Australia risks backsliding into a poor country in Asia Pacific
By Yu Lei Source: Global Times
Published: 2020/8/31 23:57:2850
There are few signs that Australia intends to stop provoking China, or to attempt to ease escalating tensions. Instead, its insistence on continuing along the US’ lose-lose path toward decoupling will undoubtedly cause huge damage to its already severely injured economy.
In its latest move, legislation endorsed by the Morrison government will reportedly put the state of Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative agreement at great risk. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “not aimed at China” clarification seems more like a “nothing up my sleeve” approach.
After a noticeable downturn in China-Australia relations since 2017, bilateral ties have deteriorated even further this year. The Australian side has made several unprovoked attacks in normal economic exchanges with China, and even against Chinese students. The momentum of trade liberalization, investment facilitation, economic complementarity and normalization of cultural exchanges has come to an abrupt end.
The reason that China-Australia ties have experienced rapid development in the past few decades has not been because China intended to “control Australia,” but because there are too many people that wish to do business with each other on both sides. Similarly, the rapid increase in bilateral investments is not because China wanted to “occupy” Australia, but because many businesspeople see vast potential for cooperation.
Under the dual injuries of trade protectionism and the COVID-19 pandemic, China has nevertheless taken the lead in the fight against the virus and post-pandemic economic recovery. This speaks to China’s determination to deepen reform, expand opening-up and promote new technology applications such as 5G and digital currency. Especially through acceleration of the development of Hainan’s free trade port and the Greater Bay Area and Yangtze River Delta.
China’s approach has effectively contained the virus’ impacts on China’s economy, which may make China the only major economy that can achieve positive growth this year. International economic institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have predicted that China will achieve about 8 percent growth in 2021.
Facts speak louder than words. Some Australian politicians’ intent to decouple from China economically – to use the Chinese market but reject all Chinese products and investments in a bid to contain China’s economic development – is absurd. This will only hurt Australia’s national interests and people’s wellbeing.
If decoupled from Australia, it won’t be difficult for Chinese products and investments to find new markets and investment destinations. However, it won’t be so easy for Australia to find a comparably large export market, or a supply of high-quality and cheap imported goods, or a strong group of investors to replace China’s.
As Australia suffers soaring unemployment, an old and worn-out railway system, a network speed far slower than other Asian countries’ and halted development plans, the Australian people may start to recall former Prime Minister John Howard’s encouragement of Western leaders to “welcome rise of China.”
Indeed, further decoupling with China will not send China back to poverty, but will only make former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s famous statement more likely to come true: that if Australia doesn’t open up its economy and reduce unemployment, it risks becoming the “poor white trash of Asia.”
If Canberra really wants to make its China policy in line with “Australia’s national interests,” it must take a long-term view, truly abandon the Cold War mentality, and conform to the spirit of world peace, co-development, and win-win.
The author is a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries, Liaocheng University, and a research fellow at the Australian Studies Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University. firstname.lastname@example.org
A Global Times columnist’s revival of an insult coined by Lee Kwan Yew has aroused the twitterati to a round of ridicule and derision.
“Further decoupling with China will not send China back to poverty, but will only make former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s famous statement more likely to come true: that if Australia doesn’t open up its economy and reduce unemployment, it risks becoming the ‘poor white trash of Asia,’” Oz-watcher Yu Lei wrote in the Beijing-leaning publication.
“There are few signs that Australia intends to stop provoking China, or to attempt to ease escalating tensions,” said Yu, a chief research fellow at the Research Center for Pacific Island Countries, Liaocheng University, and a research fellow at the Australian Studies Center at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
“Instead, its insistence on continuing along the United States’ lose-lose path toward decoupling will undoubtedly cause huge damage to its already severely injured economy.
Twitter users are having a grand time with his remarks.
“I must say @globaltimesnews has been entertaining throughout this lockdown,” tweeted @Kasinadhuni.
“No matter how poor Australia will be, at least they have no dish limit for group meal & the ridiculous ‘N -1’ rule,” tweeted @IloveHK3333 – referring to President Xi Jinping’s attempt to deal with China food shortages by exhorting people to order less in restaurants.
“Hope Xi Jingping asks his sister to give up citizenship of Australia, now that poverty is coming there…LOL,” @abhisdagr8 tweeted.
“It’s rich coming from the people who are offended by the phrase Sick man of Asia,” chortled @S38583395.
Former US Defense Department official Van Jackson, an informal advisor to Senator Kamala Harris during her US presidential campaign, is now a New Zealand-based researcher whose Twitter handle is @WonkVJ. He retweeted a link to Yu’s article with this comment:
“China following Sun Tzu’s strategy of self-encirclement and bridge-burning.”
2 SEPTEMBER 2020By: Stephen Kuper
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Australia’s utter economic dependence upon China is a crisis of our own making – COVID-19 has simply removed the blinders for a nation that needs to wake up to itself, accept the responsibility for its actions and aggressively chart its own path forward.
Like any abusive relationship, the mask has finally slipped. The global and regional impact of COVID-19, combined with an increasingly belligerent, manipulative and coercive Chinese regime, has revealed that Australia’s “primary economic partner” is little more than a bully.
Australia’s economy and its public face a seemingly insurmountable series of challenges that threatens to leave the nation floundering amid a sea of emerging regional and global giants, each of whom are at various stages of strategising their way to prosperity and stability in the post-COVID world.
This new reality comes as a shock, particularly as Australia as both a continent and a nation is unique in its position, has enjoyed relative geographic isolation from the flashpoints of global and regional conflagration of the 20th century.
Blessed with unrivalled resource wealth and, despite public commentary an immense industrial potential, the nation has enjoyed the benevolence of the post-Second World War order, caught up in the promise of easy wealth generation through unfettered globalisation, economic neo-liberalism and the “end of history”.
Amid this flurry of economic transformation propelling once ‘developing’ nations onto the world stage, the world’s established powers, including Australia, now face a new paradigm, one committed to undermining and influencing the very fabric of Western democracies and the economic, strategic and political order they are built upon.
As Australia has sought to push back against a rising level of economic, political and territorial expansionism at the hands of President Xi Jinping’s rising communist China, the nation has drawn the ever growing ire of its “primary economic partner” as it seeks to exert its influence and “manage” the public perception through economic, political and societal coercion on a massive scale.
The latest such barb in the simmering tensions comes from one of the official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpieces, the Global Times in an opinion piece by Beijing-based academic Yu Lei, titled ‘Australia risks backsliding into a poor country in Asia Pacific’, a very clear throw back to the now infamous line coined by late-Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Indeed, Yu states, “Further decoupling with China will not send China back to poverty, but will only make former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s famous statement more likely to come true: that if Australia doesn’t open up its economy and reduce unemployment, it risks becoming the ‘poor white trash of Asia’.”
All of these factors combine to form one absolute realisation: Australia’s record period of economic stability and prosperity buoyed by the immense mineral and resource wealth, combined with the benevolence of the post-Second World War political, economic and strategic order, is at an end – it’s time to adjust accordingly.
Writing is on the wall
It is clear that Australia’s economic dream run has come to an abrupt end, nowhere is this more evident than in the nation’s ongoing trade dispute with Beijing, which has seen a range of Australian exports targeted ranging from barley and wine, through to cheese and meat.
These efforts by Beijing to force compliance in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s global leadership calling for an international inquiry into the origins of the pandemic reveal that despite protestations to the contrary, Beijing expects Australia to bend the knee or be punished.
Yu articulates an interesting counter point, stating, “There are few signs that Australia intends to stop provoking China, or to attempt to ease escalating tensions. Instead, its insistence on continuing along the US’ lose-lose path toward decoupling will undoubtedly cause huge damage to its already severely injured economy.
“If decoupled from Australia, it won’t be difficult for Chinese products and investments to find new markets and investment destinations. However, it won’t be so easy for Australia to find a comparably large export market, or a supply of high-quality and cheap imported goods, or a strong group of investors to replace China’s.”
Beijing’s efforts to force compliance and submission should not be taken as “out of character action” as we have seen the global power flex its muscle and assert its willingness to coerce nations in the south Pacific, Indian Ocean, central Asia and Africa through a targeted ‘debt diplomacy’ leveraging the full spectrum of state power, under the constantly expanding concept of ‘grey zone tactics’.
Rather, these actions and the increasing willingness to target Australian exports should be seen as a “writing on the wall” moment, forcing the nation’s political leaders to break from the abusive relationship and take more direct actions, not only to significantly limit our economic dependence on China, developing relationships in the region, but also investing in the industrial capacity of the nation.
Now, many will say Australia “cannot compete” against the lower cost manufacturing hubs of the globe, which is true when measured against low cost, cheap, disposable consumer goods, the likes of which flood shelves at Kmart, Target and the like.
This point becomes less valid when looking at value add manufactured goods, particularly as Australia pioneers key processes like digital design, additive manufacturing, 3D printing and human-machine teaming in this sector – a simple and demonstrable example is the employment of similarly priced and skilled labour forces in the US and western Europe.
Masters of our own destiny
For far too long Australia has deferred to the leadership and guidance of others, preferring to be shaped by the economic, political and strategic realities of the world.
In doing so, as a nation we have failed to reach our true potential, we have failed to become the masters of our own destiny and we have failed to bend the majesty and potential of the continent to our will, often leaving the nation equally as vulnerable to domestic shocks as it is to global ones.
Australia is defined by its economic, political and strategic relationships with the Indo-Pacific and the access to the growing economies and to strategic sea lines of communication supporting over 90 per cent of global trade, a result of the cost-effective and reliable nature of sea transport.
Indo-Pacific Asia is at the epicentre of the 21st century’s era of great power competition and global maritime trade, with about US$5 trillion worth of trade flowing through the South China Sea and the strategic waterways and chokepoints of south-east Asia annually.
Enhancing Australia’s capacity to act as an independent power, incorporating great power-style strategic economic, diplomatic and military capability serves as a powerful symbol of Australia’s sovereignty and evolving responsibilities in supporting and enhancing the security and prosperity of Indo-Pacific Asia.
Australia is consistently told that as a nation we are torn between our economic relationship with China and the longstanding strategic partnership with the US, placing the country at the epicentre of a great power rivalry – but what if it didn’t have to be that way?
Get involved with the discussion and let us know your thoughts on Australia’s future role and position in the Indo-Pacific and what you would like to see from Australia’s political leaders in terms of shaking up the nation’s approach to our regional partners.
We would also like to hear your thoughts on the avenues Australia should pursue to support long-term economic growth and development in support of national security in the comments section below, or get in touch with Stephen.Kuper@momentummedia.com.au or at email@example.com.