May 16th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Basin inquiry raises more unanswered questions

EDITORIAL Rebuilding industry won't just happen: here's what's needed

CANBERRA OBSERVED Regret over our rushed marriage to China

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Giving back from the top

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Crucial to get Virgin Australia flying again

REFLECTION The ridiculous attack on reason

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell: The story of a targeted assassination

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS The China bear in the global living room

FAMILY 'Coronaschooling'

ECONOMICS Looking back for the purposes of going forward

POLITICS The willy-nilly manufacture of rights

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY 'The hours have lost their clock'

HUMOUR A tribute to Bond Stott, late of BC/AD

MUSIC Punk is defunct: Long live de funk

LOCKDOWN CINEMA CLASSIC A journey through Death's dark kingdom: The Masque of the Red Death






ROYAL COMMISSION Hatchet job on Cardinal Pell breached basic principle of fairness

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Regret over our rushed marriage to China

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, May 16, 2020

Australia’s symbiotic relationship with China has seen tremendous growth over the past few decades, but it also has come at a great price to our economic independence.

The fortunes of our universities, our resources sector through to our tourism, agricultural and real estate industries, have been tied to China’s growth and goodwill.

It has been an easy ride to hitch onto the coat tails of what has arguably been the greatest and most rapid economic revolution the world has ever seen.

The institutes named for Confucius might
more accurately be named for his compatriot
Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War.

At the same time, many of our universities have not only debased their academic independence in their headlong embrace of Chinese student fees, but by accommodating Confucius Institutes have reduced the attractiveness of why Chinese students would want to come to places like Australia in the first place – to gain a deeper understanding of Western science and medicine, Western culture and civilisation.

Uneasiness has grown internationally about the true purpose of the Confucius Institutes and some countries have expressed concerns about the institutes acting as centres of surveillance of fellow students and of Chinese state censorship of certain topics and perspectives in course materials on political grounds, and of hiring practices that take political loyalty into consideration. Sweden indeed has closed its institutes down and the United States in 2019 passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which forces schools to choose between keeping their Confucius Institutes or receiving language program funding from the U.S. Defence Department. As a result of the act, at least 22 Confucius Institutes have closed there.

In a similar vein we have been prepared to turn a blind eye to Communist China’s human rights abuses, its suppression of religion and, to a large extent, its creeping influence throughout our region.

Conversely, we have been happy to forgo any semblance of a local manufacturing industry because it has been so much easier to import cheap goods from China, whose currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar and where wages remain extremely low by international standards.

But the covid19 epidemic, and the consequent economic catastrophe it has caused, has brought home some of the realities of this multifaceted relationship.

That Australia had the temerity (along with the United States) to call for an independent investigation into the source of the virus that has killed a quarter of a million people has really gotten under China’s skin. Other nations have not been so bold or have chosen to wait for things to settle to urge such an inquiry.

China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, told The Australian Financial Review: “I think in the long term … if the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think, ‘Why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China?’ The tourists may have second thoughts. The parents of the students would also think whether this place which they found is not so friendly, even hostile, whether this is the best place to send their kids here. It is up to the people to decide.

“Maybe the ordinary people will say, ‘Why should we drink Australian wine? Eat Australian beef?’”

And then there was this bombshell, from Global Times editor Hu Xijin, on Weibo: “Australia is always there, making trouble. It is a bit like chewing gum stuck on the sole of China’s shoes. Sometimes you have to find a stone to rub it off.” Global Times is state controlled.

Such threatening language shows that China is prepared to use its economic power to bring Australia into line, though there are varying interpretations of this aggressive posturing from China.

One interpretation is that China is finally showing its true self as a superpower that will, when it deems it necessary, be prepared to flex its muscles.

Another is that China is actually frightened of the consequences of its miscalculation over the covid19 outbreak. If it be proved that the virus originated in the Wuhan lab, and there is growing chatter from security agencies that it did, the international reputational damage to China will be incalculable, undercutting its ambition to be seen as a modern, advanced society.

Australia actually has no choice but to forge its own path, continue to trade with China where it is mutually beneficial, but to acknowledge that being dependent on one large neighbour is a recipe for disaster.

The answer is to bring manufacturing home, to develop sovereign industrial capacity, to encourage trade with other countries in order to broaden our customers, and to make our universities independent once more.

To do so is not “anti-Chinese”. Recall that Australia once had a great dependency on Britain for much of our agricultural products, but that Britain itself abandoned us for the European community forcing us to look elsewhere for trading partners.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm