The Chinese Century – will we last that long?

From Andrew Phillips, National Chairman

I am far from being an isolationist. Like most people with a reasonable grip on reality, I recognise the need for interaction between societies and the need for international trade – very few countries can produce all their requirements, at a suitable price in the needed quantities.

Along with most people in Tasmania, I greeted the news that the state’s cherry producers had signed a deal to export a minimum of 10 tonnes of locally grown cherries to China each day with a mixture of both elation and a sense of relief. Like many primary producers nationwide, Tasmania’s farmers have experienced a rough time of it and if any state needs a financial injection through exports it’s Tasmania.

Exports help to create employment, bring in much needed revenue and, hopefully in the case of Tasmania, will convince both state and federal governments of the need for infrastructure upgrades, particularly in the case of our ports so our state’s producers no longer need to pay the exorbitant freight costs to go via Melbourne when sending their produce overseas.

However, it is easy to get lost in the euphoria that comes with a bit of positive news. Predictably, the media have once again jumped on the China bandwagon as the solution to every economic ailment one can imagine. The ludicrous addiction is akin to the patrons of an Opium House in colonial times desperately seeking solace at the end of a hard day, but it is a false sense of security being offered.

Local papers applauded the hundreds of millions of dollars in exports of Tasmanian produce to China, declaring the state’s clean, green image secures this trade following all the health scares associated with China’s production standards. Articles followed waxing lyrical about the increase in Chinese tourist numbers, Chinese ice breakers in Hobart, foreign students and renewable energy. Chinese and Taswegians have a rosy future together skipping hand in hand down the yellow brick road to a land of milk and honey . . .

To a degree, one must respect the strength of the Chinese people. They are shrewd in business and great survivors in every sense of the word. However, one cannot presume one is dealing with people of a similar outlook as ourselves.

It is well known that the Chinese legal system is as corrupt as it’s communist political system. Foreigners (even those of a Chinese background) are routinely imprisoned for getting on the wrong side of those with whom they would enter into a business contract and kickbacks are common in the business process – often to ensure officials are on side “to make things happen”.

Being astute businessmen, Chinese recognise an opportunity and will make the most of any sign of weakness in their competitors. This weakness is endemic in our nation and is no more evident than when one casts their eyes over our parliamentary benches across the country.

The very same weakness is shown in the penchant our politicians have for globalisation. The pursuit of open borders, cheap imports produced through the use of prison labour, child labour or in unsanitary conditions and sold at prices against which our own producers cannot compete, the weakening of foreign investment guidelines , the reticence to pursue foreigners under anti-dumping legislation and the cap in hand approach our government has towards Free Trade Agreements make dealing with Australia a walk in the park for the Chinese.

So sure of their position, the Chinese made no attempt to hide their strength that in 2008 a trade official, Xie Guoli, declared “Australia and China have a basis for long-term agricultural co-operation, since Australia is rich in land and China is rich in labour. But developing such a relationship will depend substantially on Australia’s policy on importing labour”.

Not only is China willing to buy our farms, but they’re happy to send us their excess population as well!

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings is quoted in the Mercury, 19/1/13 as “There is an all too common perception that somehow China’s rapid industrialisation has little regard for environmental issues – yet China is the world’s largest investor and producer of renewable technology”. The same article had Tasmanian Polar Network chairman John Brennan announcing there was no better way to achieve friendship with China than to invite talented Chinese scientists to help Tasmanians tackle climate change . . .

So, while the Chinese make a fortune buying our natural resources via the mining boom for a pittance, spewing tonnes of pollution from their factories to produce cheap products to undercut our own manufacturing industries and primary producers, they’re also extending the hand of friendship by investing in our renewable energy, telling us how to combat “climate change”, buying our farms and sending us their excess labour.

Paul Sheehan, in his book “Among the Barbarians” interviewed Chinese students regarding how they perceive their Australian hosts. He quoted them as saying “Australians are stupid, they are dogs – they understand nothing”.

The Chinese may be inscrutable, but perhaps quite observant (if not a little critical) as well.

Chinese firms eye Aussie farmland”, The Australian, 12 May 2008 (Rowan Callick)
Working on brighter future”, The Mercury, 4 October 2012 (Lara Giddings)
Chinese investment planned in Musselroe wind farm”, Lara Giddings (Premier of Tasmania), 12 September 2012


  1. We MUST not allow any more of our land to be sold to foreign buyers, why can’t the government instead of budget cuts everywhere, invest in increasing production and exports to help our economy also more people in jobs pay taxes, less people on the dole and immigrants to use tax payers money therefore that would mean more money to spend on building infrastructure and Australia’s defence capabilities,

Leave a Reply