By Kate Ritchie
Forty years ago this year China started its remarkable Opening Up under Deng Xiaoping. What a ride we have borne witness to. There will never be another like it. Australia has been a remarkable beneficiary of China’s transformation. Since the early 90s, we have not experienced a recession, and a major factor in this has been China. Australians are richer in many ways because of China.
It is 200 years this year since the first Chinese man arrived on our shores. We have a society greatly enhanced by China, by Chinese migration and Chinese investment; we have many, many engagements between our countries and peoples. That is why it is disappointing to read the daily negative press about China. China is being portrayed as a bad guy and that is impacting our relationship and our future.
If we look back again: eighty years ago Japan was occupying our newsprint as we feared for our sovereignty and security. Ms Honae Cuffe1 writes about similar geopolitical issues in the 1930s with Britain’s power waning and the growing might of Japan which led Australia to put a brake on Japanese investment, an embargo on iron ore exports and, together with other countries, economic measures deprived Japan of a means of survival and brought on the Pacific War.
I’m not suggesting that war is likely to break out, but with the US losing influence and interest, Australia needs to step up and fill the void, build new relationships and mend fences with our most important trading partner – China.
Bob Carr recently said ‘flamboyantly anti-China’2 rhetoric was leaving us unable to fully engage with China. He reminded of the China-Australia FTA and the privileged access granted to Australia in 2015 but now finding us running the risk of being sidelined. Instead of keeping the lines of communication open and being able to speak frankly, he says that anti-China panic is consuming us and our media.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye, in a recent speech to the ACBC, underlined the value of communication: “The continued tension in political relations between the two countries has had many negative effects on economic cooperation between the two countries. China values China-Australia relations and is willing to communicate with Australia on how to improve relations between the two countries.” And, he suggested how to overcome the Cold War mentality … “to add constant understanding and respect in the search for mutual benefits.” The idea of win-win and mutual benefits is keenly felt by China. This is a strong plea to open the lines of communication.
A good example of a win-win is when the Abbott government signed up to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank after China agreed to comply with best practice governance and transparency (Fin Review 3 July 2018). Open communication means we can speak frankly – but in the right place – and we need to start listening too and focus our minds on actions which can bring us back to the table and deliver that win-win.
Improvements are needed on both sides. Former Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Fu Ying, recently said China needed to get better and faster at explaining its behavior to the world. “The world has expectations for China’s role, but there are also concerns. Chinese seems to lack the initiative to explain their habits and experience,” she wrote (Kirsty Needham, Sydney Morning Herald 19 July 2018).
While tensions are playing out in the media, business and engagement go on every day in both countries. Chin Communications has just supported the nineteenth Dairy Australia Scholarship Program (Dairy Australia Scholarship – Greater China Program 2018) with a group of visiting Chinese dairy experts here to learn about our dairy industry; Victoria has the Asia Gateway Program supporting exporters in Victoria and the greatest representation in China of any government; numbers of tourists and students from China are growing strongly and there are many success stories of Australian businesses doing great work with China. Difficult times can bring new opportunities. Let’s move the dialogue to focus on the positives and China’s overwhelming contribution to our lives.
Deflecta Crete Seals is a wholly owned Australian family company supplying specialist concrete protection products. Strong R&D has resulted in a world first product developed in Australia – DEFLECTA ANTIMICROBIAL®.
Their products focus on bacteria and moisture control are used in the health, construction, agriculture, and food processing sectors. Deflecta approached the Chinese market in 2006, building relationships and learning Chinese ways. With commitment and patience they carried out trials of products at many different sites and developed new products for the market. Deflecta has exported some 670,000m2 of concrete protection products to China and is now starting to see the benefits of good communication and relationship building on projects as far flung as Chengdu where the Yang Guofu Hotpot project will be officially opened in September.
Stay tuned for many celebrations of Chinese Australians 200 years – https://chinesemuseum.com.au/ Wearing your heart on your sleeve – an evolution of Chinese Australian identity, Deakin University Art Gallery from 25 July to 26 August
1.*Honae Cuffe, the Conversation, Fears about China’s Influence are a rerun of attitudes to Japan 80 years ago; https://theconversation.com/fears-about-chinas-influence-are-a-rerun-of-attitudes-to-japan-80-years-ago-98387
2.Bob Carr, Get-tough rhetoric has denied us any sway with Beijing, Financial Review 10 July 2018 https://www.afr.com/opinion/columnists/gettough-rhetoric-has-denied-us-any-sway-with-beijing-20180710-h12h6w