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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

The China issue

Updated: Apr 20, 2021

The weekend Oz has its usual bunch of clever journalism. The Thornton household this week is hosting a senior American (but once an Aussie) philosopher whose first question was ‘Is Australia in trouble?)

I answered as cheerfully as I could manage. ‘Yes, we are being bullied by China but the USA has promised in public to ‘get our backs’. Other democracies are showing sympathy and only the EU seems ambivalent with Germany and other EU nations still trading cheerfully with China. Paul Kelly brings us up to date.

Paul Kelly

‘The Morrison government takes heart from trade numbers showing that China’s retaliation – so far – has not been as damaging as expected. While our targeted exports – mainly coal, copper, cotton, wine, barley, beef, seafood, sugar and timber – are worth about $25 billion annually, the total trade figures have held up because high iron ore prices and Australia’s success in finding new markets for Beijing’s targeted produce.’

I feel that Brazil’s poor leadership and extreme Covid is helping to provide our stronger trade results. Working hard will help but once China finds a different source for high quality iron ore things may get harder. We must keep working hard, but should brace ourselves for possibly relatively bad times. As a grumpy old man, I wonder if some hard times might help our young men and women understand the need to work harder and be willing to pick fruit and other hard but rewarding tasks.

Paul Kelly quotes Australia’s ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher in a talk to the Australia China Australia Business Council. He said ‘We’ve got a stand-off’ and Australia has received ‘a lot of sympathy and support quietly from a lot of countries’. The new US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken made several supportive statements including: ‘We must recommit to our alliances to the shared values that sustain them’.

Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia said that government and business should form a strong alliance. ‘Business has to keep building relationships to China which are principled and realistic but everything we do must be carefully thought through and timed with the full support of government.’

Paul Kelly’s final paragraph is powerful. ‘If Beijing felt Australia would buckle under pressure it has made a serious miscalculation – but that may point to a prolonged period of coercion’.


Fiona Prior brings us a true tale of derring-do! More here. And the sublime George Balanchine ballet ‘Serenade’, part of the Australian Ballet Company's triple bill 'New York Dialects'. More here.

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