresponsible” and “baseless”.

Foreign cyber attacks against individual politicians and media organisations are becoming more frequent and are a growing concern for security agencies in all countries. Cyber attacks also have the potential to wreak real havoc, bringing down utility and telecommunication networks.

Russia and China are increasingly brazen about their ability to deploy cyber attacks while seeking to protect their own citizens by creating sophisticated firewalls to block material from foreign countries.

To cite one example, China slapped a ban on the ABC website last year, blocking it from Chinese servers.

The Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan described the cyber attack on the Liberal, Labor and National parties as “the shape of things to come”. “Cyber-aggression is going to become more salient, hostile and consequential,” he said.

Sheridan has also warned that Beijing and Moscow have put aside decades-long suspicions of each other and have entered into a de facto strategic military and political alliance; one that not only has a common adversary and a shared national interest, but also a shared ideology.

“For decades, those trying to predict the trajectory of Chinese power took some solace in the notion that Beijing was a ‘lonely’ superpower, without any allies beyond North Korea,” Sheridan wrote.

 “This is no longer the case. Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and lesser autocrats are politically self-confident, unapologetic about human rights abuses, increasingly brazen in defying former international norms, and find themselves in general agreement as they attempt to diminish U.S. influence and establish strategic dominance in their respective spheres of influence.”

The Coalition Government has adopted something of a line-in-the-sand stance with Beijing, arguing that it must protect its national interests while also maintaining good relations with China, on which Australia has become so reliant as a trading partner, and a source of students and tourists.

The Labor Party’s attitude to China is less clear.

On national security, Bill Shorten always proclaims to be in lock-step with the Coalition and has been supportive of the Coalition Government’s efforts to lift relations with Pacific nations as a counter to China’s growing influence in the region.

On the other hand, the unilateral decision of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during an election campaign to sign his state up to the “One Belt, One Road” initiative against the policy of the Australian Government was one of the most irresponsible actions of any government in a long time.

The real flashpoints ahead include the disputed waters of the South China Sea, cooperation or lack thereof with the Belt and Road Initiative, and how Australia will sit in the growing trade standoff bet­ween China and the United States.

Sadly, there are plenty in the Labor Party who think a total ban on our coal exports would be an excellent thing (for the planet’s temperature, anyway). But, in reality, it would be catastrophic for our economy.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm