“There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep! For when he wakes, he will shake the world.” -
Has got me digging a little into what drives the Australian economy, and in particular what role it plays in setting policy regards to China.
It’s no secret that Australia like’s to punch above its weight. For a nation of around 26 million perched just about as far away as you can get from Europe or the US, she exerts enough clout to get the attention of the Western world. There are a few reasons for this.
For the past 20 years, Australia has been the main supplier to China of raw materials so essential to Beijing’s push to modernise their society. The “Big Mining” owners have never been backwards about greasing the wheels of the political party in Government, to ensure this state of affairs continues at a minimal tax bracket, and despite the litany of questionable Human Rights actions China has undertaken against it’s own citizens from Tiananmen to the Uyghurs.
She also exported until recently large quantities of wine, barley and beef. In a fit of pique, Beijing has decided to place large duties on them in an attempt at punishment for Australia’s questioning over the origins of the pandemic. They studiously avoided banning raw iron ore though, because Australia has perhaps the world’s biggest reserve of good quality, secure and reasonably priced supply of this commodity that is require for the massive steel production China needs.
The wine, barley and beef suppliers also diverted into other markets such as India and South America, so the effect was minimal much to China’s fury. Not only did the ban not work, Australian produce is of such quality the demand did not drop within China. This led to shell companies being formed in Hong Kong with a mysterious rebranding of wine, barley and beef products suddenly available for Chinese import at inflated prices! No points for guessing their point of origin!
The other essential export that China is hatefully dependent on Australia for is coal. Again, Australia has vast reserves of very good quality coal best suited for energy production. Beijing tried to halt all imports just recently, but had to bitterly back down and allow Australian coal in when the lights started to go out across China. Beijing is desperately scrambling to find alternative sources, such as in Africa, but geopolitical instability in these regions coupled with the inferior product make it a less appealing proposition. This tends to exacerbate China’s fury also. Talk of ‘net zero’ emissions in relation to the climate is nothing but just that, talk. Modernization of China will not be held back by notions of planetary concern, and the sheer output of carbon that would be created during the construction of the “One Belt and Road” initiative will make a mockery of Western attempts at constraint.
Due to this, it pays to keep in mind that the CCP has been described by various Intelligence sources as a collection of gangs. One only needs a brief use of the Google machine to come across many instances were former party faithful, or media darlings and business cronies have either disappeared from the face of the earth, and have all mentions of them removed from the heavily policed internal internet of China.
A few of these individuals make it back into the public eye, singing very clearly from Xi Jinping’s song sheet, and extoling the virtues of his “ Xi Thought” on everything from foreign policy to the manliness required of China’s male youth.
Other individuals appear to suffering from an apparent window defect crisis in China, a crisis that appears to facilitate unfortunates to fall through them to their deaths…
But China’s indignation toward Australia is compounded by the encouragement of Canberra of investment within the real estate sector, Big Agriculture and Educational tourism (this, the UK & Ireland should pay particular attention to).
Housing affordability has remained a pipe dream for many young Australians due to the suddenly wealthy Chinese buying property in the relatively safe market within Australia, which pushed house prices ever North. The wealthy middle class of the Red Empire apparently do not share the same faith in Xi’s dream as he would like, and in particular to the CCP’s handling of the financial system. The Long March of Mao still haunts them, and the memory of starvation has pushed the purchase of vast farming tracts some the size of small European nations.
Beijing has leased the busy Port of Darwin on our North Coast to facilitate shipping from Chinese controlled mines and these farms. A move that has angered many within Australia as its strategic position may be questioned if the frosty war turns noisy. To combat this Australia has agreed to host many thousands of US Marines in Darwin for training exercises, a move not lost on Beijing.
Universities within the island have a good reputation, and it was no surprise to see many Chinese students being sent over here to study by wealthy parents, especially when the financial incentives for the Unis themselves became significant. Anecdotal stories of Universities becoming degree mills abound, with questions asked how they manage to achieve degrees within Australia with barely passable English language skills. With the huge influx of Chinese students came upward pressure on affordable housing.
The same will happen elsewhere so, be warned.
Bundled all together you can see why the Australian public have got fed up with China swinging it’s weight around. Daily cyber-attacks, our spy agency ASIO concerned by spying by Chinese agents and corrupting politicians thrown into the mix make animosity a given.
When the dust settled after the outbreak of Covid-19 Australia found much to it’s chagrin that Beijing had been buying all the PPE stocks they could from Australia Before Beijing admitted there was an issue with community transmission. This left our own Healthcare system short of vital stocks. The message became clear. Australia was not viewed as a partner in Asia but as a client state.
A line in the sand was drawn and Canberra had to act. Most of the Western world’s spook agencies were well aware that the outbreak very likely started from the lab in Wuhan but due to political ideology in the US this was shouted down in the US at least until Trump was ejected, by using the old tactic of screaming “Racism” to stifle questioning of narratives.
As Australia looked North she saw China create new military outposts in vital shipping supply lanes in the South China Sea. As this threatened trade with the rest of the world the Defence Department made a convincing case that the current order for diesel electric submarines was a waste of money. An alliance between the US, UK and Australia to develop nuclear powered subs was worked out in secret. France was not amused at the loss of a contract worth 90 billion dollars but can hardly complain. They won a contract to supply the diesel subs but gave nothing but delays and cost blowouts, so much so that Australia exercised the gate clause in the contract whereby she could exit the legal obligation due to France not meeting the targets. Funny how Paris never mentions this!
Beijing saw this new pact (AUKUS) quite rightly for what it is, a warning that military expansion and trade bullying will not go unpunished. For all Australia’s faults, from lobbying the IPCC behind closed doors on behalf of their Big Mining corporations to the ruling party not really believing in Climate Change anyway (the current PM brought a lump of coal into parliament and said not to be afraid of it), the ethos of a “Fair Go” is sacred to it’s people.
China would do well to remember this, and threatening behaviour is no way for a nation to conduct it’s business in modern times.
⏩Steven Are is a Belfast quiller living in Australia.